Don’t end up on TV (for all the wrong reasons!)

It’s every home owner’s worst nightmare – things go badly wrong with a building company and you’re left with a damaged or even unliveable home, and tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

As a final shot at getting some justice, you and your home appear on ‘Current Affair’ or ‘Today Tonight’ – could this really happen to you?

The bad news is yes, it can. The good news though is that it’s extremely unlikely. The building industry is well regulated, with many levels of protection for the consumer. Of the many thousands of building jobs completed every year, only a couple may end up on television. A good question to ask is whether these are examples of the owner choosing the cheapest quote and not doing their research before choosing their builder.

Avoid The Shonks

The best way to keep yourself out of trouble is to choose a reputable builder and do your research to make sure they have a track record of quality work and satisfied clients.

Some things to look for are:

• Builder’s Licence – is it up to date? Ask to see a copy of the Builder’s Licence and check the expiry date.
• Memberships to relevant building associations. Is the builder a member of the HIA (Housing Industry Association) and/or (MBA) Master Builders Association?
• References – Ask to see some and talk to the customers yourself
• Research – check them out. Look at the Office of Fair Trading website. Do they currently have any “black marks” against them? You can check that here: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/About_us/Online_services/Home_building_licence_check.page?

A good motto to remember here is “The bitterness of poor workmanship
remains long after the sweetness of a low price has faded”.

When things go wrong – what to do and who to call

Things don’t always go to plan. With building in particular, there’s the ever present possibility of unforeseeable circumstances that can impact the building schedule and costs. Weather is of course unpredictable, but the house itself  may reveal unwanted surprises once work has commenced.

Previously hidden problems, such as termite or borer damage, rising damp, presence of asbestos and many other situations may occur that necessarily impact schedules and / or costs.

It’s important to know this before you begin, and to have clear agreements in place with your builder so you understand exactly what is and isn’t covered. But what do you do when you think your builder or contractors are not meeting their obligations under your agreement? The first step is to talk to them about it.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your builder or contractors your next step should be to contact the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in your state. OFT will then typically contact your builder to discuss the issue and see if a resolution can be agreed to. If it cannot be resolved at that stage then a formal meeting may be arranged whereby both parties would discuss the issue and negotiate a suitable outcome, overseen by OFT.

Further Information

NSW Office of Fair Trading: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au
Master Builders Association of NSW: www.mbansw.asn.au
Housing Industry Association (HIA): www.hia.com.au

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