Resolving NSW Building Disputes

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More building projects create the potential for more building disputes …

Home building projects in New South Wales are experiencing a boom and forecasts are for it to continue over the next five years, according to the NSW government.

Sadly, more building projects create the potential for more building disputes!

The increase in construction is good news for tradesmen; however, it could spell trouble for homeowners. With the increased demand for skilled tradesmen, private homeowners could end up drawing the short straw when it comes to hiring experienced contractors.

History tells us that any time there has been a big increase in building activity the talent pool of tradesmen has been thinned.

As a homeowner, it is always important for you to know your rights. When you hire a builder, you are entering into a contractual agreement. Therefore you would expect good quality workmanship.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way, especially when quality tradespeople become scarce. So, if you are unsatisfied with the results of a building project, it’s worth knowing that you have the right to make a complaint.

The process you will need to follow in NSW is known as Building Dispute Resolution.

The role of NSW Fair Trading in resolving building disputes

New South Wales Fair Trading has a number of provisions in place to help consumers and tradespeople resolve building disputes. When you lodge a complaint with Fair Trading, a customer service officer will take on your case and act as a mediator.

The customer service officer’s main goal is to try to resolve the dispute in a reasonable way, so that building work can continue with as little disruption as possible. In many cases, raising a complaint with NSW Fair Trading is enough to reach a resolution.

However, in some cases of complaints relating to defects or incomplete work, you need to get a building inspection (defects report). 
You can find step-by-step instructions on the NSW Fair Trade website, detailing how to lodge a complaint and explaining the various stages of the processes.

The role of NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) in building dispute resolution

In a small number of cases where NSW Fair Trading is unable to resolve a dispute, as a homeowner you can turn to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). However, NCAT will not accept an application unless the dispute has already been addressed by NSW Fair trading.

NCAT can deal with disputes about defective or incomplete work; however, the tribunal can also deal with disputes over building work that does not meet the contractual agreement.

So, even if there are no defects, you still have grounds to complain if the builder significantly strayed from your requirements without getting your approval.

Time limits for lodging a complaint with NCAT

There are specific time limits for lodging a complaint with NCAT, so make sure you check out the rules for making an application. You can download an application from the NCAT website, where you will also find their table of fees.

The role of building inspectors in Building Disputes Resolution

If you want to present a building dispute for resolution by either Fair Trading or NCAT, you will most probably need a building inspection/defects report that may even escalate into a professional witness report to support your claim.

However, during complaint resolution, only specified items are dealt with in line with the complaint.

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