Building disputes, defects and delays

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Building disputes (including fences)

We offer free advice and conciliation if you cannot resolve a dispute with your builder. Before using our service, you need to try to resolve the dispute yourself.

If speaking to the builder directly does not resolve the problem, send them a complaint letter or email. Putting your concerns in writing is useful because you will have a record:

  • of discussions you had with your builder
  • to show a third party if you choose to take your complaint further later on
  • to show that you made a reasonable attempt to resolve the problem yourself.

You can use our Example complaint letter for an issue regarding building work (Word, 50.5 KB).

If you are unable to resolve the dispute yourself:

  1. complete the Domestic building complaint (Word, 180 KB) or
  2. contact our free service on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

Note:

  • If there is evidence of defective building work, we may arrange a technical inspection by a registered building inspector to assist conciliation. The Victorian Building Authority replaced the Building Commission and Plumbing Industry Commission on 1 July 2013.
  • We may suggest you take your building dispute to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if you cannot reach agreement through voluntary conciliation.

Fence disputes

We do not handle disputes between neighbours, including disagreements about boundary fences. 

If one neighbour wants to build or replace a fence, they should give the other party a written notice which states the type of fence to be built and its proposed location. You should all meet to discuss the matter. 

If you have difficulty reaching an agreement about building a fence, you can contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). If you need further assistance, you may need to seek an order from the Magistrates' Court. 

Building fences is governed by the Fences Act 1968, which you can find on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website.

Building defects

If you are concerned that building work is defective, incomplete or different to your contract:

  • discuss the issue with your builder (also called a building contractor) in a calm and business-like way. Show the builder what you believe the problem to be
  • send a letter to the builder, confirming your conversation and agreed actions
  • if necessary, engage an independent building consultant to inspect the work and ensure you have a reasonable case
  • keep a diary of all conversations you have with the builder and take photographs of the work in question
  • keep copies of all documents.

If you do not get a satisfactory response, place your complaint in writing:

  • state clearly what you want and when you require the response
  • send this to the builder by registered mail.

For free assistance and advice about defective work when building, renovating, extending or repairing a house, contact us on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays)

Resolving a problem or dispute with home improvement work

Home repair and renovation services are covered by consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law. The guarantees set out when you have a right to a repair, refund or other compensation if there is a problem with a service. For more information, view our Problems with a service section.

Delays in building projects

If you are concerned that building is delayed, we recommend you contact us in the first instance on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

Whether you are building a new house, adding an extension to your home, or renovating your bathroom or kitchen, you may need assistance to calculate whether the project is delayed.

About the start date

You will need to know the start date of the building period. By law, a domestic building contract for work valued at more than $5000 must contain either:

  • the date work is to start
  • how the start date will be determined (for example, 21 days from obtaining the building permit). If the date is not specified, the contract must also include a statement that the builder will do everything reasonably possible to ensure work will start as soon as possible.

The contract may also state whether you had to supply any information for the project to start (for example, financial approval or 'evidence of financial capacity').

The 'start date' does not necessarily refer to the date construction begins on your site. For example:

  • under your contract, your builder may be obtaining the building and planning permits for you.
  • your contract may say the start date is 21 days after the builder gets the last permit.

Allowances for delays in your contract

By law, the builder must make a reasonable allowance for delays due to:

  • inclement weather, taking into account the season when work will be carried out
  • foreseeable factors, such as:
    • public holidays, rostered days off and weekends
    • breaks in continuity of work (for example, time to let the slab cure)
    • other delays due to the nature of the work.

The builder must state in your contract how many days have been allowed for each type of delay. This is outlined in section 32 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.

If it is not possible to estimate how long a delay is likely to be, the builder must identify the cause of delay in the contract and state that it is not possible to estimate. This is to make sure everyone involved is clear about what may delay the project.

Reasonable delays

Delays may be reasonable if:

  • they arise from circumstances beyond the builder's control
  • the builder could not have foreseen the cause of delay when you entered the building contract.

Delays due to foundation issues

You should not have to pay extra to deal with problems that the builder should have identified from the foundation data. For more information, view our Foundations page.

Changes in contract price

If you are concerned about being charged for additional work, discuss the issue with your builder and request a breakdown of costs.

If you do not get a satisfactory response you can contact us for advice on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

Changes to a contract price can include variations to the plans and specifications, prime costs and provisional sums. For more information, view our Changing a major domestic building contract checklist page.

Last updated: 15/03/2017

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