By Sam Recht

27 September 2017

The days of VCAT being a first-instance negotiator in Victorian domestic building disputes are coming to an end. Builders and domestic homeowners now have a service that will aid them to resolve their building disputes with greater ease and speed. The Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) is a relatively new body that will mediate disputes between builders and homeowners, having been officially opened in April of this year.

The regime will see a significant overhaul in domestic building dispute resolution, with the DBDRV having the ability to issue binding orders such as forcing homeowners to pay for, or forcing builders to complete, works. The DBDRV, headed by Chief Dispute Resolution Officer Gina Ralston, will also operate under an increased scope and with broader powers.

The DBDRV can mediate on disputes arising from domestic building works which have been uninvolved in VCAT proceedings and are less than 10 years old. The DBDRV brings together trained officers and building experts to help parties resolve their matter as quickly as possible.

Previously, where disputes were resolved in VCAT, parties had to endure a long process which all too often drained the patience, and bank accounts of both builders and homeowners.

Typically, in VCAT proceedings, the parties would be required to file statements of claim and defence prior to the issuing of a mediation order, which can also include provision of discovery. Failing that mediation, the matter would return to a ‘compulsory conference’ in which both parties, the Tribunal Member, and expert witnesses would sometimes attend. These trials often dragged on for months.

The DBDRV is a mandatory dispute resolution service with the aim of reducing the number of disputes that make it through to other channels. Whilst VCAT will continue to mediate larger and more complex disputes, the DBDRV should be seen as a positive and exciting development capable of clarifying the majority of domestic building disputes in Victoria.

The ability of legal representatives to represent clients at the DBDRV is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Our building dispute resolution team at Tisher Liner FC Law is highly experienced in providing advocacy services to clients inside the mediation room, and expert advice outside of it.

Generally, final conciliation conferences at the DBDRV result in either agreement or the issue of binding orders. However, in the event that the conciliation conference is unsuccessful, the DBDRV issues a Certificate of Conciliation. This certificate entitles the parties to apply directly to VCAT for dispute resolution under their Domestic Building Jurisdiction. In both the DBDRV and the VCAT dispute resolution channels, our team at Tisher Liner FC Law are highly experienced at obtaining the best practical results for clients, whether they are builders or homeowners.

For further information and advice on building disputes, please contact our Dispute Resolution Team.