What is the DBDRV and why was it formed?
After the review conducted by the ABCC commission which looked at the increasing amount of building disputes, consumer affairs decided to implement a compulsory conciliation service in order to form a layer of protection for consumers of building services, and hence, the DBDRV was born.
Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria is a business unit of the Department of Justice and Regulation and has been established under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.
Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) is an independent government agency that provides free services to assist with the resolution of domestic building disputes. It is limited to residential disputes between owners and builders. Subcontractors and any other parties are generally excluded from this service unless they are a peripheral party to a dispute, and the main dispute is between the owner and builder.
Who can use the DBDRV’s services?
Whilst this may be an oversight for the DBDRV as a service like the compulsory conciliation would be perfect for resolving small scale disputes where the primary parties are subcontractors, it allows a greater focus on the issues surrounding disputes between builders and owners and what the main causes of a dispute may be. This includes causes such as defects, delays, non- payment etc.
How are the disputes resolved and what happens if they aren’t?
The services offered by the DBDRV are intended to be a very low cost and informal pre-cursor to courts and tribunals. The aim is to settle as many disputes as possible at conciliation, which happens in real time, often on site, so that they don’t have to progress to VCAT.
The DBDRV also offer expert assessors who conduct building assessments which assist the resolution process. These are credible experts with years of building, engineering, surveying and other valuable experiences.
In the event conciliation does not resolve the dispute, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer has the power to issue binding dispute resolution orders and certificates which can then be used to progress to VCAT.
The DBDRV’s End to End dispute resolution process
For a greater explanation of the process, you should refer to the DBDRV’s guide available at;
For purposes of simplification we have condensed the process into 6 easy to remember steps together with a short explanation of each;
Extract from “Guide to DBDRV” State Government of Victoria, Australia, 2017
Step 1: Apply
Check the eligibility criteria 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. The email will attach 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 your dispute is covered by our service. If your dispute is not covered by our service, you will receive written confirmation of this. The Dispute Resolution Officer will also call to provide you with information about your options.
If your dispute is covered by our service, 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 suitability criteria against which your dispute will be assessed can be found in section 45C(3) of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995. These include what steps, if any, you took to resolve the dispute before applying to the DBDRV service and whether conciliation is likely to 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 as suitable for conciliation
A Dispute Resolution Officer will:
Let you know by telephone and explain your other options and provide you and the other party with a certificate of conciliation (dispute not suitable). This certificate is necessary if a party subsequently applies to VCAT.
If your application is accepted as suitable for conciliation
A Dispute Resolution Officer will:
Notify both parties by telephone and discuss next steps and provide both parties with the notice of decision to accept the application which will give an outline of the applicant’s stated reasons for the dispute.
If the parties are willing, the Dispute Resolution Officer will help them come up with options to resolve the dispute at this early stage. If successful, the parties can enter into a record of agreement without the need to attend a conciliation conference.
Step 4: Prepare for conciliation
We tailor conciliation to suit the nature of the dispute and the circumstances of the parties. The 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 and
- relevant emails or correspondence between you and the other party.
Our independent, qualified building Assessors
As part of the dispute resolution process we may organise an independent building expert, known as an Assessor, to carry out a building assessment to determine whether or not domestic building work is defective or incomplete. This would be at no cost to the parties.
If the Assessor considers building work is not defective or incomplete, he or she must confirm this in his or her report.
An Assessor may also specify the cause of a defect, recommend how it should be rectified and indicate a reasonable timeframe within which the rectification work should be completed.
Assessor reports are admissible as evidence in VCAT or court proceedings.
When examining building work, our Assessors must also consider whether there have been any contraventions of the Building Act 1993 or regulations. If there are contraventions, the Assessor must report them to the Victorian Building Authority.
Step 5: Conciliation
A conciliation conference may be held to bring the parties together to discuss the issues in dispute, in a safe and confidential environment.
Our qualified and experienced Dispute Resolution Officers will:
- facilitate the conciliation conference
- encourage understanding and communication between the parties and
- listen to you and the other party and help both parties come up with ways to resolve the dispute.
Conciliation may be conducted at our office at 222 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, onsite with an Assessor, or by teleconference or video link. We will liaise with you and the other party to determine the most suitable option.
All parties with authority to resolve the dispute must attend conciliation. Other attendees may include the Assessor or an interpreter. You or the other party may request to bring a support person or legal representative to the conciliation conference. We will consider such 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.
In some cases, DBDRV may be entitled to recover the costs of obtaining an expert report. For example, if a builder fails to participate in conciliation and subsequently, a dispute resolution order is issued against the builder to rectify defective building work, the costs of that report are payable by the builder.
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 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.
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.
Dispute resolution order
If the parties either partially resolve their dispute or are unable to resolve it, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer may issue a dispute resolution order against one or both parties. There are significant consequences and costs for a party who does not comply with an order. See our dispute resolution orders page for more information.
Certificate of conciliation
If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute at the conciliation conference, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer may issue the parties with a certificate of conciliation (dispute not resolved). Either party will then be entitled to make an application to VCAT.