Building Disputes (Vic)

In Victoria, there are different avenues for rectifying a problem with construction work, depending on the situation. A party can seek help from Domestic Building Disputes Resolution, Consumer Affairs or from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), or they can initiate proceedings in a court. This page deals with building disputes in Victoria.  

Legislation

In Victoria, building disputes are governed by the following legislation:

Renovations

Home repairs and renovations work are covered by the Australian Consumer Law, under which a consumer has a right to a refund, repair or other compensation if there is a problem with a service. This may be because of a delay, a change in the price of the work, or because a builder’s registration has been suspended.

If you think you have a claim under the Australian Consumer Law, you can lodge an enquiry with Consumer Affairs.

Victorian Building Authority

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) regulates the building and plumbing industries in Victoria. It can deal with complaints relating to breaches of the Building Act 1993, the Building Regulations 2018 and the Plumbing Regulations 2018.

In order to initiate a complaint with the VBA, complete the online form, providing contact details for all parties and all the details of the dispute.

The VBA will then assess the complaint and may:

  • take no action
  • provide education or a warning letter
  • refer the matter for a full investigation.

Domestic Building Dispute Resolution

Consumer Affairs Victoria recommends that a person who has a dispute with a builder try to resolve the situation by talking to the other party directly. It is a good idea to write to the party formally outlining your concerns and requesting a response. This letter can later be used as evidence that you have attempted to resolve the situation.

If you are unable to resolve the dispute with the other party, you can lodge an application for dispute resolution with Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDR), or apply directly to VCAT. DBDR is a free service that allows parties to resolve disputes without the cost and time involved in going to a court or tribunal.

DBDR can assist with the following types of disputes:

  • Alterations and renovations
  • Demolitions
  • Extensions
  • Associated building work such as garages
  • Some types of home repair
  • Construction

If DBDR is engaged and the dispute relates to work that is alleged to be defective or incomplete, a qualified assessor may determine whether the work is defective, the cause of the defect, and the timeframe for rectification of the defect.

If dispute resolution through DBDR is unsuccessful, a party may be able to receive assistance from Domestic Building Legal Service. This is a free service for people who are in need due to financial hardship.

Warranties for domestic building work

Under section 8 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995, the following warranties apply to all work carried out under a domestic building contract:

  • That the work will be carried out in a proper and workmanlike manner
  • That the material supplied for use will be good and suitable for purpose
  • That the work will be carried out in accordance with the law
  • That the work will be carried out with reasonable care and skill
  • That if the work is the construction of a home, the resulting home will be suitable for occupation
  • That if the contract states that the work is for a particular purpose or result that the owner wishes to achieve, so as to show that they are relying on the builder’s skill and judgment, that the work will be reasonably fit for that purpose or of such a nature and quality to achieve that result.

If a consumer believes that a warranty has been breached, they may apply to VCAT.

VCAT

A person can apply to VCAT in relation to a commercial or domestic building dispute. This application can be made by post or email and must be served on all parties. VCAT will encourage parties to resolve the dispute themselves and may refer the matter to mediation. If the matter cannot be resolved at mediation, it may be referred for a hearing.  

VCAT can deal with the following types of building matters:

  • Commercial building disputes
  • Domestic building disputes
  • Reviews of decisions by warranty insurers
  • Reviews of decisions made by the Victorian Building Authority
  • Exemption from the requirement for an owner-builder selling a home to have warranty insurance
  • Reviews of decisions made by Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV)

Jurisdiction

VCAT does not have a monetary limit on its jurisdiction. However, VCAT cannot hear matters involving parties from different states, or matters in which the Commonwealth is a party. These matters must be dealt with by a court.  

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

Author

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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