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1: Resolve the issue together

You must make genuine attempts to resolve issues directly with your builder before you can take the next steps to making a formal complaint.

You'll save yourself time, energy and money and it will help you to maintain good relationships on your project.

Approach the conversation in a friendly way. Don’t make assumptions about the other person’s motives and try to listen to their point of view.

Be clear about the facts, understand what’s in the contract and what isn’t, decide what’s non-negotiable and what you’re willing to compromise on and be informed about your rights and responsibilities. Ask questions and take notes.

Read more: CAV | Building disputes, defects and delays

Keep a record of all conversations you've had with your builder and take photographs of any disputed work. Follow up conversations with an email or text so there’s a record of what’s agreed to (how, when, extra costs). This is a good way to check both your understanding of the issues and actions to be taken.

If this hasn’t worked, you may need to write a formal complaint letter to the builder, their supervisor or head office.

If the builder is a member of an industry association, you may be able to lodge a complaint with them. Associations typically don’t get involved in disputes between their members and clients. However, it might be enough to advise your builder that you are considering complaining to their association, which they will be keen to avoid as complaints can affect membership.

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2: Find help for your issue

There are 6 Victorian Government agencies that deal with building matters, either from an industry focus, a consumer one, or both. These are:

Most issues relating to defects, incomplete work or contractual disputes are eligible for DBDRV. DBDRV provides free conciliation services for owners and builders about domestic building disputes and has the power to issue legally binding dispute resolution orders and certificates. You must try to resolve the issue through DBDRV before making an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Check that you are eligible for DBDRV at Is our service right for you?

The VBA handles complaints about breaches of building legislation, including:

The VBA can take disciplinary action against building practitioners who break the law but can’t settle disputes or provide compensation to consumers.

See Common problems and Building agencies and their roles to understand your options. We explain what types of matters they can assist with, what they can and can’t do for you, and when you might have to deal with more than one agency.

If you are unsure of where to go for help, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria’s (CAV) Building Information Line at 1300 55 75 59 for advice.

3: Explore other options

Where do you go when your issue isn’t covered or resolved by the agencies? Here are some other resources available, including where to go for legal advice.

Archicentre Australia

Technical building advice and building defect assessments, expert witness reports to help resolve disputes, for mediation, arbitration or litigation.

Building Appeals Board (BAB)

Hears appeals and disputes under the Building Act 1993 and its regulations involving municipal councils, building surveyors, or the Victorian Building Authority.

Domestic Building Legal Service (DBLS)

Assists eligible Victorian homeowners involved in domestic building disputes with their builders. Homeowners must meet eligibility criteria and have first been through the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) process.

Law Institute of Victoria (LIV)

A membership organisation for solicitors. LIV can link people to legal services that fit their needs.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

Hears domestic building disputes between property owners, builders, sub-contractors, architects, engineers, other building practitioners or warranty insurers.

You must attempt to resolve the issue through DBDRV and receive a certificate of conciliation before proceeding to VCAT.

Victorian Ombudsman

Deals with matters involving Victorian public organisations.

Page last updated: 27/09/22