Show cause process

The show cause process is the VBA's mechanism for holding building practitioners to account for their performance when they fail to meet community expectations. This might be by doing unlawful things or by simply not doing good enough work, or both.

The process also allows the VBA to remove building practitioners who are no longer fit and proper persons (that is, they are unsuitable).

The process protects consumers from building malpractice and makes sure building practitioners comply with the Building Act 1993 (the Building Act) and related laws such as the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1985 and the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2002.

The show cause process initiates disciplinary action against currently registered practitioners. Breaches of the Building Act and other legislation by people other than registered practitioners are dealt with by criminal prosecution.

The show cause process is commenced by the VBA giving a show cause notice to the practitioner. The show cause notice:

  • states that the VBA intends to take disciplinary action in respect of the practitioner’s registration (and where the practitioner has multiple registrations, which of them)
  • sets out the relevant facts and circumstances
  • sets out the proposed disciplinary action and the grounds for it
  • invites the practitioner to make representations about the notice.

Those representations can be in writing or face-to-face. The VBA will typically give an initial 28 days for the representations. We can, at the practitioner’s request, extend the period within which the representations can be made.

After considering any representations received, we will determine whether to take disciplinary action. The disciplinary action taken must be no more serious than what is proposed in the show cause notice. The Building Act allows a practitioner to give an enforceable undertaking about future conduct and, in this case, the form of disciplinary action must be less serious than what was proposed in the show cause notice.

The main forms of disciplinary action are reprimand and monetary penalties. We can also add conditions to registration and give directions (which might relate to rectification of work or documentation, or to undertaking professional development). In the most serious cases, we might suspend or cancel the practitioner’s registration, which will prevent them from working.

Cancellation will often be accompanied by a period of disqualification (up to three years).

The main grounds for disciplinary action are a contravention of the Building Act or other legislation (including the regulations) and unprofessional or negligent conduct. There are specific grounds to support the dispute resolution process under the Domestic Building Contracts Act and to ensure that practitioners are insured and solvent.

If the VBA is satisfied that a person is not fit and proper to practise, the show cause process will result in cancellation.

If you have been given a show cause notice, you should read the notice and all the attachments in combination with the Show cause process practitioner guide. It will help ensure you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities, what to do and where to get further information or advice.

Frequently asked questions

A show cause notice is an important document. The matters that the VBA deal with through the show cause process may result in disciplinary action including the suspension or cancellation of a practitioner's registration, a reprimand, direction to do or not to do something and/or a fine. Therefore, if you receive a show cause notice you should carefully read and respond to the notice by the due date.

The conduct of a practitioner can come to the attention of the VBA in a number of ways. The VBA may receive a complaint from a building owner, from someone neighbouring a building site, from another member of the building industry or from a building surveyor.

Alternatively, the VBA may itself become aware of a matter during an inspection or because it has otherwise been notified (for example, by an insurer).

If your conduct appears to constitute grounds for taking disciplinary action, the VBA will investigate the conduct and prepare a brief of evidence (i.e. setting out the grounds for possible disciplinary action and relevant and credible evidence to support those grounds). This information will then be considered by the VBA. If the VBA forms a ‘reasonable belief’ there is grounds for disciplinary action to be taken against you, the VBA will issue and send you a show cause notice.

The term 'reasonable belief' is not defined in the Act, but requires a decision maker to believe, at the time of making a decision to, for example, take action against a practitioner, that the basis for doing so is reasonable and is not based on a mere belief or assertion. It will involve the decision maker objectively taking into account all known considerations.

In some circumstances, the VBA is required to take certain disciplinary action to suspend or cancel a practitioner’s registration. Where we are required to do so, this will be explained in the show cause notice. The circumstances that require us to take specific action are:

  • where the show cause notice alleges that a practitioner is not a fit and proper person, we must propose to cancel one or all of the practitioner’s registrations. The Act specifies that the practitioner’s registration must be cancelled where the practitioner is found not to be a fit and proper person at the end of the show cause process.
  • where we receive a notice from Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) that a practitioner has been issued with a breach of dispute resolution order notice because of the practitioner’s failure to comply with a DBDRV dispute resolution order (the DBDRV ground), we must propose to suspend the practitioner’s registration. Please refer to the separate fact sheet entitled Mandatory disciplinary action on breach of dispute resolution order notice (PDF, 212.41 KB) for further detail.

Many of the discretions ordinarily available to us in the show cause process as detailed in this document will not apply where the VBA is required to take specific disciplinary action under the Act.

Making a representation to the VBA is voluntary. It is up to you to decide whether or not to make an oral or written representation.

A written representation is a document prepared by the practitioner responding to the claims made in the show cause notice and explaining why the proposed disciplinary action against the practitioner should not be taken. It will generally include copies of an original document to support the written response provided by the practitioner.

We will maintain a record of a written representation on file for any potential internal or external review at a later date, if required.

An oral representation is a meeting between a practitioner and a delegate (authorised representative) of the VBA. The delegate will usually be the person who made the decision to issue the show cause notice. The practitioner may be represented by a lawyer or may otherwise have a support person to assist. The delegate will be assisted by a legal adviser.

The purpose of the oral representation is to give the practitioner an opportunity to explain or rebut the matters set out in the show cause notice. It may involve the practitioner providing copies of any information or documents to support the oral representation made by the practitioner.

An oral representation is not a hearing and we will not make a decision on the day of the oral representation.

We will make an audio recording of an oral representation and securely keep it on file for any potential internal or external review at a later date, if required. A copy of the audio recording will be given to the practitioner upon request.

It is important to read the show cause notice carefully and determine if you wish to make a representation to the VBA about the show cause notice.

If you intend to make a written representation about a show cause notice within the show cause period, you should submit the written representation to us by the due date specified in the show cause notice. The written representation can take the form of a letter or an email.

You should keep copies of any documents provided to us in case you need to refer to them. You should not send us original documents.

If you intend to make an oral representation about a show cause notice, you must complete the Practitioner Representation Request Form (PDF, 93.04 KB) and return it to us by the due date specified in the show cause notice.

If you do not intend to make either a written or an oral representation about the show cause notice, we will decide whether grounds still exist to take disciplinary action based on information in our possession. Our decision will be made within 28 days after the conclusion of the show cause period. You will be notified of the decision in writing.

You are given 28 days to make a written or oral representation to the VBA in response to a show cause notice. This is referred to as the ‘show cause period’.

You may request an extension of the show cause period by contacting us at discipline@vba.vic.gov.au.

We will assess a request to extend a show cause period on the merits of the request, and approval is at the discretion of the VBA.

Yes, you may seek legal assistance in preparing a written representation. You can be accompanied by a legal representative when attending an oral representation.

You will be advised of all VBA attendees at the oral representation before it is conducted, and will be asked to nominate who, if anyone, will be attending the oral representation with you.

We must make a decision about whether we will take disciplinary action against a practitioner within 28 days after the conclusion of the show cause period.

In certain circumstances, we must immediately suspend a practitioner’s registration under section 180A of the Act. In other prescribed circumstances, we must immediately suspend a practitioner’s registration if we consider that it is in the public interest to do so, under section 180A of the Act

Grounds for immediate suspension are detailed in the Immediate suspension.

Under section 185 of the Act, you may appeal the decision by the VBA to take disciplinary action through our internal review process.

Applications for internal review must be made in writing, stating fully the grounds for the application, within 28 days of receiving a notice of decision.

The internal review process is independent from the show cause process. See the Internal review for further information.

Alternatively, you may apply to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review of a decision to immediately suspend, suspend or cancel a registration. You are encouraged to seek your own advice as to the best option for their circumstances.

You can also submit an enquiry or call us on 1300 815 127.