Tips to identify the correct Builder in building disputes

Updated 15 June 2020

If you are involved in a building dispute, it is essential that you identify the right person or entity as the builder in any complaints or legal proceedings.  Identifying the correct builder is your first step if you want to take a building dispute to Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) and/or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

This resource answers the following questions:  

  • What happens if I identify the wrong party as the builder in a dispute? 
  • How can I identify who the builder is?  

  To take a building dispute to VCAT, you must first have tried to resolve the dispute at DBDRV. If you don’t know where to start, have a look at our resource on “Where should I start if I have a problem with my builder” by clicking here.

What happens if I identify the wrong person as the builder in a dispute? 

At DBDRV

Listing the wrong person as the builder on your DBDRV application can delay your efforts to resolve the dispute.  

  • The person who you name in the application incorrectly may not respond to DBDRV if they know you cannot make a claim against them.
  • If the wrong person engages with the DBDRV process, DBDRV will list the wrong party as the “builder” in documents issued by DBDRV if the dispute cannot be resolved.
  • If at the end of the DBDRV process you have documents naming the wrong party,  you will need to re-engage with DBDRV to fix this before you can take the building dispute  to VCAT.  

At VCAT

The consequences of listing the wrong person as the builder on your VCAT application can be much greater.  

  • VCAT can dismiss your application  and you will need to restart the process and pay filing fees again.  
  • VCAT may order you to pay the legal costs that the wrong party had to cover to respond to your claim against them.  
  • You will lose the right to make a domestic building claim against the correct party if you don’t file an application in VCAT against them before the time limitation expires.  

How do I confirm the identity of my builder? 

Homeowners often identify the wrong party as the builder by assuming that:  

  • the person they dealt with on site is the builder 
  • the director of the company they worked with is the builder 
  • the person listed as a registered building practitioner on the building permit or contract is the builder 

These assumptions are not always correct and can cause you to list the wrong party in an application to DBDRV or VCAT.  

In a domestic building dispute, the builder is the party who carried out, managed or arranged the domestic building work that is the subject of the dispute (or the person intended to carry out, manage or arrange that work).  

To identify your builder correctly, you should check the name of the person listed as the builder in any of the following documents related to the building works in dispute:  

  • Contract with the builder – this may take the form of quotes you accepted for building work that cost $10,000 or less 
  • Building permit – if one exists 
  • Domestic Building Insurance (DBI) certificate of insurance – this insurance should exist if the building works cost $16,000 or more 

How do I find the domestic building contract?

You should always keep a copy of any contract you sign.  

However,  you may not have the contract for the building works in dispute if you purchased the property from another person who contracted the builder.  

In that case, you may find the relevant domestic building contract in the documents included as part of the vendor’s section 32 statement in the  contract of sale.   

How do I find the building permit?

If you do not have a copy of the building permit for the building works in dispute, you can request a copy from the Building Surveyor who approved the works or from your local council.  

You can find the details of your local council on the rates notice for your property. 

Please note that if a building permit exists, the building surveyor and your local council are not obliged to give you access to it, and may charge you an administrative fee to give you a copy.  

How do I find the DBI certificate?

Builders in Victoria are required to have domestic building insurance (DBI) for any works that cost $16,000 or more. This insurance covers homeowners for incomplete or defective building work carried out on their property.  

If you don’t know if a builder obtained a DBI certificate of insurance for building works at your property, or if you don’t have a copy of if, you can ask the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA). VMIA’s website is available by clicking here.


When
reviewing  the building contract, building permit and DBI certificate, double check the name of the person or entity listed as the builder, and make sure you cross reference all names, ACNs and ABNs listed to check that they match.

Make sure you list the correct builder in your application to DBDRV or VCAT. If you are not sure about who the builder is, you should obtain legal advice.

  The builder could be a natural person (a human being) or another legal entity (for example a company)  

 If the builder listed in your documents is a company, they will have a 9 digit Australian Company Number (ACN) that you can search on ASIC Connect by clicking here. If you are making an application to DBDRV or VCAT against a company, you should include a copy of the ASIC search in your application

If the builder listed on your documents has both an ACN and an Australian Business Number (ABN), the last 9 digits of the ABN should match the 9 digits ACN. You can do an ABN search on ABN Lookup by clicking here.

More Resources

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