Building Disputes (SA)

In South Australia, disputes with builders and tradespeople may be dealt with by the Consumer and Business Services (CBS) or by the Small Business Commissioner of South Australia. They may also be dealt with by the courts; however, parties are required to attempt to resolve the situation between themselves before seeking adjudication. This page provides information about resolving building disputes in South Australia.

Legislation and guides

In South Australia, building disputes are governed by the following legislation:

  • Fair Trading (Building and Construction Industry Dispute Resolution Code) Regulations 2017
  • Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009

Small Business Commissioner

If a person is operating a business in South Australia and has a dispute with a builder or trader, they should seek help from the Small Business Commissioner (SBC). The SBC offers a free dispute resolution service and can assist with warranty and contractual disputes, unpaid invoices and other disagreements. Participation in dispute resolution is mandatory prior to filing an application in court.

Consumer and Business Services

The Consumer and Business Services can assist parties with matters relating to domestic building and trade jobs. The CBS may offer the complainant advice, ask the complainant to write another letter to the other party, ask the complainant to arrange inspections or to obtain an expert report.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, Commission for Consumer Affairs may call for a compulsory conciliation conference, which may take place in person, by phone or by video conference. A business can be fined up to $10,000 for failing to attend a conciliation conference.

If the parties do reach an agreement, the business must comply with its terms. If they do not comply, the other party may apply to the court for enforcement.

If the conciliation does not result in an agreement, a party may make an application to the court.

Building disputes and the courts

A person who has a dispute with a builder or tradesperson over a domestic building job may apply to the Magistrates Court for an order in the following situations:

  • Where an owner seeks to terminate a contract and have money they have paid returned to them
  • Where a party seeks determination of a dispute arising out of a building contract to which a statutory warranty applies
  • Where a party seeks relief from a contractual term that is harsh or unconscionable

This application can be made online by following the instructions on this page and providing all the details of the claim including the amount of money owed, the date the dispute arose, and the building contract date.

Statutory warranties

Under the Building Work Contractors Act 1995, the following warranties apply to every contract for domestic building work:

  • That the work will be performed in a proper manner to accepted trade standards and in accordance with plans and specifications
  • That all materials supplied for use will be good and proper
  • That the work will be performed in accordance with the law
  • That the work will be performed with reasonable diligence
  • That if the work is for the construction of a house, that the house will be reasonably fit for human habitation
  • That the building will be reasonably fit for purpose, if a particular purpose has been mad known

If a party to a contract wishes to start proceedings for breach of a warranty, they must do so within five years of the completion of the building work.

If you require legal information or advice in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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