Your rights with tradespeople and builders

builder:undertalerWe all occasionally have the problem tradesperson who leaves us with work that’s dodgy and sometimes not even worth paying for. When you’re in this situation you need to be aware of what your rights are and how to assert them. Under the Australian Consumer Law when a tradesperson doesn’t do a job properly you have similar rights to those you’d have if you bought something dodgy at the store.
When a business, whether it’s a one person operation or a big company, provides a service to you, it guarantees that whatever is done will be:

  • provided with due care and skill
  • be fit for any specified purpose
  • provided within a reasonable time (if no time for completion of the job has been set).

If you are dealing with an individual or company get a few things down in writing like what you want done and when you need it done by. Of course bad weather or illness can muck up deadlines, but under consumer law you must be given the service in a reasonable time- without unnecessary delays.

The more detail you can provide in your agreement, the better. But most importantly, get them to sign it and don’t fall for the “you can trust me” line. Verbal agreements are also often difficult to prove and can end up being “he said, she said” arguments that don’t point responsibility back to your tradesperson. The same goes for ‘advance payments’ for work or materials, I am not a fan of this and really believe that you lose a lot of your power as a consumer when you pay people up front. Business is business and tradies are not your new found friends. If you must pay in advance only provide a token amount (up to 10%) and get receipts for any money exchanged and ensure the receipt says exactly what the money is being given for.

What happens if these guarantees are not met?

weird workerIf a tradesperson or business provides a service that fails to meet one or more of the consumer guarantees, you are entitled to a remedy – for example, a refund or a further service to rectify the problem and in some circumstances compensation for consequential loss. The service provider must  provide the appropriate remedy.

If you have a minor problem with a service, the tradesperson or business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement.

When you have a major problem with a service after you have paid for it, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.

A service has a major problem when:

  • it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it
  • it is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time
  • it does not meet the specific purpose you asked for and cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time
  • it creates an unsafe situation.

You can cancel a service

If you have a major problem with a service or a minor problem that can’t be fixed within a reasonable time you have the right to cancel a service contract, when it is:

  • provided with an unacceptable level of care and skill
  • unfit for the purpose you asked for
  • not delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.

Suppliers should give any refunds in the same form as any original payment you have made. So if you have paid in advance in cash, that’s what you’re entitled to.

You can also ask for compensation for damages or loss caused by the problem.

Services you can’t cancel

You can’t cancel a service contract or get a refund if the problem was outside the control of the provider or if you:

  • changed your mind
  • insisted on having a service provided in a particular way, against the tradesperson’s advice
  • failed to clearly explain your needs to the tradesperson.

Cancelling your service

If you have a problem with a service, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact the business or tradesperson verbally or in writing to explain the problem. If the provider cannot fix the service in a reasonable time, state that you want to cancel the service contract and/or agreement.
  2. If there has been damages or losses caused by the problem also ask them to compensate you.
  3. If you’ve paid for the service and it has already started or been delivered, negotiate a refund to cover the services that failed and any advance payments.
  4. Have your proof of payment at hand (receipt or bank statement).

And if you’ve tried your very best to work out a solution but still “can’t get no satisfaction” then don’t hesitate to make a complaint with the ACCC by clicking HERE.

If it’s a complaint about a builder you should click HERE.