Consumer Affairs Victoria alerts home-owners to be wary of construction cowboys this summer

Consumer Affairs Victoria alerts home-owners to be wary of construction cowboys this summer
Consumer Affairs Victoria alerts home-owners to be wary of construction cowboys this summer

There’s no denying that there are numerous reputable and trusted construction firms across Australia. However, Consumer Affairs Victoria has readdressed the issue of ‘fake tradies’ (also known as travelling conmen) after more homeowners have been burnt by the negative impacts of unscrupulous trade deals and undelivered work.

Consumer Affairs Victoria's public announcement sought to raise the awareness of home-owners as summer approaches, as this is the peak season for fake tradies to begin door knocking and handing out fliers for their services. Dodging a bad deal is also more difficult than it seems, with over $3 million lost by victims of trades conmen in Victoria alone. What is even more concerning as that the financial loss had increased by 200% over the course of only one year, between 2017 and 2018.

Margaret Connell was one of the hundreds of home-owners affected, losing more than $10,000 to a scam. Margaret engaged the services of individuals whom she believed to be reputable to install new gutters at her Melbourne home. The company told Margaret that they would only complete the work for cash, and charged Margaret an exorbitant fee for a job that was done in only three days and of “extremely poor quality”.

“They must have put it [guttering] up with chewing gum you know.”

Margaret Connell, home-owner who lost $10,500 to fake tradies

Who do fake tradies target?

Anyone and everyone – even more sophisticated advertisements should be thoroughly analysed prior to engaging the company for building work. Consumer Affairs Victoria has found that those most prone to being targeted by fake tradies are homeowners and small businesses.  

What kind of services do they offer?

Any remedial maintenance work, from smaller tasks like painting and landscaping to large-scale projects such as driveway resurfacing and roof repairs.

What are the warning signs of a fake tradie?

They will often offer a cheap rate which can only be redeemed today (which is often a cash deal) and will provide no receipt or contract.

Consumer Affairs Victoria’s guide to avoiding fake tradies

Consumer Affairs Victoria wants to protect homeowners from the perils of scams – which cause financial and emotional distress. The government agency has shared a guide to undertaking thorough due diligence before employing trades workers with the hope to provide more insight into spotting dodgy tradespeople.

Here is their advice:

  • Use established tradespeople who provide written quotes
  • Independently find the business’ contact details if someone claims to be working for a company
  • Be cautious of individuals seeking upfront payment for works
  • Do not sign any agreement that doesn’t seem legitimate
  • Report any interactions with suspected fake tradies to Consumer Affairs Victoria

Aspects to consider if you’re buying or currently live in an off-the-plan apartment

As a property platform that focuses on off-the-plan apartments and townhouses, we are aware that many buyers will also be engaging the services of tradespeople whether that be personally, by the developer, or via the body corporate.

Here are the factors to consider to protect your new home against poor quality workmanship:

  • Research the construction firm prior to purchasing, and look at the quality of their previous developments in real life
  • Ask your sales agent to keep you informed of all construction updates, including if the builder who was initially assigned to the project is changed for a different construction firm
  • Find out if the construction firm has completed many projects of the same size as the apartment development you are interested in
  • Seek all building reports, inspections and planning documents (retain this information if you are purchasing the apartment/townhouse)
  • Take photos of any building/apartment defects before and after they are fixed
  • Find out who will be undertaking any grounds and building maintenance once the apartment building is complete
  • Find out who you can reach out to if you were to find any faults within your apartment

Lead image credit: Consumer Affairs Victoria

Olivia Round

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of urban.com.au. Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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