Building disputes are extremely stressful and, in many cases, can lead to the downing of tools during a construction project. However, disputes are not always raised by the homeowner, as contractors can also raise building disputes related to payment or contractual conditions. Regardless of who raises the dispute, either or both parties raise the likelihood of incurring additional costs. It is therefore important that both parties work together to resolve any disputes quickly and to the satisfaction of all.
Fortunately, a dispute resolution process was created and added to The Building Act back in 2013, providing consumers with an avenue of complaint. The process is under the remit of Consumer Affairs, who seek to find a resolution which allows building work to continue without either party incurring unnecessary penalties.
Seeking Mediation for Building Disputes
Where both parties are unable to reach mutual agreement on the resolution of a dispute, an application should be made to the Commissioner for Mediation or Conciliation. Mediation is the first recommended step for resolving disputes. However, the consumer and the builder must both agree to the terms in order for the mediation process to begin. Before lodging an application, you will also need to speak to NT Consumer Affairs, as you may be able to resolve the dispute without lodging an application.
In any case where neither NT Consumer Affairs nor the Commissioner for Mediation or Conciliation can resolve the dispute, a technical building inspection may be the next necessary step. There are application fees associated with making an application the commissioner, which are outlined on the NT Consumer Affairs website, under application fees. To ask for advice on resolving a building dispute, you can also find contact information for NT Consumer Affairs on the website.
When hiring a builder, you are less likely to end up in a dispute when you hire someone who is a member of The Housing Industry Association (HIA) and the Masters Builders of Australia (MBA). While these associations are restricted in what they can do, if the builder is clearly at fault it could negatively affect the builder’s membership. Furthermore, if you suspect that a builder is lying about membership of either association, you should contact them to confirm that the builder is a legitimate member.
The Master Builders National Code of Practice only applies to members of that association. However, as members are bound to the code you should expect a high standard of workmanship and conduct. Builders run the risk of losing membership if the standard of their work is constantly being disputed, which could impact on the builder’s ability to land profitable contracts in the future.
A building inspector can carry out a number of different types of inspection to check for defects or that work meets the required standards. For a new build, you can avoid difficult building disputes by arranging a pre-handover inspection to check the builder’s work before you sign off on completion of the contract. You can also hire a building inspector to assess work after the fact, if you discover any defects once the builders have downed tools.
The report you receive from a building inspector is detailed and can be used during mediation between the two parties. As frustrating as it is to have your building work grind to a standstill, it is important that you do not get into heated confrontations with your builder. Instead, use the channels available to you if you reach a point when you no longer feel there is nothing more to be gained through direct communication. The more information and tools you have at your disposal, the more likely it is that you will resolve the dispute without too much stress or inconvenience.