Resolving a dispute

Home building dispute resolution

The NSW home building dispute resolution service started in 2003 with NSW Fair Trading’s Home Building Service.

When a consumer and trader are unable to resolve their dispute, Fair Trading's dispute resolution service will attempt to mediate an outcome suitable to everyone. The highly successful early intervention dispute resolution process utilises very experienced and trade-qualified building inspectors to resolve home building disputes. These building inspectors are located throughout the state.

A formal request for Fair Trading to assist in the dispute resolution can be made by the consumer or the trader. For a trader-initiated dispute, the consumer needs to agree to attempt to resolve the dispute. However, if a consumer lodges a complaint, the trader does not need to agree to resolving the dispute, although they will be encouraged to do so. The trader may be issued an order to rectify if the inspector is of the opinion that they are responsible for defective or incomplete work, irrespective of the trader’s view on the matter.

Inspection process

The inspector may organise to meet the consumer and trader on site but may also resolve the dispute by telephone discussions and investigation of material submitted by the parties. If an agreement between the parties is reached, the inspector will complete a complaint investigation report which records what has been agreed upon and what each party have to do.

Rectification order

If the inspector is satisfied that the trader is responsible for defective or incomplete work, a rectification order will be issued directing the trader to rectify or complete the work by a due date. If the work is not fixed by that date, the trader is in breach of the Home Building Act 1989.

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

If an agreement cannot be reached and the inspector is not satisfied on the ‘balance of probabilities’ that it’s the trader’s fault, a consumer can lodge an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the complaint heard and determined.

Time limits

The Home Building Act provides statutory warranties for a period of six years for major defects and two years for all other defects from the date of the completion of home building work. These periods will be extended by six months if the homeowner or subsequent purchaser becomes aware of a defect in the last six months of these time frames. For Fair Trading to assist in resolving a dispute, a building claim must be lodged with the NCAT within these periods.

Dispute resolution for builders and tradespeople

Licensed builders and tradespeople in NSW can lodge a dispute with Fair Trading and access our free dispute resolution service. Consumers may also lodge a dispute and seek Fair Trading assistance.

Fair Trading assistance is only available when a dispute occurs with a consumer or owner-builder over a residential building issue, and does not extend to builders and tradespeople’s disputes with sub-contractors or other licensees.

View or download a copy of the Notification of home building dispute form for builders and tradespeople (PDF, 247.17 KB).

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
  • building inspectors assist in approximately 2500 disputes each year, and over 80 percent of these are resolved and did not need any enforcement action
  • 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 22 working days with resolution of the complaint, including rectification work being completed, taking on average 39 days.
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