NSW Fair Trading can issue a show cause notice to builders, traders, electricians, plumbers and real estate agents. It is very important to respond to these notices as they can have grave consequences for you. 

This short paper will only look at show causes issued by the Home Building Services Division, NSW Fair Trading.

What is a Notice to Show Cause? (“Show Cause”)

A Show Cause is an enquiry by NSW Fair Trading, seeking your response to a complaint raised by a customer, an ongoing investigation made by NSW Fair Trading, or if irregularities pop up in a compliance audit.

Grounds for the Notice to Show Cause

If you’ve been issued with a Show Cause, the Show Cause will allege what “wrong” you have done. This could be under any number of grounds. It does not have to be limited to just one ground.

If the show cause issued is for failing to comply with a rectification order, then it should list down the details of when it was issued and when it should have been complied with. It should also give details of how the rectification order was served (so that you can determine whether the rectification order was properly issued or served).

If the show cause is issued on grounds that work was done without due care and skill, hence a breach of a statutory warranty, then it should include the inspection report that the show cause relies on as evidence. The inspection report attached should be able to clearly identify why it was the Builder’s/tradesperson’s responsibility. Generally speaking, if the work complies with the relevant Australian Standards or the National Construction Code then the work is said not to be defective.

There are other grounds upon which a show cause can be issued by the Home Building Service, such as, allegations of not a fit and proper person, offences and on certain conducts.

Response to Notice to Show Cause

All show causes, by law, have to provide an opportunity for you to make submissions, either written and/or oral. This is important for you! There is usually a time limit of 14 days for you to do so reply to the allegations, so make sure that you do not not miss the opportunity to respond!

A failure to respond to a Show Cause is not a penalty or an offence – however, your response is a “final opportunity” to convince NSW Fair Trading not to pursue disciplinary action against you.

Appealing a Decision by NSW Fair Trading

Any decision made by NSW Fair Trading is not the end. There are appeal options available to either the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal or an internal review option.


A Notice to Show Cause can be issued by NSW Fair Trading seeking a response to an issue (or a number of issues). It is important to understand first what allegations have been made, and whether there is sufficient evidence provided to support it. It is also important to provide your submissions.

You should seek assistance if you are not confident in how to handle this. We at Adams & Partners Lawyers can help you out with understanding your rights and your responsibilities.

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