How to reduce the likelihood of a renovation dispute

renovation disputes

Nina Hendy

Posted August 24, 2021

Things don’t always go to plan when renovating. Here’s some steps to help mitigate the risk of a renovation dispute.

Undertaking a renovation is a considerable investment not just financially, but emotionally. Whether you plan to continue living in the property during a renovation or you plan to move out for a while, keeping a close eye on progress is paramount. Regardless, not all renovations go to plan. Disputes can arise, which can be a time of high stress. It can also hinder the process of the project, so resolving them as swiftly as possible is important. Here’s some tips to resolving common renovation disputes with neighbours, contractors and other parties. 

Early checks

Your renovation project will likely require a council permit. Once you've got that and requested quotes from tradies (it's recommended to get a minimum of three), you can select someone you want to work with. Don’t be guided by price alone here - check their workmanship on previous projects.

In most states, you will need to use a licensed tradesperson or builder for a renovation over a set amount (which varies between states). Bear in mind that this rule also extends to electrical wiring, plumbing and air conditioning renovations.

The tradie should have public liability insurance to cover any mistakes or mishaps, including replacement or repair. You have the right to ask to see this insurance cover, so make sure you ask about insurance in the initial meeting.


Whether you’re project managing the build yourself or you’ve got a project manager on the case, the buck stops with you as the homeowner when it comes to communication.

Most councils will require you to have a project sign on public display at the front of your property, providing details of the permit, the name of the issuing surveyor and the builder. Councils and other regulatory authorities usually advise the homeowner to handle communication with neighbours. Some won’t be fussed about what takes place on the other side of the fence, while others get very flustered by ongoing noise throughout the day.

Well before work commences, knock on your neighbour’s door and have a conversation about what you’re up to, how long it’s expected to take and the hours and days of the week that the work will be undertaken. But if verbal negotiations aren’t your strong point, ask your council for help. Mediators who are used to dealing with conflicts in the suburbs can assist with resolving issues. 

It’s crucial that you have a contract with your tradesperson and to ensure that they are licensed before starting the job. This can prevent the working relationship between the homeowner and the tradesperson from breaking down.

The contract should include the plans, designs, materials and timeline, regardless of whether it's a smaller renovation or a large project. It should also include detail about your expectations as the homeowner, including the quality of the job and payments milestones. Including this detail can go a long way toward avoiding conflict.

The Housing Industry of Australia offers contracts that are specifically prepared for the residential construction sector.

Fenced in

Repairing or replacing fencing on a common boundary can be a bone of contention for some. Under the Fences Act 1968, the property owner and the neighbour are generally equally responsible for the cost of replacing a fence that divides two properties.Raising the issue as early as possible is important. After all, no one likes these issues to be sprung on them without warning.

If you’re facing the prospect of a renovation dispute and you’re in Victoria, there’s some helpful information here.

renovation disputes

Image: Getty.

Making a complaint

 If you’re facing the potential of a half-completed renovation or your tradie isn’t answering calls, it could be time to make a complaint. Don’t delay. The sooner you address your concerns, the more likely you’ll reach a quick resolution to avoid costly delays.

If the tradie is an employee, contact their company in writing and address the person in charge of the business, being sure to include the address of the job and the date that the complaint has been made. If the tradie is self-employed, address your concerns succinctly one by one in an email. Keep a copy of the letter for your reference. The likelihood is that formally addressing the issue will help to find a solution and bring the project back on track.

However, if you’re not having any luck there, you may be able toapply for assistance resolving your dispute with Domestic Building Dispure Resolution Victoria. Before you can apply, you will need to show that you have attempted to settle the dispute with the other party. 

Going to court

After a lengthly process, if you do end up in court, the magistrate may order the tradie to pay your legal costs, and there may be enforcement steps that need to be taken. If you lose the case, however, you may need to pay their legal costs. Of course, make sure you’ve got legal advice before heading down this path. Happy building!