At DBDRV, a dispute resolution officer (DRO) will engage with the parties to attempt to resolve building disputes through conciliation.
DROs may organise a DBDRV assessor to conduct an examination of the issues surrounding the disputed building work. Assessors may determine whether the disputed building work in question is defective or incomplete, which will aid the resolution process. .
What kinds of disputes does DBDRV help with?
DBDRV can only help homeowners and builders who have particular kinds of domestic building disputes. This section will help you understand whether your dispute is one which could be taken to DBDRV.
Importantly, before approaching DBDRV you will need to have first taken reasonable steps to try to resolve the dispute with your builder directly, preferably in writing. Once DBDRV receives your application, they will ask you what steps you took to try to resolve your dispute before you made your application. ‘Reasonable steps’ may include that you have:
contacted the other party to raise your concerns, repeatedly if they do not respond;
clearly informed the other party of the issues you are disputing, preferably in writing;
given the other party an opportunity to respond and resolve the issues by carrying out agreed actions; and
if the issue cannot be resolved, advised the other party of your intention to lodge an application with DBDRV.
Disputes between building owners and builders
DBDRV can only assist with disputes that have arisen from a domestic building contract, and is between homeowner of the property in dispute and:
a building practitioner (as defined in the Building Act 1993, e.g. surveyors, draftpersons)
a sub-contractor, and/or
Even if you are the subsequent purchaser of a property and did not contract directly with the other party, you may still be entitled to apply to DBDRV as the current homeowner.
Disputes about works to a home
A domestic building contract must relate to a home.
This means that the property in dispute is intended for use as a residential premise, even if it forms part of a commercial building or industrial premises. This does not include caravans, motels or rooming houses.
A domestic building contract may, in relation to a home, include the following works:
Erection of a home
Construction of a home
Renovation of a home
Alteration of a home
Extensions to existing homes
Improvement work to a home
Repairs to the home
Do I always have to go to DBDRV before going to VCAT?
Generally, you will not be able to take your domestic building work dispute to VCAT without first trying to resolve your dispute at DBDRV.
If your dispute fails to resolve at DBDRV, you can apply to have your matter heard at VCAT.
You must attach the Certificate of Conciliation issued by DBDRV to your VCAT application to show that you have already tried to resolve the dispute through conciliation. VCAT has published an application checklist which you can use to ensure you have the right documents ready before you apply.
You can bypass DBDRV and go straight to VCAT only if your domestic building dispute falls within one of the below exceptions. In all other circumstances, you must first go to DBDRV with your domestic building dispute before you can go to VCAT.
Exception 1: Disputes with a single tradesperson
You cannot go to DBDRV if your dispute relates to work carried out under a contract for one type of work with one party, where the work only related to:
If your dispute is with a single tradesperson engaged by you to carry out only one of the above tasks, you can apply to VCAT directly by completing this application form.
Exception 2: Seeking an injunction from VCAT
You do not need to go to DBDRV first if you are seeking an injunction from VCAT. An injunction is an order from VCAT that stops a party from physically doing something that causes damage to you. Injunctions are granted to prevent irreversible or considerable damage before a decision is made. This is because it would be disadvantageous to the applicant to obtain a decision after such damage has been sustained.
Generally, you have 10 years from the date an occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection was issued to initiate legal proceedings in relation to building actions. In some building disputes, the limitation period is 6 years from the date of breach of contract occurred.
Once the 10 year limitation period lapses, you will no longer have the right to commence legal proceedings in relation to the building action. You should seek legal advice if your limitation period is about to expire.
Initiating legal proceedings means submitting an application to VCAT or to a relevant court; it does not include applying to DBDRV.
You can go to DBDRV if:
you have a domestic building dispute;
your dispute relates to domestic building work;
your limitation period has not yet lapsed; and
approaching DBDRV is not your first attempt at resolution
You cannot go to DBDRV if:
your dispute does not relate to domestic building work;
your matter falls within one of the two exceptions addressed in this resource; or
your limitation period has lapsed
How do I take my dispute to DBDRV?
Applying to DBDRV is simple. Visit the DBDRV website and click on ‘Start your application’.
Alternatively, you can send your application by post. For details about how to do this call the Building Information Line on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday.
This resource was last updated on 6 December 2021. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation. Please view our disclaimer for more information.