New dispute process to benefit Qld builders

The new system delivers a fairer and timelier process for builders who've waited longer than contracted time-frames to recover large payments

The Queensland building industry has introduced a new dispute process under which the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) will provide early mediation when disputes arise.

The new building dispute resolution service has been welcomed by the state’s construction industry, with a key lobby group saying builders were frequently having to wait longer than the contracted time-frames to recover tens of thousands of dollars in payment.

Executive director of the Master Builders Association of Queensland, Paul Bidwell, said the new process, which came into force on July 1, is a win for all parties involved, as disputes could now be resolved without having to go to Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) - a fairer and timelier process for builders and consumers.

The previous system meant there was no quick and easy way for builders to enforce their clients’ payment obligations, said Bidwell, and building disputes caused stress for homeowners while having a serious impact on many building businesses.

A recent survey conducted by Master Builders indicated that around half of all builders in the state had at least one customer withholding payments the builder felt they were contractually obliged to make. Of these, more than one third had experienced jobs not being paid in full and 31% indicated average amounts withheld were greater than $10,000.

Minister for Housing and Public Works, Tim Mander said: “This new service will significantly reduce the cost that disputes can place on consumers and contractors as well as substantially reducing the time it takes to resolve them, without legal action.

“This free service is part of our strong plan to grow construction... and will create a brighter future for the industry.”

QBCC now offers an internal review process to allow any unsatisfied parties to have the agency decision reviewed without the costly process of going to QCAT. A 24-hour call centre has also been implemented by the Commission to provide advice for builders and consumers, which will be complemented by a website overhaul.

“In the past there was no assistance for families, or for builders, until the contract had either been terminated or completed, which meant the process could drag on for months," said Mr Mander.

“Contract disputes are never pretty but when you’re talking about disputes between mums and dads who are making the biggest investment of their lives, and builders whose livelihoods could be on the line, it’s only natural that emotions can run high.”