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How to prevent this

Prepare a checklist of items and features that you want from your project as a minimum before negotiating with prospective builders or trades. Display homes often include specifications that are optional upgrades, such as high-end appliances.

Items you may want to specify in your contract include:

  • Security doors
  • Flyscreens
  • Solar
  • Decorative features
  • Landscaping
  • Fencing
  • Makes, models and colours of appliances
  • Window coverings/blinds
  • Polished floorboards
  • Television antenna.

Make sure you include essentials in the quote or contract and make allowances for their supply and installation. Some contracts may provide for installing fittings, but not their supply. For example, wall tiles may need to be supplied by you.

Some builders don’t provide a full range of services, such as floor sanding, wall papering or tuckpointing. You will probably need to source these services yourself, so allow for these in your budget. For more information on contracts, see Agreements and contracts.

Before making the final payment, make sure that the work carried out has been completed in line with the plans and specifications set out in the building contract and that all fittings and appliances specified in the contract have been supplied and are working.

What you can do

Always talk to your builder and give them an opportunity to fix the issue before lodging a formal complaint or dispute. See Resolve disputes to understand the process for resolving disputes.

Refer to the terms of the contract for details of inclusions. The builder must deliver everything that’s specified in the contract. If not listed, they will need to be supplied and fitted at your expense.

If the builder has not provided something that was specified in the contract, they have breached the terms of the contract. Ask them directly to fix the issue by writing a letter or email. This is evidence that you have attempted to resolve the issue yourself.

If the contract has been breached, 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 make an application 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.

Read more: CAV | Building disputes, defects and delays

Page last updated: 27/09/22