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
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
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
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
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
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The Sportscraft refunds and returns policy limitations went beyond consumer's rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
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