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How to prevent this

Make sure you understand your building contract and know what’s included and what’s not. The contract should reflect the agreement you and your builder have come to before you sign it. For more information about contracts, see Agreements and contracts.

You can also engage a building lawyer to review the contract before you sign it. Other professionals, such as architects, may assist with drafting or managing contracts, and can speak to the builder about materials, standards and budget. See Roles and responsibilities to understand the types of professionals that may be involved in your project.

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What you can do

Always talk to your builder and try to resolve the issue informally before lodging a formal complaint or dispute. For more information about the dispute process, see Resolve disputes.

Refer to notes of discussions and emails to confirm details that were agreed to. Consider varying the contract and make sure any new agreements, such as changes to costs and timelines are updated in it.

By law, most variations must have a variation notice signed by both parties. A variation notice isn’t required if the owner requests a variation and the builder believes that the changes will not require a change to any permits, cause a delay, or add more than 2% to the original contract price.

For contractual disputes, you may be eligible for Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV). DBDRV provides free conciliation services for owners and builders in domestic building disputes. If you are unable to resolve your dispute at DBDRV through conciliation, DBDRV has the power to issue legally binding dispute resolution orders and certificates. Check that you are eligible for this service at is our service right for you?

If you are ineligible for DBDRV, or if your issue could not be resolved and you have received a certificate of conciliation from DBDRV, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). You can also contact Consumer Affairs Victoria’s (CAV) Building Information Line at 1300 55 75 59 for free advice. Consider getting independent legal advice.

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Page last updated: 30/11/22