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.
'Reasonable steps' depends on the circumstances, but generally you should:
- be very clear about the issues you are disputing
- inform the other party, preferably in writing
- give them an opportunity to respond
- give them an opportunity to carry out any agreed actions, and
- advise them you intend to lodge an application with DBDRV if the issues cannot be resolved.
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, contact the Building Information Line on 1300 55 75 59 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).
Step 1: Apply
Check the eligibility criteria on the Is our service right for you? page, then complete and submit the application form. At this stage, we only need some basic information including:
- Your contact details — we may need to call, email or send documents.
- The other party’s details — you do not need to have all the details and we will not contact them without speaking to you first.
- Dispute details — at this stage we only need some basic facts about the dispute, such as 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.
Step 2: Jurisdiction check
Once your application is received, a dispute resolution officer will evaluate whether we are authorised to assess your dispute. If we require further information, we will contact you before contacting the other party.
If your dispute is not within our jurisdiction, a dispute resolution officer will call to provide you with information about your options. You will also receive a confirmation letter.
If your dispute is within our jurisdiction, your application will progress to the initial assessment phase of the dispute resolution process.
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 can help resolve the dispute.
During this step, the dispute resolution officer may contact you, or the other party, to obtain further information.
If your application is not accepted
A dispute resolution officer will:
- let you know by telephone and explain your other options
- provide both parties with a “certificate of conciliation — dispute not suitable”
If your application is accepted
A dispute resolution officer will:
- notify both parties by telephone and discuss next steps
- provide both parties with Notice of decision which will set out an outline of the applicant’s stated reasons for the dispute
If the parties are willing, the Dispute Resolution Officer will help the parties come up with options to resolve the dispute at this early stage. If successful, the parties can sign a formal Record of Agreement without the need to attend a formal conciliation conference.
If the parties do not honour the terms of the Record of agreement, they may notify the dispute resolution officer who will consider the best options going forward. For more information, view our Conciliation outcomes page.
Step 4: Prepare for conciliation
We tailor conciliation 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 the Dispute Resolution Officer.
You may be asked to provide documents before the conciliation, including:
- domestic building contract
- plans and specifications
- architectural and/or engineering drawings
- building permit
- records of any inspections undertaken by the building surveyor
- variation requests
- extension of time requests
- relevant emails or correspondence between you and the other party.
As part of the dispute resolution process we may organise an independent registered technical building expert to carry out a building assessment. These assessors determine whether domestic building work is defective or incomplete, and may specify the cause of a defect and a timeframe for completion of the work. 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.
When examining building work, our building assessors must also consider whether there have been any contraventions of the Building Act 1993 or the regulations. If there are contraventions, the building assessor must report them directly to the Victorian Building Authority in a separate report. Read about our independent building assessors on our About us page.
Step 5: Conciliation
The conciliation conference brings the parties together to discuss the issues in dispute, in a safe and confidential environment.
Our Dispute Resolution Officer 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 may be conducted in-house at our office, on-site, with an assessor present, or by teleconference or video link. We will liaise with the parties to determine 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 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 the dispute is not suitable for conciliation.
Step 6: Possible outcomes of conciliation
At the conciliation conference, one of the following outcomes may be achieved.
If the parties resolve their dispute, this will be documented in a formal Record of agreement which will be signed by the parties. The Record of agreement will contain the actions agreed to by the parties, together with the dates by which those actions must be performed.
In this case, each of the parties will be provided with a copy of the signed Record of agreement at the conclusion of the conciliation conference. It is the responsibility of the parties to honour the terms of the Record of agreement.
If the parties are nearing agreement but need further time or information, the Dispute Resolution Officer may schedule a further conciliation conference.
Dispute resolution order
Where the parties either partially resolve their dispute or are unable to resolve their dispute, the Dispute Resolution Officer may issue a binding Dispute resolution order against one or both parties. 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 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 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, if they wish.
For more information about all possible outcomes, view our Conciliation outcomes page.