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.
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.