Understanding Variations

Variations in construction contracts refer to any changes made to the original scope of work, such as additions, deletions, or alterations. Both the HIA NSW Residential Building Contract and the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW) require variations to be documented in writing and signed by both parties.

Written variations play a pivotal role in construction contracts as they serve as legally binding documentation of agreed-upon changes. Verbal agreements can lead to misunderstandings and disputes, making written variations essential for clarity and transparency.. These written records serve as valuable references throughout the construction journey, providing a solid foundation for resolving any disagreements that may arise during the project.

Handling Variations Disputes

While written variations aim to prevent disputes, conflicts may still arise between homeowners and builders over the execution and cost of variations. For example, in some cases, disputes over variations that are not signed may lead to quantum meruit claims. Quantum meruit is a legal remedy that allows a builder to claim fair and reasonable payment for work performed beyond the contract scope, when there is no formal agreement covering such additional work. This situation often leads to complex legal disputes, and complicates the relationship between the parties involved.Homeowners and builders need to understand the conditions for a successful quantum meruit claim and its applicability to their situation.

Clause 35 of the HIA Contract

Clause 35 of the HIA NSW Residential Building Contract outlines the process for dispute resolution in the event of disagreements between the homeowner and the builder. In the context of variations and quantum meruit claims, this clause plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and efficient resolution.

By incorporating Clause 35 into the contract, the HIA aims to foster open communication, encourage amicable solutions, and prevent disputes from escalating into costly and time-consuming legal battles. Adhering to this clause enables both parties to work collaboratively towards resolving variations and quantum meruit disputes, ultimately contributing to a successful and harmonious construction process.

Initiating the Dispute Resolution Process

When a dispute arises over quantum meruit claims or variations under the HIA NSW Residential Building Contract, the first step is for the party seeking resolution to provide written notice to the other party, clearly outlining the specific matter in dispute.

Meeting and Attempting Resolution

Once the written notice of dispute is provided, the builder and the homeowner must, within ten working days, meet to either attempt to resolve the issues at hand or agree on the methods of doing so. This meeting serves as an essential platform for both parties to engage in constructive dialogue, exchange perspectives, and seek common ground.

During the meeting, the builder can explain the rationale behind the variations or quantum meruit claim, providing clarity on the additional work performed. The homeowner, in turn, can voice their concerns and seek clarification on the impact of the variations on the project. 

Engaging in a respectful and open conversation during this meeting is crucial to fostering a positive working relationship and reaching an amicable resolution. Both parties should actively listen to each other’s viewpoints and explore feasible solutions to the dispute.

By approaching the meeting with a willingness to collaborate and find mutually acceptable outcomes, homeowners and builders increase the likelihood of resolving variations and quantum meruit disputes without the need for further escalation or legal intervention.

Documenting the Resolution

Once a resolution is reached during the meeting to address the dispute, it is crucial to document the agreed-upon outcome in writing. Both the builder and the homeowner should sign the written record, acknowledging their acceptance of the resolution.

This written documentation serves as a binding agreement between the parties, providing clarity and preventing any potential misunderstandings in the future. By having a signed record of the resolution, homeowners and builders can ensure that all parties are held accountable to the agreed-upon terms, fostering a sense of trust and transparency in the construction process. The documented resolution also serves as a valuable reference in case any related issues arise during the project, allowing for a swift and efficient resolution.

The parties must note that Clause 35 of the HIA NSW Residential Building Contract also provides that anything done or said in the negotiation cannot be revealed in any other proceeding.

Seeking Professional Advice

In complex disputes over variations and quantum meruit claims, seeking professional advice from a construction lawyer with expertise in contract law is a prudent step. A construction lawyer can provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the dispute resolution process.

A construction lawyer can provide professional advice on the validity of quantum meruit claims and the proper documentation required to support such claims. Legal consultation also helps parties navigate the dispute resolution process effectively, fostering open communication and facilitating fair and efficient resolutions.

By seeking legal counsel, homeowners and builders can safeguard their interests, minimise potential risks, and ensure that their rights are protected throughout the construction project. Legal expertise empowers parties to make informed decisions and reach agreements that align with the provisions of the HIA Contract, promoting a successful and harmonious construction process.


As a solicitor and construction lawyer with over 10 years of experience in construction law, I understand the complexities and challenges that homeowners and builders face in handling disputes over quantum meruit claims and variations under the HIA NSW Residential Building Contract. It is crucial for both parties to approach the resolution process with diligence and clarity, seeking legal advice when necessary.

For homeowners and builders, I strongly advise engaging the services of an experienced construction lawyer to navigate variations and quantum meruit disputes effectively. By working with a skilled legal professional, you can protect your contractual rights, mitigate potential risks, and achieve fair and satisfactory outcomes in the dispute resolution process.

If you require assistance with variations, quantum meruit claims, or any construction law matters, I am here to provide expert guidance and representation. Together, we can ensure that your contractual intentions are reflected, your rights are upheld, and your construction projects proceed smoothly. Feel free to contact me for a consultation, and let’s work together towards a successful construction journey.