Building Disputes (WA)

In Western Australia, disputes between consumers and builders can be taken to the Building Commission and to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) as well as to the courts. These disputes may arise over changes to the agreed work, failure to complete work within a reasonable time or alleged defects in building work. This page deals with building disputes in Western Australia.  

Legislation

In WA, building disputes are regulated by the following legislation:

The National Construction Code and Australian Standards also apply to building work in WA.

Building standards

Under the Building Act 2011, building standards that must be complied with when carrying out building work or demolition work. Significant criminal penalties apply for breaches of these standards.

Try to resolve building disputes directly

If a party has a dispute with a builder over the quality of work, the completion of work, or a deviation from the plans or specifications in a building contract, they should take steps to resolve the situation with the other party first. If this is not successful, a complaint may be made to the Building Commissioner or to the Tribunal.

Complaining to the Building Commission

The Commissioner can deal with complaints about:

  • unauthorised building work
  • building work being done under a contract
  • building work done by a registered building service provider

Complaints may relate to recovery of payments, breaches of contract or excessive cost increases. A complaint may be made by an owner or builder under a building contract or by a party whose interests are being adversely affected by the building.

The Commissioner cannot order work or payments of more than $100,000.

After a complaint has been received and investigated, the Commission may:

  • refer the matter to conciliation
  • make an interim order
  • make a building remedy order
  • make a Home Building Work Remedy Order
  • refer the matter to SAT.

Matters that may be referred to SAT include complaints that building work is faulty or unsatisfactory or has not been carried out properly and complaints about breaches of home building work contracts.

After a matter is referred to the Tribunal, it will proceed to a directions hearing to identify the issues and decide how it can best be dealt with. Parties will be required to file evidence. It is important to note that the Building Commission does not pass on any material that has been filed and parties must file material with the Tribunal even if it has already been lodged with the Commission.

The matter may then be referred to mediation or to compulsory conference where parties must attempt to settle the matter. If expert witnesses are involved, they may be required to confer in the absence of the parties and to prepare a joint statement setting out the issues. At the final hearing, each party will present its case, witnesses will be called, and the Tribunal will then hand down its decision.

SAT may order work or payments of up to $500,000 from an unregistered person, or in any amount for a registered building services provider.

Appealing to SAT

Some decisions by the Building Commission can be appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal within 28 days of the date of the decision. Matters that can be reviewed by the Tribunal are:

  • Interim Building Service Orders
  • Building Remedy Orders
  • Home Building Works Contracts Orders
  • Costs orders
  • Remediation notices
  • A refusal to accept a complaint may be reviewed with leave of the Commissioner

Applying to a court

If a party has a building dispute that involves more than the jurisdictional limit that can be dealt with by the Commissioner or by SAT, they may need to apply to a court for relief. The WA District Court can deal with civil matters involving up to $750,000 and the Supreme Court can deal with matters involving more than $750,000.

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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