Domestic building claims
Domestic building work is any work to erect, construct, renovate, improve, alter or repair a home. A home is any residential premises, including any part of a commercial building that is used as a residential premises.
If your domestic building dispute involves the home owner, in most cases you must take your dispute to Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) unless you are applying to VCAT for an injunction. DBDRV is a free conciliation service supported by expert building assessors.
Read on to determine if you can apply to VCAT without referring your dispute to DBDRV.
When you can apply directly to VCAT
Skip down to:
- When your dispute does not involve the home owner
- Exceptions for disputes involving home owners
- When you have taken your dispute to Building Advice Conciliation Victoria (BACV)
- To apply for a review of a decision of a warranty insurer
- If you are an owner-builder seeking an exemption from section 68 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995
- When you have taken your dispute to DBDRV
- To have a decision about building work reviewed
If the dispute is between a builder, sub-contractor, architect, warranty insurer, engineer or other building practitioner – or any combination of them not including the home owner – complete an Application to Building and Property List (Domestic and Commercial Building).
In most cases involving a home owner you must take your dispute first to DBDRV but there are some exceptions.
You do not need to go to DBDRV when the dispute is between a home owner and single tradesperson engaged directly by the home owner to carry out only one of the following types of work:
- attaching external fixtures (including awnings, security screens, insect screens and balustrades)
- electrical work
- installing floor coverings
- painting or plastering
- tiling (wall and floor)
- plumbing work including drainage, fire protection work, gas fitting, irrigation (non-agricultural) work, mechanical services work (heating and cooling), refrigerated air conditioning work, roofing (stormwater) work, sanitary work, gas appliance conversion and servicing work or water supply work (but not work carried out by a gas company or water authority or drainage works by a council)
- erecting a chain wire fence to enclose a tennis court
- erecting a mast, pole, antenna, aerial or similar structure.
If you took your dispute to BACV, you can apply to VCAT to deal with your dispute.
You must provide a letter from BACV confirming they received your complaint before 26 April 2017.
If you are an owner-builder seeking an exemption under section 68 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995
If you have already taken your dispute to DBDRV, you can apply to VCAT only if:
- DBDRV could not resolve your dispute or it was not suitable for conciliation – provide a copy of the certificate of conciliation
- you are a home owner who has ended the contract under a DBDRV process – provide a copy of the notice of breach of dispute resolution order
- you are a builder who has ended the contract after the home owner breached a dispute resolution order issued by DBDRV – provide a copy of the dispute resolution order
If you are seeking a review of a DBDRV decision, see Review of a decision about building work.
Learn more about DBDRV decisions or Victorian Building Authority decisions we can review.
Before you apply to VCAT, if one of the parties to the dispute is a home owner, make sure you have any required documentation from Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria or from Building Advice Conciliation Victoria. You must ensure you can identify the correct name of the person or company who is the respondent in your case, including their postal address, contact details and ABN or ACN if relevant. Contact ASIC to confirm company status and address. Read more about what to do before you apply to VCAT.
To start your application to VCAT fill in the correct application form. You must also pay the application fee. If you are claiming against a company, you must provide formal documents from ASIC showing the company's status and registered address. Read more about applying to start a case.
When you apply, we send a copy of your application and the supporting documents to each respondent. The other party may have a claim against you and they may be able to make a counterclaim. We may list your case for mediation, hearing or a directions hearing. After receiving your application we may contact you for more information. Learn about what happens when VCAT opens a case.
We encourage you to negotiate with the other party to try to reach agreement. We can help you resolve your dispute by agreement with the other party using mediation or a compulsory conference rather than by VCAT deciding your case for you at a hearing. If we tell you to attend a compulsory conference or mediation, you need to prepare an opening statement. Use the opening statement to clearly state your case. It can be a helpful starting point for discussion between the parties. See more about resolving a case by agreement.
Many cases at VCAT are decided at a hearing. Prepare early so you can present the best possible case. Make sure you give others enough time to help you prepare or to appear as witnesses at the hearing. For information to help you prepare for the hearing, see how to prepare for your final hearing.
Arrive at VCAT with plenty of time so that you are not late for your hearing. When your case is called, move into the hearing room and wait for the member to open your case. At a final hearing, we consider the evidence originally presented with the application, as well as any additional evidence that you or the other party may have provided to VCAT. Sometimes the member may want to visit the site of the building works. In these cases the hearing may be adjourned to further hearing date. Read more about what happens on final hearing day.
The VCAT member may give their decision at the end of the hearing. If they need more time they usually give a decision within six weeks of the last hearing date or the date when any further written submissions are filed with us. The VCAT member may give reasons for the decision verbally or in writing. If the decision has been given verbally, and you want the reasons in writing, you must make the request within 14 days of the hearing date. Read more about what to expect after the final hearing.
Professional representation at VCAT
You do not have to have legal or other professional representation to appear at VCAT. In many cases in the Building and Property List all parties are represented by agreement. If you are represented by a legal or other professional representative, we will only communicate with them. Read more about professional representation at VCAT.
Remember your reference number
VCAT gives you a reference number for your case. Use this number whenever you call or write to us or the other people involved in the case.
Access and privacy
VCAT hearings and files are usually public.
VCAT has limited authority to restrict who can access cases and files but, in certain circumstances, you can apply for confidentiality. Learn more about applying for confidentiality.
If you need assistance at VCAT (including interpreters, hearing loop, video or telephone links or family violence support) please tell us as early as possible so we can support you. Learn more about customer support at VCAT.
Legislation that applies to this case
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998
Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995
Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012
Building Act 1993
Domestic Building Contracts Regulations 2017