Construction Lawyer Melbourne

What is VCAT and DBDRV?


VCAT and DBDRV are government offices you could run to help resolve building disputes around Victoria. Why rely on them and when to need them? Learn more.

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How the VCAT and DBDRV applies to building dispute clients

When a party involved in a building project fails or is perceived to have failed to fulfil their duties as stated in their agreed contract, a building dispute occurs. When this dispute escalates into a matter that can’t be resolved by alternative dispute resolution methods, a construction lawyer may step in and help the parties take their problem to the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria and to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Some factors that lead to a worse building dispute situation include:

  • non-payment, partial payment, and late payment for works done; 
  • conflicts about the scope of work; 
  • poor workmanship or defective of of the building practitioner involved, leading to structural failure; 
  • delays or abandonment of building works; and 
  • poor communication between building practitioner and homeowner.

These disputes can escalate very quickly and can make both parties spend a lot of time and money. Our construction lawyer in Melbourne can advise you on how to deal with this legal situation, starting from DBDRV to proceedings at VCAT.

Which governing body oversees building disputes in VIC?

Both the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal are  institutions which oversee building dispute resolutions in VIC.

Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria

What is DBDRV?

Often abbreviated as DBDRV, the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria is a unit of the Department of Justice and Regulations that offers free alternative dispute resolution services for domestic or residential building disputes.

DBDRV can assist in the early instances of a building dispute. If a homeowner and a building practitioner cannot resolve a dispute between themselves, they can contact this unit to assess the dispute, intervene, and come up with an outcome suitable for all parties concerned. 

Seeking help from DBDRV

Before moving forward with their help, you must have already tried settling the dispute regarding renovation, construction or demolition of residential building work, among yourselves.  If you have satisfied these conditions, you could go ahead and apply to undergo DBDRV’s dispute resolution process. This application can be made either by the building practitioner or by the owner of the residential property. The applicant would need to provide contact details of both parties and details of the dispute.

The DBDRV deals with building-related disputes about:

  • minor repairs in the residential building
  • renovation or Construction of a residential building
  • demolition of a residential building

Building Assessors

With this early intervention, these disputes have a high chance that it would get resolved successfully. Part of DBDRV’s team are building assessors. They utilise trade-qualified and experienced building practitioners such as surveyors to assess and investigate whether there are defects in the works. The building assessors will provide an assessment report. 

This assessment report then becomes the basis for conciliation. In this process, the conciliator facilitates the discussion regarding the dispute. This may result in an agreement (where the conciliator makes a formal record of agreement). The conciliator may also decide on a dispute resolution order or issue a certification of conciliation which may prompt both parties to take their dispute to VCAT.  

Building Disputes and the VCAT

What is VCAT?

In some instances, even with the intervention and assistance of DBDRV, parties still cannot resolve the dispute. When this happens, one party can lodge an application with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the complaint heard and determined. 

The VCAT is the one-stop-shop for specialist tribunal services in Victoria. The tribunal provides an affordable and fair justice process on a broad and diverse range of matters including building and construction works. They also resolve a wide range of case types such as residential tenancy and disputes related to goods and services. 

VCAT can present and determine applications lodged by owners, building practitioners, architects or subcontractors about mainly domestic building work, given that there has been efforts in pursuing conciliation first.

What are the building disputes that VCAT can present?

  • insurance claims
  • an appeal for change in dispute resolution order 
  • domestic building contract breaches
  • contract termination
  • non-payment for work and services already delivered
  • incomplete home building work
  • poor and defective building practitioner workmanship 

What is the Building Act?

The Building Act 1993 (Act) and the amended Building Regulations Act 2018 governs building works and standards in Victoria while the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 delves more into domestic or residential building work.

These Acts outline the minimum statutory rights of owners, building practitioners, plumbers, and other key players in the construction industry. This includes building standards, warranties, permits, payments, insurance, law enforcement and other matters relating to construction work. 

In terms of dispute resolution, these laws state that the DBDRV will attempt to negotiate a suitable outcome between the homeowner and the builder through conciliation. 

Should the negotiation be unsuccessful, the two parties are given a certificate of conciliation and a recommendation about their further options, including escalating the dispute to VCAT.

Amendments and additional regulations have been made to the Act.  These were put into effect in 2018 to ensure that building laws reflect current practices and to reduce any unnecessary disputes in the construction industry. The changes aimed to provide stronger protection for homeowners and to require building practitioners, plumbers and owners to act promptly when concerns regarding defects arise.

What our specialist Construction Lawyers in Melbourne can do for you

Doing construction is a huge investment, and building disputes can have a big financial impact on both owners and building practitioners. Going through the process of conciliation and other tribunal hearings can be nerve-wracking and intimidating. Thus, take out all those worries away with the help of our construction law experts who can explain each legal action you will take in a way you would understand. 

Our specialist building and construction lawyers in Melbourne will help you enforce your building rights– whether you are the homeowner, a building practitioner, or subcontractor.

We will go over and review your building contracts and investigate if there is a breach that needs to be acted upon. we will explore all your legal and alternative dispute resolution options, we will guide you through on whichever one you decide to take.

John Dela Cruz, our principal lawyer, is an expert in construction and building law and is very familiar with DBDRV and VCAT processes. He has extensive experience being a lawyer for any building dispute in both NSW and Victoria, so you can be assured that you will be in good hands.

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What is VCAT and DBDRV?
What is VCAT and DBDRV?