What Should Builders Do After Receiving a NCAT Notice of Hearing? NCAT Proceedings for Home Building Disputes

6 min read

Engaging in a dispute with a homeowner under the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) framework is a situation many builders find themselves in at some point in their careers. Navigating NCAT’s procedures can seem daunting. This guide briefly talks about the broad steps before the NCAT and focuses on the immediate steps builders must take upon receiving a Notice of Directions Hearing, enable you to have a strategic response to any dispute.

Table of Contents

Understanding NCAT Hearing Procedure – Steps Involved in an NSW Home Building Dispute

The NCAT provides a mechanism for resolving disputes across a wide range of areas, including consumer claims, tenancy issues, guardianship, and administrative and equal opportunity matters. The procedure before NCAT can be broken down into several key stages:

Submission and Notices

The NCAT process begins when a party submits an application, leading to the issuance of a Notice of Directions Hearing and a Notice of Hearing, which inform parties of preliminary discussions and the hearing schedule.

First Directions Hearing

This initial meeting clarifies the dispute, educates parties on the process, and explores settlement possibilities to avoid a full hearing. Directions regarding the exchange of documents and preparation for the hearing are provided.

Exchange of Documents and Evidence

Parties are instructed to share documents and evidence they plan to use, ensuring both have access to relevant information, which aids in transparent and fair proceedings.

Efforts to Settle

Before the hearing, there’s an emphasis on settling the dispute through mediation, negotiation, or other means. If an agreement is reached, it can either lead to the withdrawal of the application or be formalised by NCAT.

Hearing and NCAT Orders

If settlement isn’t achieved, the matter proceeds to a hearing where parties present their cases, evidence, and witnesses. The tribunal then decides based on this evidence and relevant laws.

Appeal/Enforcement

Dissatisfied parties may appeal the decision within a specified timeframe on legal grounds. Decisions in favor of a party may require enforcement actions if not complied with voluntarily.

What to do After Receiving a Notice of Hearing? Tips for Builders

Upon receiving a Notice of Directions Hearing from the NCAT, indicating that a homeowner has initiated proceedings, there are several important steps a builder should take to prepare effectively for the process ahead:

Check the Parties’ Names

This initial step is more than a formality. It’s essential for confirming the legal accuracy of the proceedings. Misidentification or incorrect details could affect the legitimacy of the notice or your response. This verification includes ensuring that the homeowner named is indeed the individual you have a contract with, and also clarifying whether the case is against you personally or your business entity. Mistakes in this area can have significant legal ramifications.

Check the Enclosed Copy of the Homeowner’s Home Building Application

This document is pivotal as it outlines the homeowner’s allegations, the remedies they seek from NCAT, and their claimed damages. A detailed review helps you understand the scope of the dispute, grounds of the claim, and potential financial implications. It enables you to start gathering counter-evidence, prepare your defense, or even assess the feasibility of a settlement before the matter escalates further.

Look for the Hearing Type, Date, Time, and Location

This logistical information is critical for planning your attendance. The type of hearing can also indicate the procedural stage of the case and what to expect, be it a directions hearing, a conciliation, or a full tribunal hearing. Knowing the date, time, and location allows you to schedule accordingly, avoiding any conflicts that could result in a failure to appear, which could have negative consequences on the outcome.

Inform NCAT if You are Unable to Attend

Timely communication with NCAT about any inability to attend is crucial. Providing as much notice as possible demonstrates respect for the tribunal’s time and the process, potentially leading to a rescheduling of the hearing rather than a decision being made in your absence. This action helps maintain your ability to influence the outcome actively.

Engaging a solicitor experienced in construction disputes and familiar with NCAT procedures can be a game-changer. They can offer strategic advice on responding to the claim, represent you in dealings with NCAT and the homeowner, assist in document preparation and evidence gathering, and potentially negotiate a settlement. Legal advice at this stage ensures that your response is legally sound and strategically astute.

Check if You can File a Cross Claim

This is an advanced strategic move where, after reviewing the homeowner’s claims and consulting with your solicitor, you might identify grounds for making your own claim against the homeowner or another party related to the dispute. A cross claim can be related to unpaid work, breach of contract by the homeowner, or other issues. Filing a cross claim requires careful legal consideration and strategy, as it introduces additional elements to the proceedings but can also serve as a strong countermeasure in your overall defense strategy.


Addressing each of these steps with the necessary depth and attention to detail is crucial for effectively managing the legal challenge presented by a Notice of Directions Hearing and positioning yourself for a favorable outcome in the NCAT proceedings.

Options After Receiving Notice of Hearing – How to Resolve the Dispute?

Once you receive a Notice of Directions Hearing from the NCAT, you essentially have three options regarding how to proceed with the dispute brought by a homeowner:

Settle the Dispute

Proactive Approach: Contacting the applicant (homeowner) to discuss and possibly resolve the dispute before the hearing can be beneficial. Open communication might lead to a mutual agreement, thereby negating the need for a hearing.

Withdrawal of Application: If you manage to settle the dispute, request the homeowner to formally withdraw their application from NCAT. This action removes the necessity for either party to attend the scheduled hearing.

Conciliation: Even if the dispute is not settled before the hearing date, NCAT often encourages parties to engage in conciliation—a form of mediation—on the day of the hearing to attempt to reach an agreement before proceeding to a formal hearing.

Go to the Hearing

Preparation: If settling the dispute is not an option, either due to disagreement with the claims or failure to reach a satisfactory agreement, preparing to attend the hearing is crucial. This preparation involves organising all relevant documents related to the claim, including contracts, correspondence, financial records, and any other evidence that supports your version of events.

Present Your Side: At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your evidence, articulate your side of the story, and counter the claims made by the homeowner. It’s your chance to influence the outcome directly by providing context, clarifications, and your perspective on the dispute.

Do Nothing

Risks: Choosing not to respond or attend the hearing carries significant risks. NCAT can, and likely will, proceed with the hearing in your absence. This situation often results in decisions and enforceable orders made against you without your input or defense being considered.

Enforceable Orders: Orders made in your absence are legally binding and enforceable. This means you could be compelled to pay damages, complete work, or take other actions as determined by the tribunal, which could have significant financial and professional repercussions.

Each option has its implications and potential outcomes, and the best choice depends on the specific circumstances of the dispute, the strength of your position, and your willingness to engage in negotiations or legal proceedings. Given the complexity and potential consequences of NCAT proceedings, seeking legal advice to navigate this situation is highly recommended to ensure that your interests are adequately protected and represented.

Facing a dispute in NCAT is an integral part of a builder’s professional journey, highlighting the importance of a well-informed and strategic approach to dispute resolution. From the moment a Notice of Directions Hearing lands in your hands, every step taken can significantly influence the outcome of your case. For builders entangled in or anticipating a dispute with a homeowner, the key to dealing the complexities of NCAT lies in thorough preparation and seeking expert advice. With a deep understanding of the process and a commitment to safeguarding your professional interests, PBL Law Group offers tailored legal support. Contact us now!

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Picture of Authored By<br>Raea Khan

Authored By
Raea Khan

Director Lawyer, PBL Law Group

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