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Disputes with designers

What to do when something goes wrong on your building project.

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During the building phase

During the building phase your builder will probably need to talk with the architect/designer at various stages, to clarify something on the plans, or to ask for a variation, for example, if a particular material is not available.

So it is important that these two people get on well professionally.

Depending on who is managing the project, the architect/designer may have an active ongoing role during construction or may take a step back and only be involved when required.

If you are taking on a supervisory role at the site and see something going wrong, talk to your architect/designer first and record your concerns.

When something goes wrong

If you have a serious breakdown in communication with your architect/designer, your options for resolving disputes are:

  • Talk to them and see if the problem can be resolved.
  • Follow any disputes procedures agreed in the contract you signed.
  • There may be a remedy under the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act depending on the nature of the dispute.
  • Contact the professional organisations NZIA; ADNZ; DANZ; NZRAB to see if they have any dispute resolution procedures, such as mediation.
  • Consider arbitration.
  • Take it to a Disputes Tribunal for disputes up to $15,000, or, if everyone involved agrees, up to $20,000.
  • As a last resort, go to court. (Note that if you’ve already opted for a Disputes Tribunal you can’t take your dispute to court, unless it is to appeal the decision of the Tribunal).

DANZ offers a mediation service, part of which entails getting another practitioner to look at the design documents and assess a fair and market price. This is called peer review.

Consumer Guarantees Act 1993

The service that your architect or designer provides will be covered by the provisions of the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). The service must be performed with reasonable care and skill, and result in a house fit for its purpose.

If the services don’t meet these standards you have remedies under the Act.

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