Complaints between a principal contractor and their subcontractor

When you sign a contract with a client to perform building work, you are responsible for the quality of the work you perform. In some instances, you may engage a subcontractor/s to perform aspects of that work for you. Remember though, as the principal contractor you are still responsible for all the work performed under that contract.

If during construction you are caught in a disagreement with a subcontractor/s over defective or incomplete building work or a contractual issue, you may be able to access our Early Dispute Resolution (EDR) service.

Our free EDR service shouldn't be used in place of seeking your own independent legal advice or contract administration services.

Who can apply

Principal contractors who have a subcontract agreement for domestic building work.

Domestic building work includes things like:

  • Building a house or duplex
  • Renovating, altering, extending or repairing a home, which can include a residential apartment or unit
  • Landscaping, paving, driveways, fencing, garages, carports, swimming pools and other associated work
  • Supplying lighting, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, water supply, sewerage and other services and facilities.

You can find the full definition of domestic building work in Schedule 1B of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991.

When EDR can help

Our EDR service is most successful where both parties are willing to participate and work towards an agreement.

We can help you avoid a lengthy and potentially costly dispute if you are willing to work with our experienced staff to look for solutions you can both accept.

When EDR can’t help

  • The work is commercial or industrial building work
  • The subcontract has been terminated or completed.

Is our EDR service right for you?

Avoid wasting time by checking if our EDR service is right for you before you apply.

Disputes about the quality of the work (e.g. defective work)

Our expert team can:

  • contact both parties to try to facilitate an agreement
  • only if this is unsuccessful and if defective work is alleged, we may inspect to decide if the work is defective or not
  • issue a formal notice to both you and the subcontractor (called a Direction to Rectify) for any defective work which is not fixed.

The QBCC has no power to:

  • direct how work should be fixed
  • supervise repairs
  • fix defective work ourselves.

Disputes about your subcontract agreement (e.g. payments, variations, delays)

If your dispute with a subcontractor during construction is not about the quality of work, explore your options here.

Before you apply for our EDR service

The 3 most important things you need to know:

  1. You must upload a copy of your subcontract agreement when you apply. The law requires that all agreements have to be in writing. You can be fined for not having a written agreement.
  2. Check your subcontract terms for how you should deal with disputes. Make sure you have followed these closely to avoid breaching your agreement.
  3. If we find defective work, we will try to quickly facilitate an outcome that will result in the work being fixed. If both parties cannot agree, we may inspect the work. If the subcontractor is found to be responsible for defective building work, our Building Inspector may issue both you and the subcontractor a formal notice to fix the work (called a Direction to Rectify). This notice gives 35 days to fix the work and will appear on your QBCC online licence record.

Example scenarios

How to apply

Remember, you must be the principal contractor to apply to use our EDR service.

You can apply online.

Make sure you include a copy of the subcontractor agreement. You won’t be able to submit the form without uploading this document.

What will happen after you apply

One of our Resolution Services officers will contact both you and your subcontractor. If your dispute is eligible for our EDR service, an attempt will be made in this first phone call to facilitate an outcome.

Our aim is to quickly facilitate an acceptable agreement between both parties. If this does not occur and only if there is alleged defective work, one of our Building Inspectors may inspect the work. During the inspection, the Building Inspector will investigate each dispute item and determine if the work is defective or not and decide what subsequent action is required. When conducting an inspection, the QBCC Building Inspector will carry out a visual inspection only. This will involve visually observing each complaint item. Invasive investigations are not undertaken by the QBCC to determine the cause of an alleged defect. Examples of invasive investigations include cutting a hole in a wall to look at damage behind the wall. The inspection is also not intended to be a complete inspection of the whole building or dwelling.

What you can do to help the EDR process

Have all of your information handy when our Resolution Services officer contacts you.

As the EDR process is about facilitation, be open and willing to reach an agreement.

Applying directly to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

Even if your dispute is not eligible for our EDR service, QCAT require you to apply to resolve your dispute through the QBCC before they will accept an application.

At the end of our process, we will issue you a letter so you can apply to QCAT if you’d like their help.