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Learning & Resources

How to minimise the potential for a building dispute

By Danielle Warfe

21 February 2019

Each building project is unique, bringing people together from different organisations and with different expertise to achieve a one-off, long-term, highly-technical prototype. So it’s little wonder that disagreements can sometimes arise.

In most cases, conflicts in a building project can be managed relatively painlessly (and beneficially) by negotiation, but third-party involvement may be required if the conflict escalates into a dispute. Building disputes can be time-consuming, stressful, and costly, so it pays to avoid them or resolve them early. Construction law expert Kim Lovegrove paints a sobering picture of exactly what building dispute litigation entails.

Conflicts in building projects can best be minimised by ensuring communication is clear and open, and by attending to the project, the process, and the people.

The project

Make sure there is sufficient time for the project to be thoroughly documented.

Having the project fully and clearly documented (and this includes variations during construction) means everyone is on the same page. There is clarity around the expectations and responsibilities of all participants, project ambiguity and uncertainty is minimised, and misunderstandings are less likely to arise.

The process

Make sure the project risks are appropriately and fairly allocated among parties.

This means making sure that contractual terms are clear and understood (particularly terms for the timing and amount of progress payments), and that there is a single point of responsibility for each party to facilitate clear communication. It’s well worth getting the contract checked by a lawyer if you’re unsure.

The people

Make sure the appropriate people are selected for various project roles.

While people generally don’t cause building disputes, they can often have a strong influence on whether a dispute is successfully managed, so it is crucial the right people are involved. Ask around, explore options, have onsite meetings: whatever it takes to make sure you get along and feel comfortable with your project team.


More details on minimising your risk of a building dispute can be found in the Residential Building Consumer Guide by Consumer Building and Occupational Services. But if you do find yourself in a spot of bother, you can download our infographic on the building dispute resolution options available to you under the legislation.


Danielle Warfe

Building Surveyor (Limited)

Danielle is an experienced researcher, skilled in communication, risk assessment, and the evaluation of evidence. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Building Surveying and Certification.