Fines a reminder of importance of working with qualified tradies

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Investors embarking on a renovation or building project have reminded to check the credentials of any tradespeople they may be considering using to prevent them from being left with substandard or illegal work.

According to publications on the NSW Fair Trading website, the consumer protection body has already ordered unlicensed or uninsured tradespeople to pay more than $100,000 in fines and compensation in 2016 in relation to building, renovation and other home improvement works, such as swimming pool installations and concrete rendering.

While the amount of fines and compensation ordered by Fair Trading is significant, Janson said the issue of unlicensed or uninsured tradespeople isn’t overly widespread, however she did say there are those who believe experience equals qualification.

“There are a lot of people that claim to be tradesmen that aren’t actually licensed or trained and have been in the industry for a long time and assume that’s enough,” Janson said.

“We’re really careful to make sure that our builders, electricians and plumbers, the key trades, are all licensed to do that work. We have a due diligence process that involves licence checking and reference checking for all our tradespeople,” she said.

The words due diligence may make employing a carpenter, plumber or tiler sound like hard work, Janson said it’s only a few simple steps people need to take to make sure they’re working with the right person.

“It might not be the first thing you do, but it’s a really good thing to let them know that you want to know that they have everything in order.

“You need to know that they’re licensed for the work they’re going to do, that’s not so important for something like a painter but if it’s work that needs a licence by law then you need to check it. You need to check that they’ve got the appropriate insurance and then you need to check that they’ve got a White Card.”

Janson said asking a tradesperson to provide those details is not something that should be considered an insult or breach of privacy and an unwillingness to provide them is a likely red flag.

“They know that those are requirements by law, so it’s a not a surprise to tradesman that they need to have them, or that you might ask them to show you them.

“If they don’t provide those details, you would want to wonder why they wouldn’t supply them. It’s probably because they don’t have them and then you don’t want them on the job.

“The problem is that you have them [an unlicensed or uninsured tradesperson] do work on your property and something goes wrong with it then you’re actually exposing yourself to risk because you’ve engaged somebody who is unqualified and you could be liable.

Another red flag people should be on the lookout for is builders who want owners to take liability for the work they’re doing.

“Somebody who claims to be a builder might suggest that they’ll do the work but you do it under an owner-builder certificate. That’s a deadest giveaway that they’re not properly licensed or that they don’t have the home owner warranty insurance required for the job.

“What it essentially means is that you’re taking on the liability for the work, which is really not a good idea. It’s not extremely common, but it’s a ploy that some try.”

While proper licencing and insurance is a vital thing to check before giving the go ahead for work to start, Janson said that is not a promise of quality work.

“The main thing is that anybody you work with you actually do some background checking on them. It’s not like you have to background check everyone you quote, but before you engage them make sure you follow up with some reference checks.

“What I like to do is to try and find tradies that are working locally because you can go directly to the owner where they’re working and get an uncensored account of their work. You’re not getting a filtered reference; you can get a frank and honest review of their work.”

Janson said homeowners should expect quality work from tradespeople they employ, however she also said they have an important role to play in making sure that is what they receive.

“A lot of issues arise out of poor communication. A really good thing to do is to draw up a scope of work, which is really just a to-do list of the work that needs to done and has specific outlines.

“That also helps if you’re getting more than one quote and it makes sure you’re comparing apples with apples and that nothing gets left out. It’s also a good idea to put a requirement in there that they build to the standard of the building code of Australia and to observe WorkCover regulations”
 

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