A Must-Have Guide on Managing Building Disputes

Building disputes, unfortunately, are not uncommon and can arise due to a multitude of reasons including defects, delays, variations, payments, or quality concerns. These disputes can prove to be extremely taxing, both financially and emotionally, for both builders and homeowners. It is therefore of utmost importance to possess the know-how to effectively and efficiently address these disputes head-on. To assist you in this, we present a step-by-step guide designed to aid you in resolving building disputes successfully:

Open Lines of Communication: The very first step when responding to a building dispute involves initiating open and constructive communication with the opposing party. During these interactions, strive to comprehend their viewpoint and concerns. While emotions may run high, it is vital to maintain a demeanour of respect, politeness, and professionalism. Avoid assigning blame, accusations, or threats. To strengthen your position, be sure to document your conversations. This could include transcribing verbal exchanges into written forms such as emails or letters, or even saving screenshots of text messages. These records should include the participants, topics discussed, and any agreements reached.

Understanding Your Contractual Rights: A critical aspect of this process revolves around comprehending the rights attributed to each party within your contractual documents. This includes not only your own rights, but also the rights of the opposing party. This comprehensive understanding is important for anticipating and responding to the other party’s actions. You should take time to review all relevant documents, not just those that align with your perspective. In cases of conflicting information, look into how your contract deals with such disparities and which document takes precedence. Furthermore, ensure you are well-versed in the dispute resolution process outlined in the contract.

Consult Independent Experts: Seek guidance from impartial experts who can support your rights and responsibilities. For instance, if you suspect defects within the property, enlisting an expert to evaluate the item’s quality in light of contract stipulations, standards, and legislation can prove invaluable. Conversely, if you are a builder facing allegations of defective work, an independent expert’s assessment can be instrumental in resolving the dispute, as the opposing party may be sceptical of a builder’s self-assessment. Legal advice is also strongly recommended to ensure a comprehensive understanding of your rights. Depending on the nature of the dispute, additional expert consultations, such as accountants for financial assessment or specialised experts, may be necessary. Exercise caution when selecting an “expert,” ensuring they possess the required qualifications and experience.

Pursue Amicable Resolution: While litigation might appear to be the default course of action, it is important to recognise its potential drawbacks, including exorbitant costs and timelines. Endeavor to present a resolution offer to the opposing party as promptly as possible. This approach serves dual purposes: it demonstrates your genuine intent to reach an amicable and commercially reasonable resolution, and, in the event the matter proceeds to legal proceedings, these offers could potentially be utilised to recover costs, if they meet the Court/Tribunal requirements.

Leverage Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV): For domestic building disputes, recourse to DBDRV is highly advisable. This government-operated service offers dispute resolution, free from the often-associated expenses and time commitments of traditional court or tribunal proceedings. Through assessment, conciliation, or technical inspection, DBDRV facilitates resolution. Moreover, if negotiations prove futile, DBDRV wields the authority to issue legally binding dispute resolution orders. To counter the current delays experienced by DBDRV, prompt submission of applications is strongly recommended.

Consider Litigation as a Last Resort: Should DBDRV fail to provide a resolution, or if the dispute remains unresolved, legal proceedings at institutions such as VCAT, the County Court, or the Supreme Court may be the last recourse. This avenue presents the advantage of a legally binding decision by an impartial tribunal or court. However, the complexity, costs, and extended timelines associated with litigation warrant exhausting all prior options.

By adhering to these comprehensive steps, you are equipped to address building disputes in a proactive and constructive manner. For personalised assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to our team.

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