Avoiding building disputes

When you hire someone to do building work on or for your home or property, you need to make sure that you both clearly understand the job, know what standard of work is expected, and know what to do if any problems occur. Builders, contractors and designers should also take steps to give you a good idea of what the finished work will be like and help you to understand your role in the process.

Building disputes can happen for many reasons; they can often relate to:

  • the quality of the finished building work
  • delays in the work
  • bad contracts and documentation
  • poor communication
  • neglect
  • trespassing.

It is important that you work out all necessary job details before any work begins.

If you are a homeowner

Using a builder, contractor or designer

If you are a homeowner looking to have any type of building work done, make sure:

  • you understand the basics of the building process
  • you get a few quotes before deciding on a builder, contractor or designer
  • the person you hire has a current Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) licence that is right for the work you need done (ask to see their licence and write down their name, licence number, expiry date, and licence class)
  • you choose a builder, contractor, or designer who has been recommended to you or has good reviews
  • you look at examples of the builder’s, contractor’s, or designer’s work
  • you give the person you are hiring a really good idea of what you want and what your expectations of the finished job are.

Spending more than $3,300

If you are a homeowner looking to have building work done in or around your home that will cost more than $3,300, you and your builder, contractor, or designer must have a written contract. If you were quoted more than $3,300, make sure:

  • your contract includes details of what the work to be done is, date it will be finished, the total price and how you need to pay it
  • your contract includes everyone’s rights and responsibilities (particularly the cooling-off periods)
  • that you understand the whole contract and get a copy of the contract information statement—and any foundations data—before you sign it.

Planning work that will impact neighbours

You should always check with your local government and talk to your neighbours before starting any building work close to the boundary of your land.

Read about ways to approach your neighbour.

Retaining walls

If you are planning to build a retaining wall to support built up or excavated earth on or near a fence line you share with a neighbour, you should talk to that neighbour before starting any work.

If you want to build a retaining wall as a dividing fence with your neighbour, the retaining wall will be your full responsibility to build and maintain. This is because retaining walls normally benefit one property much more than the other.

However, even though you are building the retaining wall, as it will affect your neighbour’s property you should talk to them about any concerns or aesthetic requests they have. This will help to avoid disputes later. It is also important that you talk to your local council, as you might need building approval.

If you are a builder, contractor or designer

Before you develop and sign a contract, you should:

  • write an agreement that clearly outlines the homeowner’s goals and defines any restrictions they have (such as how they want the work done)
  • show the homeowner samples of your finished work. This will give the homeowner an idea of what to expect
  • talk to the homeowner about their responsibilities, so they understand that they are partly responsible for the condition of the finished work
  • know the building processes that are recommended by industry associations for the type of job the homeowner is after, and what the acceptable standard of work is.