Resolving residential building works issues

The Guide to resolving residential building works issues (PDF, 8.1 MB) has been created to help owners resolve disputes.

Resolving building problems

When building or renovating things may not always go to plan, but, you can take steps to resolve your issues.

  1. Talk about it
  2. Write a letter
  3. Talk to your Surveyor
  4. Contact CBOS

Talk about it

You should notify the licence holder undertaking the work of your concerns.   Identifying the problems with the licence holder and giving them the ability to fix them is the best first step.

Write a letter about it

If talking is not successful, write a letter or email to the licence holder with the details of your issues. Give the licence holder a reasonable time frame (e.g. 14 days) to respond and rectify the issues. You can use a Notice of Dispute template (DOCX, 17.5 KB) to help you in writing to the letter holder.

Talk to your Surveyor and Permit Authority

If you are unable to solve the problem with the licence holder, you should speak to the Building Surveyor.  A Building Surveyor may be able to issue a written direction, and if needed, a notice and order, to fix defective building work.  Surveyors may also refer the matter to your local Permit Authority.

Contact CBOS

CBOS may be able to provide further information surrounding resolving a building dispute.  You can contact CBOS by submitting an online contact form, by email at CBOS.info@justice.tas.gov.au or by contacting us on 1300 654 499.

You may also wish to read:

Timeframes which may affect your complaint

To find out about timeframes which may apply to your issue, see the Guide to resolving residential building works issues (PDF, 8.1 MB). If you cannot view the guide you can contact CBOS to get a copy by email CBOS.info@justice.tas.gov.au or phone on 1300 654 499.

Residential building work

Owners and building services providers have a range of protections under the Residential Building Work Contracts and Dispute Resolution Act 2016 (the Act). The Act aims to help resolve disputes and improve building work contracts worth $20,000 or more.

Residential building work includes:

  • new houses
  • renovations
  • alterations
  • extension
  • improvements
  • repairs, and
  • conversions of non-habitable buildings, such as a shipping container or a barn, into a residential buildings.

Certain public or commercial buildings are not covered by the Act. These include:

  • hotels
  • motels
  • units above three storeys
  • bed and breakfast accommodations
  • caravans, and
  • cabin parks.

Licensed building services provider

Make sure the building services provider doing the building work is licensed.

Search now to find a licensed building services provider.

Some building work, such as, concreting, painting, and paving, do not need a licence in Tasmania. In this situation check the person doing the work has experience.

Building surveyors

It is important that you select and engage the Building Surveyor. Your Building Surveyor remains involved in your building project until it is complete.

They inspect the work at certain stages to ensure the builder is building to the approved plans. They also check the approved plans and work meet the National Construction Code and Australian Standards.

Contracts

A residential building work contract is an agreement between owners and a building services provider. The contract is a document which details the building work that is to be done. It also outlines the rights and responsibilities of the owner and the builder. All contracts must be in writing, dated and signed by both parties.

The contract must also include:

  • The names of the owner and the building services provider
  • The building services provider’s licence details and number
  • All terms that are agreed between the parties
  • A description of the building work, including plans, drawings and specifications
  • The contract price or an estimate and the method of calculating the price.  This must include any prime cost items and provisional sums allowances
  • The practical completion date or the method for estimating the practical completion date
  • A list of the statutory warranties that apply

There are standard residential building work contracts, otherwise known as “standard form contracts”. These are available from many sources including builders and industry bodies. If you use one of these contracts, make sure you read and understand all terms and conditions. Check the contract lists everything that has been agreed.

There is a minimum cooling-off period of five business days for all residential building work contracts.

If you are unsure about any part of the contract, you may wish to seek legal advice before signing. However, seeking legal advice affects your right to withdraw from the contract during the cooling-off period.

Residential building consumer guide

Builders are required to provide a copy of the Residential Building Consumer Guide. (PDF, 2.2 MB) The guide and a copy of the signed contract, is to be provided to the owner, within five business days of signing. It contains information about owners and builders rights and responsibilities.

Statutory warranties

Building services providers must give a range of warranties in a contract. These warranties apply even if they are not written into the contract. They are called statutory warranties and state that:

  • All materials supplied will be suitable and of good quality
  • All materials supplied are new, unless stated in the contract
  • The work will follow all relevant laws and legal requirements
  • The work will be carried out, with care and skill
  • Work will be done in accordance with all plans and specifications, as set out in the contract
  • The home or dwelling will be suitable for occupation once completed (if applicable)
  • Any provisional or estimated costs are calculated with care and skill.  They must take into account all information available at the time

Statutory warranties last for six years from the date of practical completion.  They transfer to new owners if the property is sold, until the end of the original time period.  Statutory warranties also apply to work completed by owner builders.

To make a claim that a building contract has not met these warranties, it must be lodged, with the courts, within the six year period.

Guide to standards and tolerances

The Guide to Standards and Tolerances (PDF, 4.8 MB) is a guide to acceptable standards of workmanship.

This guide has been developed to:

  • Support the mediation and adjudication process
  • Help prevent disputes and provide quality work
  • Provide standards to help assess building work in the adjudication process
  • Clarify quality and standards that are not addressed in legislation, policy, or standards Guide to Standards and Tolerances (PDF, 4.8 MB)

Claim for payment

Mediation of Residential Building Work Contract Disputes

A free mediation service is available for disputes relating to residential building work contracts:

  • Worth $20,000 or more; and
  • Signed on or after 1 January 2017.

A dispute of this nature may related to:

  • Defective building work, or
  • Incomplete work, or
  • Time to complete the build.

Mediation is available for a period of six years after the date of practical completion. Either the building contractor or owner can apply for mediation. Before applying, you must serve the other party with a ‘Notice of Dispute’. We have provided a Notice of Dispute template (DOCX, 17.5 KB) that may help with this.

Agreements made through mediation will be legally binding.

For more information on the mediation process you can view our:

Where mediation fails within 12 months of practical completion

If your dispute happens within 12 months of practical completion and mediation fails, an owner may wish to serve a Work-completion Claim on the building contractor.  We have provided a Work-completion Claim template (DOCX, 15.2 KB) that may help with this.

A work-completion claim requires work to be completed according to the contract terms, within a specific period.

If a building contractor does not satisfactorily complete the work specific in the work-completion claim within the time period, and the dispute is within 12 months of practical completion, then the owner can apply to have the matter adjudicated by an independent expert panel.

For more details on the adjudication process read:

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