The NSW home building dispute resolution service started in 2003. Where a consumer and trader are unable to resolve their dispute, NSW Fair Trading will attempt to mediate an outcome suitable to all parties concerned. A formal request for Fair Trading to assist in the dispute resolution may be made by the consumer or the trader but both parties need to agree to the attempt at resolution.
The highly successful early intervention dispute resolution process utilises trade qualified and very experienced building inspectors to resolve home building disputes.
There are 20 building inspectors located across the State including at Newcastle, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Wollongong, Wagga Wagga and Dubbo.
The inspector will organise to meet the consumer and trader on site after which the Inspector will complete a Complaint Inspection report which records the outcome of the dispute resolution process.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the inspector will assess the alleged defective or incomplete work. If it is their opinion that the work is the responsibility of the trader, they may issue a Rectification Order directing the trader to undertake rectification work by a due date. It is a breach of the Home Building Act 1989 for a trader to fail to comply with a Rectification Order.
NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
If agreement cannot be reached and the inspector is not satisfied on the ‘balance of probabilities’ that the alleged defective or incomplete work is the responsibility of the trader, a consumer can lodge an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to have the complaint heard and determined.
The Home Building Act provides statutory warranties for a period of six years for a breach that results in a "major defect" or 2 years in any other case. "Major defect" is defined in the Home Building Act. If the breach of warranty becomes apparent within the last 6 months of the warranty period, proceedings may be commenced within a further 6 months after the end of the warranty period. For Fair Trading to assist in resolving a dispute, a complaint must be lodged with and finalised by the Dispute Resolution and Inspection Branch before the expiry of the statutory warranty periods.
Dispute resolution statistics
Fair Trading’s dispute resolution service has delivered the following outcomes:
- an average of over 70 percent of building disputes being resolved at the initial mediation or inspection stage
- this has led to a reduction of approximately 30 percent in the number of disputes heard by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
- building inspectors assist in approximately 2500 disputes each year, and over 80 percent of these are resolved without escalation to NCAT
- in 98 percent of cases, contact is made with the complainant within two working days of the building inspector receiving the complaint file, and the on-site inspection takes place, on average, within 20 working days with resolution of the complaint, including rectification work being completed, taking on average 39 days.