Shonky tradies and getting compensation

I am interested to know whether there are any other people who have experienced a situation similar to mine.

You decide to renovate and require tradies to do the work. You find someone, check their license with the Department of Fair Trading (or equivalent) discover they have the correct licenses and go ahead and engage them.

They fail to complete the job, and what they have done is substandard. You try to resolve the situation and fail and eventually make a complaint to DoFT. You go through the process and eventually end up in NCAT (or equivalent) and after many delays and rescheduling for the benefit of the tradie, you do get a judgement in your favour.

You lodge the judgement in the correct court and expect the tradie will pay up. He doesn’t. And because of all the delays all your recovery actions are flagged in advance allowing the tradie to empty his bank account so a garnishee is impossible.In fact he goes on to ignore all communication and subsequent Court Orders until you have exhausted all options available to you.

You are now not only in the invidious position where you have to get the original work re-done, have to pay twice and cannot recover the compensation awarded. The law does NOT support the victim and the tradie gets off scott free, can continue to work without penalty.

So in my opinion checking licenses is all well and good but they don’t denote competency and in the end provide no protection for the consumer.

Have you had this or similar experience?

Thank you for telling us this @karen_seager. It certainly sounds like you’ve been through the ringer.

I haven’t personally had any experience with this but I recall @pdtbaum and @dawnkidgell were talking about shonky builders a week or two a go and might be able to share their experience.

See the Building a House thread, but your experience is well beyond that discussion. You seem to truly be a victim of the laws (and lack thereof) in regards to dodgy tradies and builders. Since Australia is often referenced as being owned and operated by property developers it will probably not change for the better any time soon.

For the general readership, this episode could be instructive in how bad it can get.

Compare the penalty with the probable costs involved for the home owners, and what it took to get attention.

Thank you pdtbaum. The real issue with the current laws (at least in NSW) is they are based on the presumption that the Tradie is actually scared of being taken to NCAT and of any subsequent court orders. However, my case shows that NCAT (and any orders they make (which they can’t enforce by the way)) is just a paper tiger and if the Tradie choses to ignore orders, ultimately there is nothing the victim can do.

The reason I posted here was to see whether there were others in a similar position. There is never any publicity around renovations gone wrong - only where the issues are extreme. I just wonder how many others there are who are victims of the very system that is meant to protect them.

Hi Karen,
Our situation was with building a new house and the builders are required to have insurance, and I would assume your builder would have been as well. If he didn’t (and assuming he should have) it would be a very serious breach of the Building Act. Perhaps you could follow-up the insurance angle. Maybe you could put in a claim if he did have insurance, though I believe it is difficult to succeed. You could also report him to the authority in NSW (in Victoria it is the Victorian Building Authority or VBA) that controls builders’ licences. In Victoria, they can and do take licences off building practitioners for serious breaches, and not having insurance is a very serious one for home builders, at least. I’m sure not completing the work would be, too. Little consolation to you, but it might stop others getting caught and at least you would know he was not getting off scot free. In our case, the insurance was not taken out until after the contract was signed and a deposit paid. Even though they did get the insurance a short time later, this was considered a very serious breach because the builder must have insurance in place before they take any money from the client.
All this highlights one of the points I was making that it is not sufficient to check that a building practitioner is licensed, or to check the register of building practitioners who have been disciplined. The consumer is extremely vulnerable in the building game. This is very well known in Victoria and the government is bringing in new legislation very soon to try to remedy this. How successful these new rules will be, only time will tell.

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Not speaking from personal experience of problems with builders and trades,
but I think naming a shaming them on the internet building and product review forums might help as I know personally I don’t spend anything on big ticket items without first searching the forums or review sites for both good and bad feedback of any product or service I am about to engage.

@dangraham’s piece on domestic building insurance might be of interest to you @karen_seager.

Depending on what state you’re in there are different protections so it’s worth taking a look - it’s complex but the article does a good job breaking down the rights and protections you have in each state.

Thank you Tilly. The problem is that if your job is less than the minimum $12000 (which at the time it was) then building insurance is not necessary. So when your job comes in at say $11950 no insurance is required.

I can assure you I took every action I possibly could which amounted to two full hearings at then CTTT (now NCAT) - after multiple set dates were abandoned because the tradie didn’t turn up, five filings and two self-represented appearances in the local court, two garnishee orders, five examination orders, two self-represented appearances in the Federal Court, three sheriff servings and one arrest; and for almost all of these actions, the tradie in question simply ignored everything and got away with it.

The point is no matter what the system says it does, it does not protect the consumer when 1) the business is a sole trader - you cannot actually take action against the person who actually does the work - only the company who signed the contract even when it is one and the same person, 2) if the tradie ignores all communication form the consumer and/or the court there is nothing that the ‘system’ can/will do. Meanwhile, the tradie can continue to work under another name or even their own with total impunity and the consumer left out of pocket and still needing the work done. Effectively there is NO consumer protection because there are no consequences to the licensed tradie who has done the wrong thing but who is not scared enough by the system to actually act on any order handed down. His personal tradie license continues to be renewed which makes a mockery of not renewing the company license!

I agree that there is inadequate protection for the consumer.
I recently had some plumbing work done.
The quote was almost double that of the others, but since this was required urgently prior to other renovation work and I wasn’t around to supervise, I thought by giving it to a ‘professional’ it would be done efficiently and timely,
The result was a shonky job, that had to be re-done and delayed the rest of the work by whole week.
No apology received so far by the tradie or the company he represented

Hi terrystar5 did you take action through NCAT or your state/territory consumer affairs?

I approached Consumer Affairs Victoria.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t just the direct money I spent, but the frustration of having to delay the work that was scheduled to follow the next day.

terryjstar5 I feel your pain! I had the same. The whole point of hiring a ‘professional’ is that they should do a better job than you can do yourself. When that doesn’t happen because the tradie is quite simply unskilled, the frustration levels rise considerably in what is already a stressful experience. Trouble is the license does not actually denote competency and there is no where (until now in NSW) to be able check whether/how often they have been ‘sued’ for poor/unfinished work. Effectively we all hire blind!

Still waiting for an apology from a supposedly professional company.

Talk about business without ethics or responsibility/accountability to the community- just can’t believe it.

Does anyone know if it is legal to name & shame?

I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that if what you say can be proven/documented to be true then defamation would not be applied given that ‘truth’ is a defence. However, you could be sued if what you say clearly identifies and imputes the reputation of the targeted person or that the person could reasonably be identified by what you say. Doesn’t mean they will win though!

Thanks for that Karen.

As far as I see it this is freedom of speech and part of your consumer rights.
We may live in a ‘corporate’ world, but that cannot override the consumer laws of the country.
So long as you stick to the issue and don’t get carried away with emotions and rhetoric.
Plus make sure you have docs to validate your statement.

Thanks for that. 2 of my friends will be very interested.

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