Avoiding & managing disputes

Problems can and do arise during the building process, and unfortunately they can sometimes lead to disputes. The golden rule for avoiding disputes is to get everything in writing and communicate effectively with your builder.

For the resolution of disputes arising out of, or in connection with the contract, parties should follow the requirements as set out in the general conditions of the contract.

In the event of a building dispute with a Master Builders member, our staff are on hand to provide advice and assistance. We can help guide you and your contractor through the process and make recommendations on the best course of action to solve a disagreement or problem before it escalates and requires a formal dispute management process.

If you're using a Master Builders member for your building work and find yourself in a dispute situation, contact us and we can help with the situation.

What if the dispute can’t be resolved?

Master Builders actively encourages both parties to reach an amicable agreement to resolve their issues. However, we can't make a formal determination enforceable on one or either party.

If joint agreement can't be reached, the matter may be referred to one of the following:

Queensland Building and Construction Commission 

The owner or contractor may lodge a formal complaint with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) for defective work or non-complete work.

The QBCC promotes informal documented agreements between parties, without the need for further intervention. They encourage both sides to take responsibility and develop a better understanding of how to avoid conflict through communication and documentation.

However, if a dispute can't be resolved informally, the QBCC can:

  • Assess defective building work
  • Direct rectification work
  • Issue an infringement notice and licence demerit points
  • Post contractor performance records on their website
    Pursue parties in court.

Go to the QBCC website for more information.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) decides disputes related to building activities for:

  • Domestic and commercial building work
  • Disciplinary proceedings against building certifiers and contractors.

QCAT also reviews decisions made by:

  • The QBCC relating to disciplinary proceedings and licensing and permits
  • The QBCC relating to rectification of work, insurance claims, exclusions and bans for domestic building work
  • An adjudication registrar.

For the dispute to be heard by QCAT it must be about:

  • Erection or construction of a building
  • Renovation, alteration, extension, improvement or repair of a building
  • Provision of electrical work, water supply, sewerage or drainage or other like services for a building
  • Demolition, removal or relocation of a building
  • Any site work including the construction of a swimming pool, retaining structures, driveways or landscaping
  • Preparation of plans and specifications, or bills of quantity related to the building work
  • Inspection of a completed building
  • Work prescribed under a regulation.

QCAT has standard forms and procedures for lodging an application in relation to a building dispute.

Visit the QCAT website for more information.

Building & Construction Industry Payments Registry

The Building & Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 (The Payments Act) was created to provide an alternative to the court system and is a cost-effective solution to resolving payment disputes in the building and construction industry. It applies to all construction work (as defined in the Payments Act), including the supply of related goods and services in Queensland.

While the Act doesn't cover residential building work, other than for owner builders or non-resident owners, a subcontractor on a residential project can call on the Act to obtain payment from the contractor. A contractor (builder or subcontractor) carrying out work on a commercial project can also use the Payments Act to obtain payment from an owner or contractor.

The Payments Act provides a process for resolving payment disputes for work done under building and construction contracts. The Building and Construction Industry Payments Registry – a branch of the QBCC – oversees the administration of this process.

If you have issued a progress payment claim (in the manner required by the Payments Act) and you have not been paid, you may be able to take advantage of adjudication.


The adjudication process involves the referral of a payment dispute to an adjudicator for decision.

If the claimant does not receive a payment schedule or is not satisfied with the amount acknowledged, the claimant may elect to seek an adjudication of the claim. The request for an adjudicator must be lodged with the QBCC registrar whose role it's to appoint an accredited adjudicator.

Where the claimant elects to proceed with adjudication, in place of other enforcement options, there are a number of requirements that must be met.

Read more about progress payments and getting paid.

The courts

The court that a dispute is referred to will depend on the monetary amount that is being disputed.

  • The Magistrates Court is the first level of the Queensland Courts system. Civil cases can be dealt with by the Magistrates Court if the amount in dispute is $150,000 or less. If the amount is greater than $150,000, the District or Supreme Court will deal with the case.
  • The District Court hears appeals from cases decided in the Magistrates Court and disputes involving amounts of more than $150,000, but less than $750,000. A jury may be used to decide these financial disputes.
  • The Supreme Court is the highest court in Queensland and includes the trial division and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court hears all civil matters involving amounts of more than $750,000. A jury may be used to decide these disputes.
  • The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the District and Supreme Courts, and from many tribunals. A dissatisfied party in a civil case can seek an appeal, that is, a review of the court’s decision or the sentence imposed.

Visit the Queensland Courts website for more information about the courts.

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