Picking a Builder? Our 3 top tips for avoiding the sharks

5 Sep 2018


We have been involved in a number of cases where trusting homeowners have handed over up to 50% deposits to unlicensed contractors, who rely on tricks, smoke screens and smooth talk.


There are decent and hardworking builders out there, but how do you pick them from the sharks? This article discusses our three top tips for picking the legitimate builders from the sharks.


QBCC licence


The first most important check is the QBCC licence. The builder should provide its QBCC licence number on all marketing material, including its website and all advertising. 


Unfortunately, we have known of cases where an expired number is given or somebody else’s licence number has been given. As a result, it does pay to check the number given against QBCC records. You can access QBCC’s records by doing a licence search at: http://www.qbcc.qld.gov.au/


Some sharks may state they hire licensed builders to do the work and as a result don’t need a licence.


Under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991, a person can only carry out building work if that person is licenced.[1] To “carry out building work” is widely defined to include building work services such as:


  • administration services;

  • advisory services;

  • management services;

  • supervisory services.


This means that someone who organises for all of the sub-trades to arrive on site is carrying out building work and requires a QBCC licence.


Referrals and past projects


Great builders are not afraid of showing you past projects and offering for you to talk to past customers. In fact the really great builders openly offer for you to check them out to prove their mettle. 


It is important that you take the time to check out the past projects and meet or call past customers.


Although extremely rare, past projects and even selected past customers can be orchestrated, so as a final check, you can:


  • use Google to search any old customer reviews; and

  • check the QBCC website to see if the builder has received any infringement notices, penalty points or demerit points.


Paper work


Most builders don’t get into building because they like paper work, but the paper work is a great indicator of future performance and attention to detail. 


Here are a just a few examples of things to watch out for:


  • a large upfront deposit requested ( the size of the deposit is regulated by law depending on the size of the contract);

  • the lack of or disorganisation of the paper work; and

  • constantly changing inclusions and exclusions.


Not sure what to look for? We provide home build contract reviews in which we look at the builder and the paper work and provide our assessment, commentary and recommended amendments. Read more




There are a multitude of indicators that a builder may be a shark, hopeless or a bully at the beginning of the contract. This article only gives you a small snapshot of things we look for in our home build contract reviews.


As seasoned construction lawyers, who deal with home building disputes on a daily basis, we are able to pick up on the seeds of potential future disputes before they happen so that you can avoid or reduce the risks.


At the end of the day, your building project should be fun and exciting, so let us help you have a great build by looking after your interests. Email us at homeowners@arbuildinglaw.com.au or call us on 07 3128 0120


End Notes

[1] Unless they is excluded under Schedule 1A

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​© 2020 Aitchison Reid Pty Ltd trading as Aitchison Reid Building and Construction Lawyers, a law practice incorporated in Queensland, Australia.

Phone 07 3128 0120. Email homeowners@arbuildinglaw.com.au. ACN 160 577 364. ABN 85 787 028 300.

Disclaimer: The commentary and information on this website is not legal advice, IT advice, risk advice, management advice or general advice. Seek advice on matters of interest arising from the commentary and information on this website. Any reference made on this website to law practice Aitchison Reid Pty Ltd or anything else does not imply any warranty or any guarantee from Aitchison Reid Pty Ltd for the reference made.