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Resolving building disputes

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Whether you’re a contractor or a homeowner, working through and resolving building disputes can be a stressful process. From defective building work to poor communication, contractual issues and insufficient documentation, there are a range of issues that can lead to a grievance. So, what steps can you take to avoid a dispute? And if one occurs, what process should you follow to resolve it?

How can you avoid a dispute?

Taking practical and preventative steps to avoid a dispute is always the preferred course of action.

If you are a contractor, this includes:

  • Making sure the homeowner knows what to expect from the project. Show them samples of finished work (e.g. a display home), clarify industry standards and clearly explain owner maintenance responsibilities.

  • Providing a pre-engagement agreement that clearly outlines the scope of work and limits, and other important disclaimers.

  • Liaising with industry associations to gain a comprehensive understanding of acceptable standards and efficient approaches to achieving these.

If you are a homeowner, this includes:

  • Doing your homework and choosing a builder, trade contractor or building designer who comes highly recommended.

  • Ensuring trade professionals you plan to engage have a current QBCC licence for the work they are undertaking. Ask to see their licence card and conduct the appropriate checks via the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) website.

  • Making sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the key aspects of the building process. Free resources, including videos, are available on the QBCC website.

  • Signing a contract before work commences. The contract should clearly state the extent and timing of work, pricing and payment details. Make sure you understand the contract, your rights and responsibilities, and request a copy of the contract information statement and other required data before you sign.

  • Ensuring that any variations are signed by both parties and copies kept on file.

How should you manage a dispute?

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, disputes can happen. If you have tried to resolve the dispute yourself with the other party, without success, consider the following options:

  • Speak to a lawyer about your dispute and seek tailored advice to determine the best course of action.

  • For domestic building work of more than $3,300 in value where the contract has not been terminated or completed, you can explore QBCC’s early dispute resolution service. The aim of this service is to quickly facilitate an acceptable agreement between both parties. If necessary, a building inspector may inspect the work. The process generally takes up to 28 days. Click here for details.

  • For disputes about defective work after your contract is completed, you may be eligible to access QBCC’s dispute resolution service. This process also includes assessment for eligibility under the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme. Strict time limits apply for some claims, click here for details.

  • For disputes that cannot be resolved quickly through QBCC, they may progress to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). This is often a long and costly process and can result in extra fees, fines/penalties and/or court orders against the homeowner or contractor. QBCC will issue a letter at the end of their process if this step is required.

  • For disputes about building non-completion, contract complaints, pre-purchase or termite complaints, or other issues not covered by QBCC’s dispute resolution service, consider speaking to a lawyer before pursuing the matter in court.

If in doubt, seek advice

If you are unsure about any step in the building dispute process, get in touch with our team for tailored legal advice relevant to your specific situation. Contact Jeremy and Noel on (07) 4632 0480 or through our online contact form

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