The Domestic Building Legal Service launches

30 June 2017
From 3 July 2017, Victorian homeowners in dispute with their builders will have access to Justice Connect’s new Domestic Building Legal Service. 

The Service will help eligible homeowners navigate the dispute resolution process, after the dispute has been to Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria.

The Service is funded by the Victorian Government, and follows a suite of recent changes to Victoria’s domestic building consumer protection framework. These changes were broadly aimed at improving dispute resolution processes and reducing the number of domestic building disputes heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). 

Building disputes tend to take a long time to resolve and are stressful for everyone involved. A person’s home is usually their biggest financial investment, and when things go wrong with that home, it causes a huge amount of financial and emotional stress.  On the flip-side, there is also the commercial cost for a builder, who is forced to take time out of running their business to resolve the dispute. We hope that by providing assistance to homeowners who will remain ‘self-represented’ after consulting with our volunteer lawyers, we can reduce the financial and emotional strain placed on homeowners as a result of disputes with their builders.

The Service will assist homeowners to navigate the dispute resolution process by providing “unbundled” legal help with the assistance of volunteer lawyers. Eligible homeowners will receive a 1 hour consultation with a volunteer lawyer. The lawyer may provide tailored advice and assistance about the homeowner’s dispute, or assistance with discrete drafting tasks – such as helping a homeowner commence proceedings at VCAT.

Because of the anticipated high level of demand for the Service, eligibility for appointments will be limited to homeowners with a joint household income of $150,000 or less, equity in their home of $200,000 or less, and who have entered into contracts for works which cost $100,000 or less.  Special circumstances will also be taken into account.

Initially, the Service will launch in a limited capacity, utilising internal resources at Justice Connect.   It is expected that the Service will launch in an extended capacity in late August 2017, with the assistance of volunteer lawyers at partner firms.  The Service will also expand its website to offer information about common issues in domestic building disputes.  

We anticipate the Service will receive enquiries in relation to issues which commonly arise in domestic building disputes, including disputes about defective and incomplete works, variations, payment claims, delays, and the suspension or termination of domestic building contracts.

Referrals from Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres and other industry stakeholders are welcomed by the Service.

From Monday 3 July 2017, the Domestic Building Legal Service can be reached on 1800 727 550.

Justice Connect is a nationwide organisation dedicated to improving access to justice through pro bono legal help. With our strong connections to the corporate and community legal sectors, we ensure that people experiencing disadvantage receive the best legal help available.