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Before you apply

You need to take reasonable steps to try to resolve the dispute directly with the other party before you apply to DBDRV.

Please be aware that if you have lodged an application without first taking reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, we may reject your application as not suitable for conciliation.

If you need further advice, view our Tips to help you resolve your dispute page.

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Step 1: Apply

Check the eligibility criteria on the Is our service right for you? page. If you are eligible, complete and submit the application form. At this stage, we need basic information including:

  • Your contact details — we may need to call, email or send you documents.
  • The other party’s details — we will contact both parties after you have lodged your application.
  • Dispute details — we need basic facts about the dispute, including the building address and type of dispute.

After you submit your application, you will receive a dispute reference number and confirmation email attaching your completed application form along with information about next steps.

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Step 2: Jurisdiction check

Once your application is received, a Dispute Resolution Officer will evaluate whether your dispute is covered by our service.

If your dispute is not within our jurisdiction, we will advise you and refer you to the most appropriate agency. If your dispute is within our jurisdiction, your application will progress to the initial assessment phase of the dispute resolution process.

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Step 3: Initial assessment

A Dispute Resolution Officer will assess whether your dispute is suitable for conciliation. The complete list of suitability criteria against which your dispute will be assessed can be found in section 45C(3) of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995. The criteria include the steps that have already been taken to resolve the dispute and the likelihood that conciliation will help resolve the dispute.

During this step, the Dispute Resolution Officer will contact both parties to obtain further information.

If your application is not accepted

A Dispute Resolution Officer will:

  • notify both parties and explain your options
  • provide both parties with a certificate of conciliation (dispute not suitable). This certificate is necessary if a party wishes to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

If your application is accepted

A Dispute Resolution Officer will:

  • notify both parties and discuss next steps
  • provide both parties with a notice of decision which outlines the applicant’s stated reasons for the dispute.

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Step 4: Prepare for conciliation

We conduct conciliations to suit the nature of the dispute and the circumstances of the parties. Your Dispute Resolution Officer will work with both parties to assess and understand the dispute and determine the best way forward.

All parties to the dispute must attend conciliation, which will be facilitated by an experienced conciliator.

You may be asked to provide documents before the conciliation, including:

  • your domestic building contract or agreement, and associated plans and specifications
  • architectural and/or engineering drawings
  • the building permit and plans
  • records of any inspections undertaken by a building surveyor
  • variation requests
  • extension of time requests
  • correspondence with the other party relevant to your dispute
  • your occupancy permit (for newly built homes) or your certificate of final inspection (for renovations).

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Step 5: Building assessment

As part of the dispute resolution process we may organise a DBDRV assessor to examine the disputed building work. Assessors determine whether domestic building work is defective or incomplete. They may also specify the cause of a defect and a timeframe for any work required to rectify or complete the building work.

When examining building work, our building assessors must also consider whether there have been any contraventions of building legislation. If the assessor identifies any contraventions, these must be reported to the Victorian Building Authority. You can read more about our assessors on our About us page.

The issues that will be assessed are determined by the Dispute Resolution Officer based on information provided by the parties. Not all issues raised may be assessed. Prior to the assessment, both parties will be notified about the full list of issues that will be assessed. Additional items will not be considered on the day.

Assessments are carried out in the presence of all relevant parties. Only the parties previously notified by the Dispute Resolution Officer should be present and it is important that all act respectfully throughout this process. Recordings of the assessment are not permitted.

During the assessment, the assessor will not advise whether they believe the disputed building work is defective or incomplete. The parties will receive an assessment report after the assessment is complete. They have five business days to make submissions in relation to the report, if they wish.

There is no fee for an assessment unless the party requests an assessment when the dispute has been rejected or the dispute was not resolved by conciliation.

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Step 6: Conciliation

The conciliation conference is facilitated by the conciliator and brings the parties together to discuss the issues in dispute, in a safe and confidential environment.

The conciliator will:

  • facilitate the conciliation conference
  • encourage understanding and communication between the parties, and
  • listen to the parties and help them come up with ways to resolve the dispute.

Conciliation conferences will usually be held at our offices and on some occasions may be conducted with an assessor present, or by teleconference or video link. We will liaise with the parties before determining the most suitable option.

All parties with authority to resolve the dispute must attend conciliation. Other attendees may include the building assessor or an interpreter. The parties may also request to bring a support person or legal representative to the conciliation conference. We will consider these requests on a case-by-case basis.

If a party does not participate in conciliation

We expect the parties to participate in conciliation in good faith — that is, with an open mind and willingness to explore options to resolve the dispute. If you choose not to participate, we may do any of the following in your absence:

  • appoint an assessor to conduct a building assessment of the domestic building work in dispute
  • issue a dispute resolution order, or
  • issue a certificate stating that you failed to participate in conciliation.

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Step 7: Possible outcomes of conciliation

At the conciliation conference, one of the following outcomes may be achieved.

Agreement

If the parties resolve their dispute, this will be documented in a formal record of agreement. The record of agreement will contain the actions agreed to by the parties, together with the dates by which those actions must be performed. Each of the parties will be provided with a copy at the conclusion of the conciliation conference.

It is the responsibility of the parties to honour the terms of the record of agreement.

Dispute resolution order

If the parties either partially resolve their dispute or are unable to resolve their dispute, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer may issue a binding Dispute resolution order against one or both parties.

There are consequences for a party who does not comply with an order. For more information, view our Binding orders page.

Certificate of conciliation

If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute at the conciliation conference, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer may issue the parties with a certificate of conciliation (dispute not resolved). The parties will then be entitled to make an application to VCAT, if they wish.

For more information about all possible outcomes, view our Conciliation outcomes page.

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