What do you do if a Builder refuses to to fix a Defect?

What is a building defect?
A building defect is when building works have been undertaken by a builder and the builder has deviated from the plans and specifications that have been noted in the contract, or there is incomplete building works, or there is early deterioration in the building works or when the builder breaches the statutory warranties listed in the contract and the Building Act (Vic) 1993.

There are many known building defects but some of the more common defects include:

  • Defective or incomplete building works;
  • Delays;
  • Roof structural failure;
  • Condensation in doors and windows as well as issues with not opening or closing properly;
  • Sloping floors;
  • Cracking floors or ceilings;
  • A swimming pool that has not been built to the agreed depth or width;
  • Any narrow walkways/staircases that would become a safety hazard; or
  • Leaking balconies.

What do you do if there is a building defect on your property?
When renovations or building works have been undertaken on a property, or a house has been newly built, an owner will usually have 3 months from the earlier of the following to notify the builder in writing of any defects:

  • The date that the owner takes possession of the property; or
  • The date that the builder hands over possession of the property.

An owner must give a list of any defects to the builder in writing and request that they come back to the property to fix the defects.  The builder then usually has 21 days after the expiration of the 3-month period to fix the defects.

If the builder does not fix the defects before the deadline, you must try and resolve the issue yourself before taking the matter any further.  You should always keep copies of invoices, receipts, and relevant communications between yourself and the builder in case the matter does get taken further.

You should take the first steps of writing a formal letter to your builder outlining what the issue is and request that they respond to your letter.  You should include what was agreed to be done and when the works were agreed to be done by in the letter.

If after sending a formal letter to the builder the issue is still unresolved, you can then take the matter further and start a dispute with your builder. You can then use a copy of your letter addressed to the builder as proof that you had tried to resolve the issue with builder directly yourself with no luck.

You would then contact the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV), this is also known as a referral, who are an independent government agency who assist in resolving building disputes.  After contacting the DBDRV you must provide a copy of the referral to the builder within 5 days.

If after contacting the DBDRV and the issue is still not resolved with the builder, you should then think about taking the dispute further and lodge an action with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

If you require assistance in resolving a dispute with your builder, please don’t hesitate to contact our office via email at admin@wslegal.com.au or via phone on (03) 9707 1155.