Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
Process & procedure in building disputes

QCAT is an independent tribunal that is part of the justice services division of the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General. QCAT aims to actively resolve the disputes that come before it in a way that is said to be “fair, just, accessible, quick and inexpensive”. In this respect the process for making an application and the way in which matters are conducted is generally more streamlined than disputes resolved through traditional court channels.

Can QCAT deal with my building dispute? What other types of matters does it deal with?

Building disputes of both a commercial and domestic nature are a significant portion of the matters dealt with by QCAT each year.

As well as dealing with building disputes QCAT has jurisdiction over a wide range of matters including adult guardianship, anti-discrimination claims and matters involving children and young people. QCAT also deals consumer and debt disputes, minor civil matters, residential tenancy and retail shop lease disputes and tree disputes.

Do I have to do anything before I can make an application in respect of a building dispute to QCAT?

Before making an application in respect of either a commercial or building dispute to QCAT the parties to the dispute must already participated in a dispute resolution process with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). A letter from QBCC certifying the participation and advising of the outcome of that process must be provided at the time of commencing any QCAT application.

Who can make a building complaint to QCAT?

Any consumer or building industry professional, including contractors and sub-contractors, may make a complaint to QCAT in respect of domestic or commercial building work.

The types of disputes QCAT would typically deal with include contract disputes, performance issue disputes and claims for negligence, nuisance and trespass. QCAT does not deal with claims for personal injuries. Building disputes relating to footings, general construction issues including quality of work and the failure to meet contract standards are all types of the matters that QCAT would routinely deal with,

What types of building disputes are dealt with by QCAT?

QCAT is able to deal with a range of building disputes including disputes relating to the demolition or construction or renovation and repair of buildings, electrical work, water supply and sewerage and drainage, site works including the installation of swimming pools, driveways, retaining walls and landscaping, preparation of site plans and specifications, inspection of completed works and any other works prescribed from time to time by regulations.

QCAT’s routinely deals with disputes between a building owner and their building contractor, disputes between two or more contractors and disputes between building owners and contractors and architects, engineers, surveyors, quantity surveyors, suppliers of building materials and electricians or other tradespeople.

Review of Disciplinary Proceedings by QCAT

As well as hearing disputes at first instance QCAT, is also empowered to review disciplinary decisions that have been made by the QBCC against building certifiers and contractors in relation to licensing decisions, disciplinary action, certain directions about work, insurance claims, bans for domestic building work and statutory insurance scheme decisions.

There are certain limitations on what decisions QCAT is able to review particularly in respect of the time since a decision was made. If you think you may wish to have a decision made by the QBCC reviewed by QCAT it is always best to seek early legal advice to ensure you are not out of time for a review.

QCAT is separate to the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committees. Those committees review decision made by local councils and private building certifiers and those decisions are not matters covered by QCAT reviews.

How to make an application to QCAT

Step 1 – Complete dispute resolution with QBCC and make an application

Applications to QCAT are commenced by way of making an Application using the relevant specified QCAT form. The application form you complete will depend on whether your dispute relates to a commercial building dispute or a domestic building dispute. Each application must be accompanied by a letter from the QBCC confirming prior participation in their dispute resolution process. A Consent Notice must also be completed.

If the other party to your dispute (referred to in QCAT as the Respondent) fails to file a response within 14 days of being served with your application you are able to apply for a default decision in their absence.

If your dispute relates to defective or incomplete work that an Alleged Defective Work/Incomplete Work Schedule will also need to be completed and lodged with your application form.

Step 2 – Pay the application fee

Depending on the type of building dispute a fee may be payable to lodge your application. These fees change from time to time so it is always important to check the current fee schedule before filing any application.

Step 3 – QCAT reviews your application

Once your application and forms have been filed with QCAT your application will be reviewed and QCAT will then contact you to advise of the next steps in the process.

In some building matters QCAT may require expert witnesses to give evidence about the particular aspects of the dispute. This can include individual expert evidence as well as expert conclaves and joint reports.
Building disputes can be stressful situations for all parties involved and while QCAT aims to provide accessible access to a means of resolving these disputes it can still be a daunting process to be involved in especially if expert evidence is required.

We are always happy to discuss these types of matters with you and it is always better to seek advice sooner rather than later particularly if there are time limits that apply to making your application.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 07 4046 1111 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.