Shonky tradesmen – what protection do we have?
Many of us have heard about or experienced dodgy work done by tradesmen.
This year there have been a number of reports relating to house fires, caused by insulation batts being laid directly on top of hot transformers connected to downlights.
And that’s just one example. Home renovations are pretty common these days, so unsurprisingly, with every few success stories there is often a horror.
So what do we do if we fall victim to a bungled home renovation job or shoddy service?
You don’t want to have to get a lawyer involved over a dispute relating to a smallish amount. Nor should you have to foot the bill to have work redone when you believe the tradie is at fault.
There are two government bodies you should know about.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading (each state has its own) administers the Fair Trade Act, and is the first port of call for information about your rights. They will encourage you to contact the trader and try to work things out. Failing that, you can lodge a complaint form, which is free, and they will try to resolve the dispute.
You will often be referred on to the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT). Among other things, they look after disputes between traders and consumers in relation to the supply of goods and services, where the amount involved is less than 30K.
The good thing about going through the CTTT is that you can do it yourself; you don’t need a lawyer. And it’s inexpensive. For general disputes involving no more than $10,000 it only costs $34 to lodge an application. For disputes between 10K and 25K, it’s $70.
The CTTT will try to resolve your dispute through conciliation, where you and the other party sit down to talk about the issues and try to reach an agreement. If you can’t, there is an informal hearing before a tribunal member. You both get to give evidence and ask each other questions, then the member makes a decision. Known as an “order”, this is the written decision about money that must be paid, or work that must be completed.
In some situations you might choose to have a lawyer to help you prepare for the hearing, or attend with you (if the amount involved is over 10K), but this is at your own cost. For disputes over 30K you will need to go to your local court.
The fair trading website (www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au) has some useful tips for protecting yourself against scams, such as ways to ensure your tradesperson is registered, asking for a receipt and warranty, and not paying cash up front.