A new building dispute resolution service in Queensland has been welcomed by the state’s construction industry, with a key lobby group saying builders were frequently having to wait longer than the contracted time frames to recover tens of thousands of dollars in payment and that the new system would deliver a fairer and more timely process for builders and consumers.

Master Builders Association of Queensland executive director Paul Bidwell said a new process which came into force on July 1 under which the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) will provide early mediation when disputes arise is a win for all parties involved.

He said the new system would mean disputes could be resolved without having to go to Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) – something the industry had been pushing for several years.

“As well as causing a lot of stress for home owners, building disputes have a serious impact on many building businesses,” Bidwell said. “Currently there is no quick and easy way for builders to enforce their clients’ payment obligations. Builders in the housing sector are forced to pursue payment through the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal, which can be a drawn out and expensive process.”

“The changes announced yesterday will go a long way towards fixing this problem. By intervening early we’re confident that many disputes about defective work and payments can be resolved without the need for going to QCAT.”

Bidwell’s comments came as a number of new procedures with regard to building disputes came into force at the start of the month.

As well as the new dispute resolution service, QBCC will now offer an internal review process to allow anyone who is not satisfied with the agency’s decisions to have the decision in question reviewed without the costly process of going to QCAT.

Builders and consumers will also be able to receive advice from the Commission through a 24-hour call centre, while a web site overhaul will see all parties able to access the information they desire within three clicks.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Tim Mander said the process of going to QCAT was fraught with emotion and the new dispute resolution service would mean disagreements could be resolved with less stress for all concerned.

“Contract disputes are never pretty but when you’re talking about disputes between mums and dads who are making the biggest investment of their lives, and builders whose livelihoods could be on the line, it’s only natural that emotions can run high,” he said, adding that in the past, dispute processes could drag on for months as there was no assistance available to families or builders until the contract had either been terminated or completed.

A recent survey Master Builders conducted indicated that around half of all builders in the state had at least one customer withholding payments the builder felt they were contractually obliged to make.

Of these, more than one third had experienced jobs not being paid in full and 31 per cent indicated average amounts withheld were greater than $10,000.