What do you do if you’re in a dispute with your builder?
It is quite common for a building dispute to arise when you are building or renovating your home. These disputes can range from small errors in communication to major disagreements that cannot be resolved without the involvement of lawyers.
A lot of the disputes we encounter on a weekly basis could have been navigated in a far more cost-effective way if our clients had followed this process:
Step 1 – Contact us to discuss your matter
If your matter is in relation to the quality of your builder’s work or in respect of the applicable procedure under the contract, we recommend seeking legal advice before confronting the builder with your dispute. We can assist you by explaining your rights under the building contract and advise you on how best to resolve the dispute.
Step 2 – Discuss the matter with the builder
Depending on our advice, the next step is to discuss the matter with your builder.
You would be surprised at how many disputes can be resolved if the two parties calmly explain their concerns as soon as they became aware of a problem. The majority of disputes are simple errors in communication that can be resolved quickly. Ideally, a discussion with your builder would end with an agreement about what can be done to resolve the matter.
If you’re not comfortable discussing the matter with your builder directly, we will be happy to handle the discussion on your behalf.
Step 3 – Document the discussion and/or agreement
It is important to keep a contemporaneous record of what was discussed and/or agreed upon. This includes a record of all meetings and phone calls along with copies of any written correspondence.
In some circumstances, if an agreement is reached, it may also be recommended to document the agreement by way of a Settlement Deed. We can assist in advising you on how to appropriately document any agreement reached including, if necessary, by preparing a Settlement Deed.
Step 4 – Contact Fair Trading and make a formal complaint
If you were unable to resolve the dispute, you should contact Fair Trading and make a complaint against the builder: http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or call 13 32 20.
Once a complaint has been lodged, Fair Trading will assist you with resolution process. If you are unsure about the complaint process and require assistance, we can help.
If the work is of an acceptable standard, the inspector might conclude that the builder is not responsible and is not liable. If this occurs, you can either decide to end the dispute or to take the matter further.
If the work is not of an acceptable standard, the inspector will assist you both in coming to an agreement about how to resolve the dispute. At this stage, the inspector will most likely matter a Rectification Order to the builder that tells them what they need to do in order to resolve the matter.
It is our experience that in the majority of cases (over 70%), Fair Trading does successfully reach a resolution that satisfies both parties.
Step 5 – Taking the matter to Court
If the previous 4 steps have failed to resolve the matter and/or the builder has failed to comply with a Rectification Order, you’ll need to decide whether to take the matter further. This would normally occur by lodging a claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).