Owner builder disputes can cause major stress. The unique pressures that go hand in hand with owner building can test the patience of the calmest persons. Situations that are typically tolerated can bring on frustration levels quickly. Conflict can arise between individuals, leading to low morale on site. This article will provide an essential guide on handling disputes onsite as an owner builder, including tips and strategies for resolving conflicts quickly and efficiently.

Owner Builder Disputes

As an owner builder, you will likely encounter disputes with tradespeople, suppliers or neighbours. While disputes are never pleasant, they are a reality of the building process. The good news is that there are some things you can do to minimise the risk of disputes arising and to deal with them effectively if they do occur.

In this blog post, we will look at some of the most common causes of construction project disputes and offer advice on avoiding or resolving them. We hope this will help you keep your project on track and avoid unnecessary stress or delays.

 What is an Owner Builder?

When you take on the role of an owner builder, you become responsible for various tasks and decisions related to your building project. This includes choosing suitable materials, hiring contractors to oversee construction progress, and dealing with disputes.

Knowing the potential for disputes with contractors, suppliers, or neighbours is essential as an owner builder. While not all disputes are avoidable, there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of disagreements arising.

Effective communication is critical when dealing with anyone involved in your building project. Keep lines of communication open at all times, and make sure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities.

Be realistic in your expectations of what can be achieved within the budget and timeframe you have set for the project. Trying to cut corners or skipping essential steps will likely lead to problems further down the line.

If a dispute arises, try to resolve it amicably without legal action. This could involve mediation or arbitration, which can be less costly and time-consuming than going through the courts.

Understanding Disputes Onsite

As an owner builder, it is essential to understand the different types of disputes that can occur on your building site. This will help you be better prepared to deal with them should they arise.

The most common dispute on a building site is between the owner and the contractor. This can happen for several reasons, such as the contractor not completing work to the agreed standard or going over budget. If you find yourself in this situation, it is essential to try and resolve the issue directly with the contractor first. If this is not possible, you may need to involve a mediator or arbitrator to help resolve.

Another type of dispute that can occur on a building site is between neighbours. This is often due to noise or debris from the construction, causing a nuisance for neighbouring properties. If you are having problems with a neighbour, it is essential to try and resolve the issue amicably first. If this is not possible, you may need to contact your local council or seek legal advice.

No matter what type of dispute arises on your building site, staying calm and resolving the issue constructively is essential.

Preventing Disputes Onsite

As an owner builder, you ensure that disputes are prevented and resolved quickly and efficiently on your construction site. There are a few key things to keep in mind to achieve this:

-Ensure that all workers know their roles and responsibilities from the outset. This will help avoid confusion or misunderstanding about who is responsible for what tasks.

-Keep communication channels open at all times. If there is a problem or disagreement, address it immediately before it has a chance to escalate.

-Be fair and consistent in your decision-making. If you make an exception for one worker, be prepared to do the same for others in similar situations.

-Finally, remember that you are the owner builder and ultimately responsible for the project. This means you must be proactive in preventing and resolving onsite disputes.


How to Resolve Disputes Onsite

If you’re an owner builder, chances are you’ll encounter a dispute at some point during the construction process. Knowing how to resolve onsite disputes quickly and efficiently with a tradesperson, supplier, or another contractor is essential.

Here are some tips for resolving disputes on-site:

  1. Talk to the person you’re in dispute with directly. This is often the quickest and easiest way to resolve a dispute.
  1. Bring in a mediator or arbitrator if you cannot resolve the dispute. This third party can help facilitate a resolution between the parties involved.
  1. If the dispute is severe or complex, you may need legal advice from a solicitor or barrister. This should be seen as a last resort, as legal proceedings can be costly and time-consuming.
  1. Keep detailed records of all correspondence and conversations related to the dispute. Record it in your Owner Builder Checklist. This will be helpful if you need to escalate the matter further down the line.
  1. Try remaining calm and professional throughout the process – getting angry or emotional will only worsen matters.

By following these tips, you should be able to resolve any disputes that arise onsite quickly and efficiently without too much stress or disruption to your build schedule.


As an owner builder, dealing with onsite disputes is a reality you may have to face. Thankfully, the strategies outlined in this guide can help make it easier for you to navigate these difficult situations and come out the other side unscathed. Resolve disputes with patience, understanding and compromise. We hope this guide has helped help you plan and prepare for any potential problems on your construction project!

Need help with a dispute? Contact our  Owner Builder Coach at [email protected] or fill out the contact form.

The  ACT Government talks about resolving disputes.

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