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DBDRV and subcontractors

December 09, 2019

One feature with the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) process is the focus is on the dispute between the builder and client. Sometimes the builder may believe that a subcontractor could be responsible for defective work and want to pursue a claim against them to recover any compensation that might need to be paid to the client. The DBDRV process however does not really allow for a third party such as a subcontractor to be involved in a conciliation. Section 45B(3) of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 does have a vague provision allowing a conciliation officer to “ask any other party” to participate but there is no other provision that compels such participation or imposes outcomes for non-participation. This means a subcontractor can easily disregard the DBDRV process if they wish.

A builder wanting to have a subcontractor involved in resolving a dispute that is going to DBDRV needs to actively engage with the subcontractor early in the process. If the subcontractor is uncooperative the builder may wish to obtain advice about the best course of action before attending a conciliation at DBDRV. After receiving advice it may be preferable to decline to attend a conciliation if the subcontractor will not be involved but their participation is necessary for the builder obtain a fair outcome. Note however that if a builder wants to pursue a subcontractor they should have clear documentation showing what work was to be completed by the subcontractor and evidence of a contract with that subcontractor. A builder also needs to appreciate that contractually they are responsible to the client for the subcontractor’s work and involving the subcontractor does not remove the builder from the DBDRV process or the risk of being liable to compensate the client.

If you would like further information about this issue please contact a workplace adviser on 1300 650 620