30% of homeowners don't check trade licences (Industry News)

 Andrew Heaton

As many as three in 10 homeowners across New South Wales do not check the license of construction tradespeople before engaging them for maintenance or home renovation work and many are unaware that licensing is required in non-structural areas such as painting, plastering, floor tiling and fencing, a new survey has found.

ommissioned by NSW Fair Trading and published by consulting firm instinct and reason, the survey of 1,000 home owners across the state suggests many are taking risks by using unlicensed contractors for planned maintenance or improvement work performed on their home.

It found that more than 31 percent of respondents said they rarely or never check whether or not a tradie is licensed even when they have adequate time to check, while one in four did not check this on their most recent job.

The survey also found that:

  • Only 13 per cent think it is essential to check that a tradesperson is licensed, despite 93 per cent being aware holding a licence means a tradesperson is registered with the appropriate authorities;
  • Under 50 per cent knew that plasterers, painters, floor tilers or fencers need a licence; and
  • Nearly 50 per cent said they would use an unlicensed tradie recommended by someone they trust.
  • 44 percent did not know they could check whether or not a tradie was licensed using the NSW Fair Trading website, and 90 percent did not use this service to check whether or not their tradie was licensed.

While the primary cause of the problem revolves around a lack of awareness, the survey found homeowner decisions in this area are also influenced by perceptions regarding the degree of risk involved in the task concerned.

Survey participants were likely to use a licensed electrician, for example, but a large number felt there was less risk associated with tasks such as joinery work on the front door or landscaping and gardening work and would be more prepared to use unlicensed people in these areas.

A large number would also use those who had worked for them previously even if the individual involved did not have a license.

Unveiling the survey as part of the launch of Fair Trading Week 2013 and a ‘Check your tradie, check your rights’ campaign, Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts says home owners who use unlicensed tradespeople are not insured for the work done and expose themselves to significant risk.

“All people have to do to protect themselves is run a free licence check on the Fair Trading website, because without a licence, the work is uninsured” Roberts said.

Master Builders Association NSW executive director Brian Seidler says as well as checking licences, consumers should obtain at least three written quotes, ask for references and have a written contract in place (for work over $1,000) prior to taking anyone on – measures he says give consumers peace of mind and help keep ‘unlicensed and poor quality’ work out of the industry.

Roberts says Fair Trading received 204 enquiries or complaints about unlicensed home building tradespeople last financial year, while 37 people across the state were prosecuted for unlicensed work.

One of the most serious cases involved a Sydney family paying $76,000 for renovations work to a man who forged details of a licensed tradesperson but in fact was not licensed. The man was found guilty and fined in court.