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Building Dispute Resolution in NSW

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Building Dispute Resolution in NSW

What do you do if you have a dispute with a builder in NSW? The office of Fair Trading in NSW has a Home Building Service, which deals with building disputes and resolution.

The early intervention dispute resolution process provided by the Office of Fair Trading’s Home Building Service is based on discussion, negotiation and mediation.

The service outlines a dispute resolution process which is the first step to take if you are having problems with a builder or tradesperson. You should follow steps 1-3 before involving the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT).

Step 1. Talk about it

Develop and maintain positive communication with your builder or tradesperson (ie. contractor). As soon as you become aware of a problem you should bring the matter to your contractor’s attention. Talking things over in the first instance could resolve the problem. It may simply be a misunderstanding which can be resolved by communication.

Step 2. Write a letter

Following your discussion, write a letter outlining what you have both agreed to do and by when. Keep a copy of the letter for your records and note the date you posted it. Registered post and/or email are useful because they provide proof that the letter was sent. If your dispute remains unresolved after completing these two steps, contact the Office of Fair Trading.

Step 3. Contact the Office of Fair Trading

Contact your local Fair Trading Centre in writing (a verbal complaint is acceptable if the building work has created a health or safety risk for you). Fair Trading will attempt to negotiate a suitable outcome between you and your contractor. If the negotiation is unsuccessful, Fair Trading will provide you with information about further options including dispute resolution by the Home Building Service, or the involvement of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT).

If the dispute cannot be solved with the first three steps, there are a few more avenues to take. First get a building inspection, then contact the CTTT.

Step 4. Building inspections

Where a building inspector from the Home Building Service determines that there are defects, incomplete work or damage as a result of the contractor’s work, a Rectification Order may be issued.

Step 5. The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal

If the Rectification Order is not complied with or you are unsatisfied with the decision made, you may lodge a building claim with the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal. A building claim may also be lodged with the Tribunal by you or the contractor where defective work is not involved, eg. for money owed.

Where a claim to the Tribunal is made during the Rectification Order period, the Order ceases to have effect and the Tribunal will hear the matter. The tribunal can only issue orders over certain matters under certain circumstances.

The Tribunal can issue Orders such as the following: payment of money; supply of services; relief from paying money; delivery, return or replacement of goods; reversing an insurer’s decision on an insurance claim; payment of compensation for loss because of a breach of a statutory warranty (eg. work not done in a proper and workmanlike manner).

The Tribunal cannot hear a building claim over $500,000. Time limits also exist for making claims to the Tribunal. These are: three years for building services supplied or not supplied; seven years in regards to claims for breaches of a statutory warranty; ten years for claims regarding insurance contracts.

A decision is made in the tribunal beginning with each side presenting their evidence usually without the involvement of experts. If a building inspector made a report, the Tribunal may take the report into consideration. The Tribunal may also appoint an expert to advise the Tribunal. Where such an expert is appointed, no party may call another expert to give evidence unless the Tribunal agrees. Subject to an Order of the Tribunal, the cost of the expert is to be shared by the parties.

The Tribunal makes a decision after everyone has finished giving his or her evidence. Sometimes the Tribunal might want more time to think about the case, or it might direct one or both parties to provide additional documentation or clarify an issue in some other way. If this happens, the Tribunal will give its decision later. A notice of any Tribunal Order is sent out to all parties after the Tribunal makes its decision.

To obtain a form to notify the Tribunal of a dispute or a building claim, go to the Registry of the Tribunal, a Fair Trading Centre or www.cttt.nsw.gov.au.

You need to attach certain documents to your application, such as: the home building contract; any independent building reports; and photographs showing the details of alleged defective work. After carefully reading the guide notes, complete the form and return it to the Tribunal. There is a fee to lodge an application with the Tribunal.

Information: © State of New South Wales through the Office of Fair Trading

Check the website for latest updates: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

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