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Budget builders’ house of cards

Unlicensed Builders -2/7/2011

It’s more usual for this column to get complaints about Owners Corporations not doing repairs.  This week the issue is over who they are getting to do them.

QUESTION: The executive committee at a strata complex in which we own a townhouse have ‘resolved’ to use unlicensed tradespeople to carry out much-needed maintenance work at our complex. The strata managers and the majority of the executive committee members support this.

Out of  more than 20 owners, three of us are desperately trying to get urgent maintenance repairs carried out but stop them being done by unlicensed tradespeople – we’ve already had to pay $800 to put right shoddy maintenance carried out in our unit.

Short of going down the legal route, can you suggest the best way forward for us three lonely ‘warriors’ tackling incompetent strata management and intransigent executive committee members? – DrWitch, via Flat Chat Forum.

ANSWER: Whatever you do, it seems you have the law on your side.

“I would be asking the executive committee for a written explanation of why unlicensed tradespeople are being used,” says Sharon Machin of StrataChoice strata managers. “Ask them about indemnities and guarantees and you should try to get on the EC yourself so you know what’s going on.”

“It’s a bad idea to hire unlicensed tradespeople,” says Struggler, a Forum regular. “There’s no comeback should anything go wrong with the work carried out.

“It’s easy to check license details through the Department of Fair Trade website.  And make sure they are insured as well.”

Chris Kerin, a strata lawyer with Teys, sees it purely and simply as a legal matter.

“It is an offence under section 12 of the Home Building Act to do unlicensed residential building work or specialist work,” he says, noting that the fines are up to $110,000 for a corporation and $22,000 for an individual.

“The Office of Fair Trading enforces these matters and presumably any contractor looking to do such work would be wary of any renegade lot owners who might report them,” he hints broadly.

The full discussion of this issue is in the Flat Chat Forum HERE.

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