Construction contracts and resolving disputes

Get help to resolve a construction dispute

Under Northern Territory law you can apply to have a registered adjudicator resolve your construction contract dispute.

If your dispute is worth less than $10,000, you can apply to the Community Justice Centre to appoint someone to adjudicate the dispute.

Before you apply

You have 90 days from the date that the payment dispute arose to apply to have it settled.

If you apply through the Community Justice Centre for an adjudicator for a dispute worth less than $10,000, the adjudicator will be a person with alternative dispute resolution training rather than a registered adjudicator.

Read more about registered adjudicators including how to become an adjudicator.

An adjudicator will not run mediation or conciliation between the parties. Adjudicators will make a decision based on the evidence presented by both parties.

Apply for a small claim under $10,000

To make a claim for less than $10,000, follow these steps:

Step 1. Fill in an application for adjudication.

Step 2. Pay the application fee of $500.

Your application then follows the same process outlined for applying to a registered adjudicator below, with the same time limits and outcomes applied.

Step 3. Submit your application by mail, email or in person to the Community Justice Centre.

By email, mail or fax

GPO Box 1722
Darwin NT 0801

Fax: 08 8999 6226

In person

Level 1 Darwin Magistrates Court
Nicholas Place
Darwin NT 0801

For more information, call the Community Justice Centre on 1800 000 473 or read more about the Community Justice Centre and mediation.

Apply to have a dispute resolved by a registered adjudicator

To apply to have a registered adjudicator appointed to resolve your dispute, follow these steps.

Step 1. Apply in writing

To have a payment dispute resolved by an adjudicator, you must prepare a written application that includes all of the following:

  • your name and contact details
  • the name and contact details of your agreed adjudicator or prescribed appointer
  • the names and contact details for each party to the contract
  • the contract document, or details or extracts of the contract
  • any payment claims that have led to the dispute
  • any information, submissions or supporting documents for the adjudicator in support of your claim.

You must give a copy of your application and all supporting documents to each party to the contract, and to either:

  • the registered adjudicator listed in your contract or one agreed to by parties to the contract or
  • the registered appointer named in the contract, or one chosen by you if none is named, who will appoint an adjudicator.

Step 2. Submit a response

If you're not the party that initiated the application, you have 10 working days to respond once you're served the application for adjudication.

Your response must be in writing and include all of the following:

  • your name and contact details
  • name and contact details of your agreed adjudicator or prescribed appointer
  • names and contact details for each party to the contract
  • any payment claims that have led to the dispute
  • any other documents or information you want to rely on in support of your response
  • challenges to any statements or claims made by the applicant that you believe are inaccurate
  • a clear statement about why you have not paid the amount claimed, or why you are disputing the amount
  • details of your actions in relation to your rights and obligations under the contract.

You must give copies of your response to all of the following:

  • the adjudicator, or the appointer if no adjudicator has been appointed
  • the applicant
  • any other party named in the application.

Step 3. Act on the dispute decision

The adjudicator has 10 working days to make a decision on the dispute once the responding party's 10-day limit has passed.

If the adjudicator cannot deliver a determination in that time, they may apply to the Construction Contracts Registrar for an extension. 

The adjudicator's determination must include all the following:

  • names of the parties in dispute
  • the amount to be paid or security to be returned to a party
  • dates of when the amounts are to be paid or returned
  • reasons for the decision.

The Construction Contracts Registrar keeps an anonymous public record of all decisions made by adjudicators. See the list of construction dispute determinations.

If your application is successful

You can file a signed copy of the adjudicator’s determination in the registry of the Local Court or Supreme Court.

The copy must be certified by the Construction Contracts Registrar as a genuine copy of the determination made by the registered adjudicator.

The determination can then be enforced as if it were a judgement of the court.

Read more about types of courts and their roles to find out about filing a copy of your determination.

If your application is dismissed

The adjudicator may dismiss your application if the dispute is not about a construction contract, if you failed to make your application within the 90-day time limit, or if the dispute has already been resolved by a court or other arbitrator.

If the adjudicator fails to dismiss or determine your application within the allowed time, the application is deemed to be dismissed. You can reapply within 28 days to have a dismissed matter determined.

Step 4. Pay the adjudicator's costs

You and other parties to the dispute will usually share equally the cost of the adjudicator.

If an adjudicator believes one party’s actions are frivolous or vexatious, that party may be ordered to pay a greater share of the costs.

See the cost per hour of each adjudicator on the list of registered adjudicators.

If your adjudicator has a conflict of interest

If you believe your adjudicator has a conflict of interest you can apply to have them disqualified.

Contact the Construction Contracts Registrar before the adjudicator delivers a determination about the dispute.

You can also approach your adjudicator directly about your concerns. They may choose to self-disqualify.

If an adjudicator is disqualified, the party that applied to have the dispute adjudicated can reapply.

The time lost through the disqualification is not counted in the 90-day limit for submitting a second application.

If money is not paid after a decision

If an adjudicator determines that money must be paid to a contractor and it is not paid when required, the contractor can legally stop providing their work or services.

The contractor must first serve a notice on the other party, giving at least three days' notice, telling them that their services or obligations will be suspended.

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Last updated: 30 November 2021

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