Commercial contracts and subcontracts | Queensland Building and Construction Commission

SEQ flood recovery — tips for rebuilding and tradie register.


What is a commercial building contract?

The term 'commercial contracts' includes any of the following contracts to carry out or manage commercial building work:

  • head contracts
  • subcontracts (including subcontracts for domestic building work)
  • sub-subcontracts
  • all contracts for commercial building work between developers, builders and subcontractors
  • contracts involving an owner builder permit holder.

When a written building contract is required

A written contract is required for any agreement between parties (contracts and subcontracts) for commercial building work work priced above the amount for which a license is required.

Commercial building work includes all non-domestic building work and subcontracts for domestic building work:

  • valued over $3,300 (including labour, materials and GST)
  • valued over $1,100 where it involves Hydraulic Services Design
  • of any value where it involves:
    • drainage
    • plumbing and drainage
    • gas fitting
    • termite management – chemical
    • fire protection
    • completed residential building inspection
    • building design – low rise, medium rise and open
    • site classification
    • mechanical services.

The payment protections and obligations in the Building Industry Fairness (Security of Payment) Act 2017 (BIF Act) apply regardless of whether there is a written or oral agreement.

    Commercial contract requirements

    Contracts must include:

    • name, contact details and licence numbers of all parties
    • address of the building site
    • description of work to be carried out
    • completion dates for work
    • how much is to be paid for the work
    • dates for when a payment claim can be given (the reference date)
    • the date when payment is due to be made
    • any agreement regarding retentions and securities, including length of defects liability period.

    If the contract is not clear or makes provisions inconsistent with BIF Act requirements payment security, the Act provides the following defaults:

    • reference dates—the last day of the month the work was carried out
    • due dates for payment—10 business days after the payment claim is given.

    Top tips for contracts

    • By spending a little time preparing and reading over a contract, you could save yourself thousands of dollars and heartache later on.
    • Read the fine print carefully—especially if have been given the contract by another party and you are not familiar with it.
    • Don’t be afraid to seek legal advice before signing if you have any questions or concerns.
    • Confirm all variations in writing before you begin work on them.
    • Keep copies of emails, quotes and specifications as well as notes from discussions. These can help in the event of a dispute.
    • Avoid verbal contracts as they often lead to disputes and expose you to risk of compliance action and financial loss.
    Unauthorised variations are one of the key causes of commercial building disputes and financial loss for contractors.

    Which contract to use

    To comply with the relevant Queensland legislation, you have a few contract options:

    • use our commercial subcontract (at present we do not produce a commercial contract)
    • use a commercial contract or subcontract developed by a major industry association
    • develop your own contract—but you must obtain legal advice to ensure it is compliant.
    A warning about developing your own contract

    If you want to use your own written agreement, it’s essential you get legal advice first. You risk prosecution, fines, and financial loss if you go ahead without making sure that it complies with the Queensland legislation.

    For use by contractors and their subcontractors to document their...

    For use by contractors and their subcontractors to document their commercial building agreements (including subcontracts for residential building work).

    This subcontract, which is fair and balanced to both parties, includes all the necessary forms and notices required to implement the building agreement after signing. This single subcontract may be used to record agreements of any value.   

    Download the contract

    QBCC commercial subcontract (PDF, 171KB)


    Warning about using your own contract

    If you want to use your own written agreement, it’s essential you get legal advice first. The contract requirements for domestic building work are much more detailed for the contract requirements for commercial work. You risk prosecution, fines, or financial loss if you go use a contract without making sure that it complies with the Queensland legislation.  

    Warning against using old or interstate subcontracts

    Recent changes to relevant Commonwealth and State legislation can make it inappropriate or even legally dangerous to use older contracts (especially those dated prior to July 2018) or contracts produced in a different jurisdiction (e.g. contracts from a different State or even from overseas).

    Change in termination rules

    A legislative change which applies to all contracts entered after 1 July 2018, limits the ability of a contracting party to immediately terminate a contract because the other party is experiencing financial difficulties and taking steps to avoid bankruptcy or (in the case of a company) liquidation. 

    The QBCC strongly recommends that, before signing, contractors seek legal advice regarding the termination clauses of any contract they intend to use for building work, especially if the contract is dated prior to July 2018. Termination of any contract is a significant step which should not be taken without prior legal advice from an experienced lawyer.

    Offence to not put contract in writing

    A contractor commits an offence if they don't use a written contract which complies with the requirements of the QBCC act for regulated building. QBCC may prosecute or take disciplinary action and apply demerit points. This can lead to loss of licence and financial loss for the contractor.

    Retentions and securities

    Defects liability period, retentions, and securities.


    Last reviewed: 11 Sep 2021 Last published: 11 Sep 2021
    Back to top