Commissioner's Blog: Renovation risks
With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Newcombe
Are you planning home improvements? Perhaps a TV show like ‘The Block’ has inspired you to renovate. Consumer Protection has some important recommendations for you to consider before you hire tradespeople to carry out jobs at your property.
Our top tip is NOT to pay large amounts of money for nothing in return.
Recently we have issued warnings about WA tradies who have taken big deposits up front and then failed to carry out or complete the work, leaving consumers out of pocket and considerably inconvenienced.
For the second time we are urging Western Australians not to deal with Mark Edward Straw, currently trading as Complete Ceilings and Renovations Pty Ltd of High Wycombe and formerly trading as Marks Ceilings & Renovations. Since Consumer Protection first publicly named him in June 2013, we have received a further ten complaints from consumers who have paid a total of $67,200 in deposits for unfinished work.
We also urge people not to do business with Gosnells tradesman Christopher Ronald Francis Gordon, trading as Flash Concrete. He has taken deposits of up to 50% from seven consumers, totalling more than $36,000 and has not begun the jobs.
Consumer Protection recommends consumers make small deposits of no more than 10% and then make progress payments upon delivery of materials and completion of work. If a tradesperson insists on a higher deposit and you feel this is justified, for example for customised or made-to-measure products, consider using a credit card. There may be extra fees but at least with a credit card you can seek a charge back from your bank if you do not receive what you paid for. If you pay cash or by bank transfer you don’t have this protection.
When building work is between $7,500 and $500,000, the Home Building Contracts Act makes it illegal for the contractor to take a deposit that is more than 6.5% of the contracted price.
Our other key message is to do some research into a tradesperson before you give them money. You need to be sure they are reputable and have a proven track record. The internet is a good place to start. Get the ABN and search for the business registration on the Australian Securities Investments Commission website: www.asic.gov.au. If they are in a profession that needs a licence or registration (builder for contracts over $20K, electrician, plumber, painter etc.) check the licence and registration search facility at www.commerce.wa.gov.au. Individuals and businesses that are on Consumer Protection or the Building Commission’s radar due to complaints or previous legal actions will also be searchable on the Department of Commerce website.
If possible you should ask friends, family, social media connections or an industry body or association for their recommendations. Be sure to check out references provided by a tradesperson and ask if you can see examples of previous good work. Getting quotes from two or three different tradies is also a good idea to compare price and value.
When you select a tradesperson, ensure there is a clear agreement, preferably in writing, on when the work is to start and be completed. You have the right to cancel the contract and demand a refund if there are unreasonable delays. Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), it is an offence to accept payment for work and then not complete it as agreed, or within a reasonable timeframe. Under the ACL services must also be carried out with due care and skill.
If you have a problem with a service provided by a tradesperson, or have paid money and are facing an unacceptable wait for the job to be finished, you should contact Consumer Protection by email: email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54. In some cases we may refer you to our colleagues at the Building Commission.
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