Retention money complaints

Last updated: 1 March 2024

Retention money - complaints process

You can make a complaint if you believe someone is in breach of the retention money regime.

How to make a complaint

The complaints process is designed to encourage participants of the retention regime to make a complaint, or provide information, about a possible breach of the retention money regime.

Participants include:

  • subcontractors
  • head contractors
  • main contractors
  • accounting professionals
  • legal professionals
  • insolvency practitioners
  • other agencies.

Breaches of the retention regime complaint sheet [PDF 293KB]

Email with the complaint detail sheet to make a complaint or to ask a query.

Processing a complaint

After your complaint is received, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) conducts an initial review of the information you have provided. MBIE will then determine whether there is sufficient material to commence an investigation. If needed, MBIE may seek further material from you. Any information you provide may be disclosed to the person you've named so they can respond to the claim against them.

Note: MBIE may not be able to investigate every complaint it receives. For example, if insufficient evidence is included in the initial complaint and requested additional material is not provided. The typical processing time for a complaint is ten working days.

The investigation process

Receive and consider the complaint

When MBIE receives a complaint it will first make sure the complaint is something it can consider, as set out in the Construction Contracts Act 2002. It is important for people who make a complaint to clearly set out how the other person is not complying with the retention regime.

Breaches of the retention regime include:

  • failing to keep retention money in a separate bank account or provide a complying instrument
  • failing to use retention money only to remedy defects in the performance of obligations, or to give ten working days' written notice before using it to remedy defects
  • failing to keep proper accounting and other records of retention money
  • failing to provide reports to party B
  • providing false or misleading information to party B.

To assist MBIE in quickly assessing the validity of your complaint, the information you provide should include:

  • the name of the company/organisation who isn’t complying with the retention regime
  • the part of the retention regime the company/organisation is in breach of
  • any relevant supporting documentation (such as correspondence between you and the organisation you have a complaint against, and an itemised summary setting out your views).

Providing as much information as possible when submitting your complaint, will enable a quick assessment of it. If all the relevant information isn’t provided, it may result in a delay. A representative from MBIE will contact you should it need additional information, or to clarify any of the information you have provided.

You may wish to engage a lawyer to act on your behalf, but this is not required to raise a complaint.

Review complaint and gather information

Once your complaint has been lodged, MBIE will assess all the information you have provided.

A typical investigation of a complaint may take up to four weeks, but MBIE will keep you updated of the progress.

Investigation outcomes

Once the investigation into your complaint is complete, the MBIE will make a determination based on the evidence it has have reviewed. Where there is sufficient evidence, an individual could receive an infringement notice for a fine not exceeding $50,000, while a company could receive an infringement notice for a fine not exceeding $200,000.

In circumstances where there is insufficient evidence, a complaint will be closed.

You can find the offences and penalties in the Construction Contracts Act 2002 on the New Zealand legislation website.

Construction Contracts Act 2002 –

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: