What to do when tradies stuff up
You’ve got a new roof but in the first storm it suddenly springs a leak. Mechanics swear they’ve fixed your car but it still won’t go. An electrician has fixed your fridge time and again but still your ice cream melts. The driveway you had paved washes away in the first rain. Your new backyard fence falls over in the first wind.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of what happens when work done by shonky tradesmen and builders falls apart. Thousands of complaints roll into the NSW Department of Fair Trading every year about renovation disasters and repair work not done properly.
So what to do if you’re caught in this position?
Refusing to pay a tradesman or builder because you are unhappy with their work isn’t wise. It could lead to even more financial pain. Rather than the focus being on the unsatisfactory work, the focus will be on you refusing to pay. You could end up in court facing damages and court costs could be far higher than the original bill.
As there is no control over pricing in building-related trades it is absolutely vital to get written quotes before you sign a contract. If you make changes to that contract while work is under way, make sure those changes are properly documented and agreed on.
Australian consumer laws carry broad protections. Services must be carried out using an acceptable level of care and skill, must fit the purpose specified, and must be supplied within a reasonable time.
Some tips: Make sure your tradie is registered, get a receipt and warranty, and don’t pay cash up front.
If work isn’t up to scratch you should first ask the firm in writing for a refund, to fix the problem,give compensation or cancel the contract. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, lodge a complaint with the NSW Department of Fair Trading or the industry body representing the firm.
This won’t help if you’ve changed your mind midway in the project, tried to find cheaper work elsewhere, interfered in the way the work is done or failed to make clear exactly what you wanted done.
Fair Trading will try to help resolve the dispute, but if that fails they could refer you to the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal that, among other things, brings the parties together. If they can’t conciliate, it can order a decision. You can do this process yourself (costs vary from $37 to $197 depending on the cost of the original work) but you might want a lawyer to put your case forward if big money is involved and it’s going to end up in court.