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 Tradings Dispute Resolution Service will attempt to mediate an outcome suitable to everyone. A formal request for Fair Trading to assist in the dispute resolution can 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.

Building inspectors

There are 26 building inspectors located across the State at Penrith, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Queanbeyan and Dubbo.

Inspection process

The inspector will organise to meet the consumer and trader on site and if an agreement between the parties is reached, the Inspector will complete a Complaint Inspection Report which records what has been agreed upon and what each party have to do.

Rectification order

If an agreement cannot be reached, the inspector will assess the alleged defective or incomplete work. If they think the trader is responsible, they can issue a Rectification Order directing the trader to fix the work by a due date. If they don’t, they are breaching 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 structural defects and two years for non–structural 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 the Home Building Service to assist in resolving a dispute, a complaint must be lodged and dealt with by the Dispute Resolution and Inspection Branch 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. No matter who lodges the dispute both parties need to agree to the attempt at resolution.

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 by agreement 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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