07.07
2020

From dream home build to nightmare dispute: the expert witness report you need for a successful resolution

Like so many before you, you’ve embarked on the great Australian dream of building your own home. But what started out as the perfect build can easily turn into a nightmare.

When it comes to residential builds, it’s inevitable that sometimes things go pear-shaped. Disputes and disagreements between clients and builders are not uncommon – homeowners fail to pay for building work, the builder does not carry out the work agreed in the contract or the work is incomplete or defective.

NSW Fair Trading assists in 2500 of these types of disputes every year but what happens when you’re at loggerheads and can’t reach mutual ground? When mediation fails, the next step is the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) – and that’s when you need evidence on your side.

Expert witness report: the evidence you need to support your claim

Starting legal action is a big step and taking a builder or homeowner to court can be a confronting process. Engaging a qualified expert – a specialist with the knowledge and experience to provide objective, independent documented evidence – can help ease the burden.

The role of an expert witness is to give a comprehensive and independent assessment of the issues at the core of the dispute. They draw on industry experience to compile a written assessment – an expert witness report – that can also be used in addition to their oral evidence during court proceedings. The expert makes their opinion after attending the site to inspect and photograph the alleged breaches. Included in the expert witness report is the all-important Scott Schedule which itemises the specific alleged defects, the method of rectification and the cost of rectification to remedy the defects.

In some disputes involving contractors and sub-contractors, a Quantum Meruit Report is required to determine claims before the tribunal or a court for unpaid work or the wrongful termination of a contract. In this case, an independent expert would review the work in dispute and assess the cost estimate of the quantum of works, in other words, what should be paid by way of quantum meruit or “what the job is worth”.

Experience matters: get the right expert

Finding the right expert could be critical to the outcome of your case. A court or tribunal will determine liability based on the expert witness’ testimony so it’s important to choose your expert wisely. They will consider the expert’s qualifications, skills and experience as well as the report they have prepared as evidence to make a determination so you want to choose an expert witness that has the right mix of expertise and skill.

SJN Building Consultants is experienced in providing independent and impartial expert advice, having acted as an expert witness in numerous cases – and standing up against vigorous cross examination. Our expert has worked in the construction industry and is qualified to assess and report defects as they are defined under the Home Building Act.

How much will an expert witness report cost?

Expert reports can be costly and some experts can charge one cost for preparing a report and additional costs if you want them to comment on their findings at a hearing. Others advertise the fee within a broad (and steep) range. SJN Building Consultants charges a fixed fee so clients have the benefit of certainty and knowing exactly what they will pay.

Our reports are compliant with the codes of conduct for both the tribunal (NCAT Procedural Direction 3) and the courts (UCPR 2005, Schedule 7 Expert Witness Code of Conduct) rules. They are prepared efficiently and promptly and we are also available to answer any of your questions to help you understand the report.

Contact SJN Business Consultants for a comprehensive independent and impartial expert witness report to support your court or tribunal claim.