If things go wrong

Cover of the Rebuild with Confidence document

You have a number of options if you are in dispute with your contractor. Some of the basic steps are set out in the checklist you should have received at the start of the build process.

Refer to your contract and talk to your contractor

If you have concerns about building work that has been carried out, start by checking the terms agreed in your contract and discussing matters with your contractor.

Many complaints and disputes result from misunderstandings, such as:

  • not understanding the terms agreed in the contract
  • unrealistic expectations about the level of quality you can expect for the amount of money you have agreed to pay
  • not understanding the impact of asking for changes after the initial quote or contract was agreed
  • not being clear about the work you want them to do.

Follow the dispute resolution process in the contract

If you are still unhappy after talking it through with the contractor, the next step is to check the contract to see what (if any) dispute resolution process you should use and begin that process.

More steps to consider

If the issue remains unresolved, then how you progress your concerns will depend on who or what you are concerned about and how much you are prepared to spend to get it resolved.

Complaining about a building contractor

You can lodge a complaint with MBIE if your building contractor has not provided you with their disclosure statement, standard checklist or a written contract and you asked for this, or your building work cost
$30,000 or more (including GST).

Complaining about the conduct of a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP)

If your contractor is an LBP and you believe they were negligent or incompetent, you can complain to the Building Practitioners Board. They can investigate the LBP and discipline them, but they can’t award you any compensation or make the practitioner fix defective work.

Complaining to the contractor’s trade or professional association

If the contractor is a member of a trade or professional association you can complain to these bodies. They may offer dispute resolution services and/or guarantees which cover work done by their members.

Breaches of implied warranties

You can also take action when the implied warranties under the Building Act have not been met. These cover:

  • what happens when the breach can be remedied
  • what happens when the breach is substantial or cannot be remedied
  • what a substantial breach is.

Implied warranties and defects has more information.

Seeking mediation

You can try to come to an agreement with the help of a mediator even if your contract does not provide for it, or if you have no written contract, but both parties have to agree to this.
Mediators are appointed by either:

  • New Zealand Law Society
  • LEADR (an Australasian association of dispute resolvers)
  • AMINZ (Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc.)
  • private mediation services.

Approaching the Disputes Tribunal or District Court

You can take a dispute to the Disputes Tribunal if your claim is for up to $15,000 (or $20,000 if both parties agree). If your claim is for more than this or if you need to enforce the Disputes Tribunal’s decision, you can go to the District Court. You should get legal advice if you are considering taking the matter to the District Court.

Resolving problems has more information about what to do when things go wrong.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: