The Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV)

What is the DBDRV and why was it formed?

It has been now three years since the Domestic Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) was formed. It is a free service offered to homeowners and builders aimed at assisting with the resolution of any disputes to counter the fees and time that can be associated with courts and tribunals.

Disputes between builders and owners can arise, and when they do, they can be costly, complicated and time-consuming to resolve, particularly if litigation is required.

The aim of the DBDRV is to settle the disputes at conciliation, which happens in real time, frequently on site, with the aim to reduce the need to progress to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).

Despite these lofty aims, many in the building industry feel that the DBDRV process has become overly cumbersome and in fact slows the dispute resolution process. The current wait time for assessment (before a conciliation can be arranged) is a minimum of 120 days. This is partly due to lack of resources, but also increased case load brought on by the advent of the DBDRV.

Who can use DBDRV’s services?

The DBDRV is limited to residential disputes between owners and builders (and architects/engineers) for disputes that may arise such as defects, delays and non-payment of contractual sums and variations.  

Prior going to the DBDRV, parties are required to have taken ‘reasonable steps’ to resolve their dispute. This may involve written requests and calls to the other relevant party to repair the defects or pay out the amount owed.

Assessment

Once the dispute is lodged with the DBDRV, it will be assessed by a Dispute Resolution Officer as to whether the dispute is appropriate for the DBDRV. Matters that are not suitable will be immediately issued with a Certificate of Conciliation pursuant to Section 45F of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (DBC Act). This certificate allows the Claimant to issue proceedings within VCAT.

It is important to note that parties can lodge even during the COVID-19 pandemic via an online service and should do so to avoid delays – especially if time limits apply.

Exclusions

It is important to note the following disputes will not be applicable for the DBDRV:

  • Plumbing, painting, plastering, tiling, insulating, glazing, concreting, installing floor coverings, electrical work, or fencing;
  • Works that are not included as part of a contract covering multiple types of building work;
  • Any dispute that is already the subject of a VCAT proceeding, currently or previously (limited exceptions apply); and
  • Building work that is more than 10 years old as per the Building Act 1993.

The DBDRV is also not equipped to handle complex, multi-party disputes. In these cases, parties should consult their lawyer about the best way progress their claim to avoid costly delays.

Conciliation

A conciliation will be held to bring parties together to discuss dispute issues in a safe and confidential environment.

A conciliation provides an opportunity to settle the dispute before accelerating to VCAT. Legal representation at conciliation is generally not approved by the DBDRV. However, if consent is granted, lawyers may attend.

Despite this, legal advice can assist in determining whether an application should be lodged with the DBDRV, to determine the strength of the legal position and what options are available to both parties during and after DBDRV conciliation.

If after conciliation the dispute is still deemed not suitable, a Certificate of Conciliationwill be issued, and the dispute can be escalated to VCAT.

Our Services

The professional team at Oldham Construction Lawyers can provide expert and specialist advice. We can guide you through disputes that require resolution at the DBDRV or subsequent VCAT proceedings. We can also advise the best way to short circuit the waiting periods.

Please call our Director, Daniel Oldham on (03) 9640 0002, or via email info@oclawyers.com.au.

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