Olivia Terziovski has carved a winning niche for her legal firm, Boutique Lawyers in Melbourne, Australia. Not only do they specialise in Building and Construction matters for home owners, owner-builders, builders and developers, but they charge an agreed fixed fee, almost unheard of in a profession where the billable hour rewards people simply for showing up for a long time.
According to Terziovski, dealing with a building dispute is different to any other legal type of dispute. For most people, home is where the heart is. It’s the most sacred of place where the homeowner can relax, be themselves and leave the world behind. That’s why emotions run so high when there is a problem with a building project.
A combination of environmental and behavioural factors can lead to building disputes. Most projects are fairly long term in nature with high uncertainty and complexity, and it’s difficult to resolve every detail and foresee every possible contingency at the start. Sometimes situations arise that are not clearly addressed or even mentioned in a Major Domestic Building Contract which can lead to frustration and misunderstanding between different parties. Building and Construction is a complex process which can give rise to unique and unusual disputes.
Terziovski’s advice is: “Always get your contract checked before you sign. Engage a building consultant or expert to check each stage before you pay the builder. Even builders should get a lawyer to check over their draft of a Major Domestic Building Contract because they often include terms that are not properly described. Homeowner’s should make sure that they avoid variations to the contract . Builders should quote appropriately as under-quoting to win business and relying on variations to increase the Contract Price is often what causes a dispute between them and the homeowner.”
A recent article published by the Master Builders Association of Victoria supports Terziovski’ s advice: “For some time there has been dissatisfaction on the part of both builders and owners in Victoria around the process for resolving domestic building disputes. With consent of both the builder and the consumer, the process involves an on-site conciliation and a technical report from a Building Commission Inspector as to the existence of a defect. However, the Inspector’s findings are not authoritative and there is no incentive for either party to follow the recommendations. If there is no agreement the only recourse is through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VC AT). Defending a VCAT dispute can run into many thousands of dollars, resulting in few disputes being resolved in a timely, conclusive or cost-effective manner. While existing processes operate to support consumers, there are few options for builders when consumers fail to pay or make vexatious claims.”
One thing is clear, when parties enter into a Major Domestic Building Contract it is with the best intentions in the world. The homeowner is excited and looking forward to seeing their dream home being constructed and the builder is motivated to deliver an exceptional result. Like marriage, no one enters thinking it will ever end in a dispute, however increasingly these days, bride to be and groom heed the advice of others and put pre-nuptial agreement in place as insurance in case things don’t go according to plan
For homeowners and builders, making sure that the Major Domestic Building Contract is drafted correctly to protect each party which clearly outlines the rights and obligations of each will go a long way to helping reduce the stress and cost associated with resolving disputes in the event they occur.
For more information visit: http://www.boutiquelawyer.com.au.