Residential Building Disputes (NT)

In the Northern Territory, disputes between consumers and builders are dealt with by the Commissioner of Residential Building Disputes. Building disputes most commonly involve disagreements about the quality of work, variations to original plans, and failure to complete work within a reasonable time. This page deals with residential building disputes in the Northern Territory.

Legislation and guidelines

In the NT, building work is regulated by the Building Act 1993 and the Building Regulations 1993. Building contracts are subject to the terms of the Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Act 1990 and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

The National Construction Code also applies in the Territory.  

National Construction Code

The National Construction Code (NCC) sets the minimum required levels for various aspects of the construction of buildings and the completion of drainage and plumbing work. It contains requirements for the health, safety, accessibility, sustainability and amenity of buildings that the code applies to.

The Code applies to all new building work and to new plumbing and drainage work on new or existing services. The Code is replaced every three years. In 2023, it was amended to include increased energy efficiency requirements.

All plans for buildings that the Code applies to must comply with the NCC.

Consumer Guarantees

Section 54B of the Building Act 1993 contains a number of consumer guarantees that must be included in all residential building contracts.

These guarantees include:

  • that the work will be carried out in a proper and workmanlike manner and in accordance with plans and specifications
  • that all materials supplied will be good and suitable for purpose
  • that all materials supplied will be new unless otherwise specified
  • 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 the work will be completed by the date specified or within a reasonable period

Mediation and conciliation for building disputes

If a dispute arises out of a residential building contract, a party can seek mediation or conciliation services from the Commissioner for Residential Building Disputes. If parties reach an agreement through these processes, it becomes binding and enforceable.

Defective work

If there is an allegation that work is defective, a party to a building contract may apply to the Commissioner to have a qualified person inspect the work. This application may be made online.

Breach of consumer guarantee

If a consumer believes that a consumer guarantee under the Act has been breached, they may apply to the Commissioner for a decision. This application may be made in relation to structural defects, non-structural defects, non-completion of building work, or other consumer guarantee disputes if:

  • the contract has ceased, or one party considers the contract to have been fulfilled; or
  • not more than six years have passed since the work was completed or the contract was terminated.

Once an application has been filed with the Commission, it will be served on the other party. The other party will be asked if they want to take part in a Negotiated Agreement Process. If both parties agree to this, a conference will be held, during which the parties will be supported to try to reach an agreement.

If the matter does not go through the Negotiated Agreement Process or if the process is unsuccessful, the Commission will decide the matter.

NTCAT

Decisions by the Commission can be appealed to the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT). Applications can also be made to NTCAT directly, without first seeking a resolution through the Commission in some circumstances. An owner can make a claim directly to NTCAT if they are seeking payment from a builder or rectification of defective work for which they do not have a fidelity fund certificate.

The NTCAT hears matters involving disputes of up to $25,000.

Local Court

An owner who wants to make a claim against a builder for defective work involving an amount of more than $25,000 and less than $250,000 can apply to the Local Court.

Supreme Court

An owner who wants to make a claim against a builder for an amount that is more than $250,000 must do so in the Supreme Court.  

Building Advisory Services

A consumer who believes that building work has been carried out negligently or incompetently or that an offence has been committed under the Regulations can complain to the Building Advisory Services.  

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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