Disputes with a builder or tradesperson
Complaining to a builder or tradesperson about work they have done is often straightforward. If you have a problem with any business that has done work at your home, try the options below before contacting Consumer and Business Services (CBS).
If you are operating a business and have an issue with a builder or tradesperson that you cannot resolve, you should contact the Small Business Commissioner of South Australia.
Speak to the business
Visit the business or speak to them on the phone and explain the problem. It can help to have any contracts, paperwork or receipts with you when you speak with them. Remember to keep a record of your contact and include:
- the name and job title of the person you spoke with
- the dates you contacted them
- what was discussed, including what they suggested.
Contact the business in writing
A complaint letter or email that clearly states the problem and any purchase information - eg copy of the receipt - can help the business understand what needs to be fixed. This is also a record of your contact with them.
Using our sample letter of complaint to a builder or tradesperson will help you include all the information the business needs.
Getting help from CBS
CBS can give advice and information that can help you reach an agreement. CBS can help if:
- your claim isn't currently being heard in court
- work was done in South Australia
- products or services were advertised or bought in South Australia
- the work or products were for personal use.
You will need to show that you have tried to contact the business - eg a copy of a letter describing the problem, diary entries that show dates and times.
Reporting a business
You can also report a business without asking for assistance from CBS. Phone 131 882, extension 5. This reporting line is open Monday to Friday between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm (except public holidays).
Working with CBS to solve a problem
CBS will contact you to let you know when your request has been accepted. Your case officer will then:
- gather information and record all the facts
- provide information
- work out if a report from an expert is needed
- offer advice.
You may be asked to:
- write another letter to the business
- arrange inspections
- contact other organisations
- obtain and pay for reports from experts.
The business needs to be willing, but most problems can be solved through these discussions. CBS doesn't provide legal advice. If the problem isn't solved through these discussions, any information or advice you receive from CBS can be helpful if you do decide to go to court.
All information collected by CBS during an investigation is kept private. It isn't available under the Freedom of Information Act. However, during negotiations, the business may need to be aware of certain things. Please tell your case officer of any information you don't want the business to see.
Special needs and concerns
Talk to your case officer if you have specific needs or concerns. CBS can adjust the way they do things to help people who:
- are older
- are living with a disability
- have mental health concerns
- are more comfortable speaking in a language other than English.
Compulsory conciliation conferences
If you can’t agree on a solution, the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs can call for a special conference before the customer goes ahead with legal action. The commissioner will decide how the conference takes place – eg telephone, video conferencing, in person – and will consider the following before calling this meeting:
- the problem and what can be proven
- the number of complaints against a business
- how the business handles customer complaints
- any legal issues.
CBS will act as a neutral third party. The customer and the business must attend the meeting. If there is a good reason for cancelling, another date can usually be arranged. Businesses can be fined up to $10,000 if they don't have a reasonable excuse.
The business must obey all of the terms of an agreement they enter into with the customer. If this doesn't happen, the customer or the commissioner can apply to the Magistrates Court to enforce it.
Taking action through the court
CBS will stop conciliation if the business and the customer can't agree on a solution. The customer or the business can proceed with court action.
Civil claims, on the Courts Administration Authority website, guides you through each step of formal legal action.
Contact Consumer and Business Services
91 Grenfell Street
GPO Box 1719
Adelaide SA 5001