VCAT delays and alternate dispute resolution options

Global supply chain issues and trade shortages are resulting in many homebuyers experiencing delays in the construction of their new homes. But the delays don’t stop there. Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is also experiencing delays due to staff shortage, COVID-19 restrictions and the move to online systems.

According to The Age, homeowners, builders and renters are left waiting for disputes to be resolved at VCAT. The backlog of cases blow out to more than 130 per cent compared to the number of pending cases pre-pandemic.

It is common for clients to say they want to issue proceedings in VCAT because their home has defects or a builder who has not been paid. But how does someone obtain “justice” if they must wait 2 years for a decision?

It is an unfortunate situation we find ourselves in and despite the best efforts of the current members who are working tirelessly to move files along, the delays are just getting longer.

This leaves parties to consider alternative dispute and settlement options they may not have considered previously. Is it better to take a settlement now and have some outcome or wait 2 years for an unknown outcome?

Alternative dispute and settlement options can include:

Executive Meeting – this is an opportunity to bring the key representatives together as soon as you can. People who can make decision and people who will feel the pain of a long-drawn-out litigation.

Offers of compromise – this is where one party puts an offer to the other side as early as possible to keep negotiations at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It also offers some protection for costs.

Mediation – where the parties agree to engage an independent mediator to assist discussions (on a without prejudice basis) and resolve the dispute (either in part or fully). Even if the matter does not resolve the dispute, it may narrow the issues or assist the parties decide on next steps.

Adjudication – where there is a payment dispute between a builder and contractor, the parties should carefully consider their rights and obligations under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2002, and the option of adjudicating the dispute under the security of payment litigation. This allows a fast-tracked resolution of payment disputes (where the legislation applies).

Expert Determination – where the dispute is of a technical nature, it may assist the parties to engage a joint expert to decide the technical matter in dispute

There has never been a more important time to strategically think about your dispute and consider more efficient and effective ways to resolve your dispute. Whilst many threaten to issue proceedings, with the delays being experienced this does not have the same bite it once did and therefore parties need to think outside the square.

Chat to us for more information.

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