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Domestic Building Disputes

Domestic building disputes can be frustrating and often very time consuming. It is important at the beginning of a building dispute that you have proper advice from an experienced building dispute lawyer. Getting legal advice early on a building dispute can help you save time and money.

Building disputes can be handled in a variety of ways, depending on the individual situation. This can include, using both the court system and negotiating privately through your lawyer to reach a resolution. An experienced building disputes lawyer will be able to provide clear direction and guidance about the building dispute resolution process.

It is important to note from the outset, that residential building disputes are unique and have their own legal processes to reach resolution.

Mostly, residential building disputes arise over the costly rectification of building defects or when the builder issues variations for building works that weren’t agreed to.

Understanding what type of dispute you have with your builder or contractor, and your desired outcome can determine what avenue to take. From the outset, is important to ensure that you are informed about the various options available to you. Often times there can be multiple ways of approaching the issue. Selecting the right path will heavily depend on your circumstances, the urgency of the matter and financial considerations. Experienced building lawyers can advise you on best course of action that addresses your highest priorities first.

We outline how a building lawyer can help you resolve a residential building disputes and the legal processes involved.

Residential Building disputes and the DBDRV

In most residential building disputes, you will be required to first go through the Domestic Building Disputes Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) process before you can make an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The DBDRV is a free government process that arranges conciliation (mediation) between the parties to a dispute to reach a resolution. If you are a property owner and have a dispute with your builder, architect, sub-contractor or a building practitioner for a residential house you would mostly use the DBDRV process. Likewise, if you are builder who has a dispute with a residential home owner, you will likely need to go through the DBDRV process.

Many clients find it advantageous to get legal advice prior to going to conciliation.

Understanding your legal position and what rights you have at the DBDRV, and beyond, will help you make informed decisions and reach a workable settlement.

Preparation for the DBDRV is important and obtaining legal advice about your matter can help you in a variety of ways, including:

  1. To pre-empt and understand the DBDRV process;
  2. Providing guidance on how to outline your case, how to prepare and present the issues and any additional matters you may not have considered;
  3. How you present the facts of the dispute, and any supporting material that you may need to obtain before or during the DBDRV process;
  4. How to deal with and approach, your appointed case manager and mediator;
  5. How to prepare, present and negotiate your argument at the conciliation; and
  6. How to give you an understanding of what to expect, how to work with any unforeseen developments during the DBDRV process, which is key to getting a good outcome; and
  7. Advise you on how to negotiate with the builder before, and after, attending the DBDRV (as there are often other ways to resolve a dispute without the needing to utilise the VCAT or Court processes).

There are, however, some exceptions to the requirement of first going through the DBDRV process before you can make an application to VCAT, including the following:

  1. Work from a single tradesperson carried out under a contract for one type of work;
  2. You are seeking an injunction from VCAT – injunctions are obtained urgently to prevent loss or damage; and
  3. You have been to the BACV (Building Advice and Conciliation Victoria).

Unfortunately, the DBDRV process is slow and there are other options you may wish to utilise whilst you wait for a conciliation meeting with the builder or landowner. It is possible to reach a resolution to your building dispute, before you attend DBDRV.

We have helped many clients prepare for conciliation and also work to resolve their dispute outside this avenue, where possible, for a more efficient resolution of the dispute. A building litigation lawyer will be able to assist you in negotiations to try to resolve your matter faster through different approaches.

It may also be beneficial to obtain expert reports to quantify your claim, so that you can put this to the other party and ensure that any resolution agreed upon will be sufficient to fix the issues. Legal advice before you obtain the report and before DBDRV conciliation will ensure that you obtain the most relevant and useful report. This is key so that the report can be relied upon and you understand how the report is used in building disputes. It is instrumental to making reasonable requests from the other party of your dispute. We are experienced in obtaining expert reports for building disputes and ensuring that defects and issues are clearly addressed in the report.

Residential Building Disputes at VCAT

If the dispute is not resolved at the DBDRV, the matter may progress onto the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). It is important to keep in mind that either the builder or the owner may commence proceedings with VCAT.

Once you have your conciliation certificate from the DBDRV, you can apply to VCAT.

Unlike the DBDRV, VCAT is able to make orders, which the other party must comply with. Accordingly, it is important to obtain proper legal advice from a lawyer experienced with building disputes so that you are fully informed about your claim, its strengths and potential risks, and any expert evidence you may need to ensure you have the best chances possible. Advice should always be sought before you commence any proceedings at VCAT as it may also be the case that the other side has a counterclaim against you.

An experienced building lawyer regularly deals with these issues, and can identify the key points that will need to be presented, so that you have the best chance of success.

Our Service

At PCL Lawyers we have dedicated building and construction lawyers who deal specifically with helping clients resolve their building disputes. Whether you are a landowner, a builder or associated building professional, we can assist you.

We understand the processes involved in dealing with building disputes clearly and work many avenues to get the right result quickly for our clients.

Our legal advice on building disputes is professional and cost-effective. We have a deep understanding of the building and construction industry, and its unique dispute resolution procedures and requirements.

To speak to a building lawyer about your dispute today contact us on 1300 907 335 or complete an online form and we will get in contact with you promptly.

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