Avoiding disputes


Unfortunately, sometimes problems arise during the building process, but many problems are avoidable. Use these tips to avoid and resolve disputes:

Tips for avoiding disputes

  • Maintain good communication with your builder throughout the building process.
  • Make sure you have a written contract and ensure all variations are agreed in writing before work commences.
  • Read and understand your building contract. If you are unsure about any aspect of the contract ask your builder, Master Builders (for MBA contracts) or a solicitor, before you sign the contract.

Tips for resolving disputes

  • If you think a dispute is arising, talk to your builder. Disputes are easier to resolve when they are still small and before they grow into large disputes.
  • Refer to your contract. The MBA building contracts contain a dispute resolution clause which should be followed to resolve disputes.
  • Master Builders ACT may help resolve your dispute with a Master Builders ACT member or can advise on Master Builders ACT contracts. 
  • As a last resort, seek legal advice.
Common Contract Queries 

What is an easement and why do I need to tell my builder about this?

An easement is the right to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified purpose. This might be a sewerage line, an electricity pole or even a shared driveway. You need to tell your builder about this so that they can ensure that they do not build over or affect an easement located on the property.

It has been raining but my builder doesn’t seem to be working. Can they do this?

Yes. The builder may not be able to work when it has been raining as it might have an effect on the progress of the building work and/or could pose a health and safety risk to those working in such conditions. Your builder is obliged to notify you in writing of the extension of time to be claimed as a result of the delay.

I want to change some of the fixtures/fitting. Can I do this?

Yes, you can but it is recommended that you do this as soon as possible prior to these fittings/fixtures either being ordered or installed. This would be done by way of a written variation to the contract and where there is an increase in the cost of the new product selected, you will be responsible for the payment of the additional costs in accordance with the contract.

What’s the difference between a prime cost and provisional sum item?

A prime cost item is an item (such as a fitting or fixture) that has either not been selected or the amount of the specified item is not known at the time of signing the contract. The allowance provided generally does not include installation and is for the supply of the item only. Examples of a prime cost item may include but are not
limited to door handles, taps, tiles, etc.

A provisional sum item is an estimate of the cost of carrying out particular work which includes the cost of the supply and fixing of materials. An allowance will usually be provided in the contract to allow for works where the costs cannot be entirely foreseen at the time of signing. Examples of provisional sum items include but are not
limited to site excavation, asbestos removal and joinery works.

Do I need to pay the builder if the stage of works being claimed has been completed but I am not happy with the works?

The contract provides that the builder can make a progress payment claim when the stage of works being claimed is completed despite any minor omissions or defects that do not prevent the works from progressing to the next stage. If you do not pay, the builder is entitled to charge interest on the overdue amount in accordance with the contract.

What is the process for practical completion?

The builder is required to serve you with a Notice of Practical Completion. Within 5 days you’re required to respond in writing stating what is required to be done in order for the works to reach practical completion. The builder will then have 14 days to do those things for practical completion to be met. You are required to pay the final payments in accordance with the timeframe specified in Schedule A of the Contract.

Can I receive notices by email?

Yes. You should ensure that you have provided your email address in the Schedule. Where your email address changes during the course of the building works, you should advise the builder in writing of the updated email address.