The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) provides advice and information to builders and homeowners and is also a regulatory body that ensures proper building standards and remedies for defective work. The QBCC provides four primary services:
- Dispute resolution and prevention;
- Home warranty insurance; and
- Education and information.
We focus below on the QBCC’s dispute resolution services available to Queensland contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers and homeowners.
The Dispute Resolution Process
The QBCC must investigate a complaint once lodged by a homeowner or contractor. There is a relatively standard procedure that the QBCC follows when investigating complaints.
The party making the complaint must provide written notice which lists each complaint separately before lodging with the QBCC. The purpose is to allow the other party an opportunity to fix any problems.
Lodging the Complaint
Both the contractor and homeowner can access the appropriate form on the QBCC website. Ensure that you include any necessary supporting documents before lodging your form. Common examples of complaints include:
- Money owed;
- Defective work before completion; and
- Defective work after completion.
Although the QBCC is a regulatory body and cannot make judicial decisions regarding a contract dispute, its investigation of outstanding debts can often result in payment. If you are successful, this will be a much quicker and less expensive debt recovery option.
You must provide supporting documents for the QBCC to substantiate the debt such as:
- Statements, and
- Details of any demands for payment of the debt.
If you are owed money, it is advisable that you seek legal advice about your debt recovery options. Subcontractors who are owed money should also seek legal advice about their ability to exercise contractual or statutory rights to suspend work.
Homeowners or authorised agents can lodge a complaint about defective work subject to the following restrictions:
- The building work must be valued at more than $3,300, which includes labour, materials and GST. However, there are some exceptions to this condition, including where the work relates to plumbing, drainage, gas fitting, etc.
- Any non-structural defects (minor defects not affecting the integrity of the home) cannot be investigated before the expiry of the six-month statutory warranty period and no later than 12 months from the date of practical completion. Homeowners should raise non-structural defects with the builder during the statutory warranty period, after which time the QBCC can take action if the matter remains unresolved.
- The QBCC can action any structural defects (major issues affecting the integrity of the home) on a priority basis at any time during the warranty period.
Non-completion Claim Form
A property owner, company or an authorised agent can lodge a non-completion claim form in circumstances where the construction work is not complete, but a party has terminated the contract due to breach. The claim can also include details of any defects regarding the work completed to date. The claim should list out all the defects and include photos of the defective work. Failure to terminate a contract correctly can have adverse consequences and so ensure you seek legal advice first.
Your non-completion claim forms and claims for defective work must include a number of supporting documents, such as:
- Evidence of the termination of contract;
- Rates notice or current title search;
- Building contract (including all terms and conditions and any variations);
- Contract specifications;
- Any approved building plans;
- Council building/development approval; or
- Evidence of any payments made.
The QBCC may return your form if you fail to include the necessary supporting documents.
The contractor and homeowner are initially contacted by telephone where the complainant’s issues are discussed and assessed. If the complaint cannot be resolved during these initial discussions, a site meeting will be scheduled.
Scheduled Site Meeting
Both the homeowner and the contractor are required to attend the site meeting with the QBCC Building Inspector. At this time the Building Inspector will inspect and investigate the areas of complaint, assess the contractor’s responsibility for any defective work and make a decision as to any further action required. In most cases, a final decision will be made at the site meeting. However, in some instances, both parties will be notified of the decision shortly after.
Direction to Complete Or Rectify
Where the Building Inspector believes that a contractor or subcontractor is responsible for defective work, they may issue a Direction to Rectify, which will itemise the work to correct and an appropriate timeframe. If a direction to complete or rectify is made, the homeowner must provide reasonable access to the property to allow the contractor or subcontractor to perform those works.
For the Contractor
Right of Review
If you are unsatisfied with a direction the QBCC makes, you have 28 days from the date of their decision to apply for a review to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Non-compliance With QBCC Direction
Failure to comply with a direction the QBCC makes can result in a number of consequences, including:
- Loss of demerit points from your licence;
- A monetary fine ($2,438 as of October 2016) issued as an infringement notice of the QBCC;
- A monetary penalty (maximum of $30,475 as at October 2016) if prosecuted in the Tribunal or Courts;
- Disciplinary action commenced in either QCAT or the Courts;
- Specific conditions imposed on your licence; or
- The issuing of a show-cause notice, which may result in the suspension or cancellation of your licence.
While the QBCC offers contractors and homeowners a relatively straightforward and simple way of resolving a building dispute, there are some instances where you should seek advice. If you have any questions or need assistance enforcing a debt or terminating a contract, get in touch with our specialist building and construction lawyers on 1300 544 755.