“Master of None” – the major risk of having a plumber carry out building work at your house

28 Dec “Master of None” – the major risk of having a plumber carry out building work at your house

Any blog post in the Metropolis Solutions Blog Archive that includes any direct or indirect reference to insurance claims handling of any nature whatsoever, including any reference to existing and/or potential claims, was posted prior to 01.07.21, is for general information only and may also no longer be applicable due to recent changes in Federal Financial Services laws concerning claims handling. Please note that Metropolis does not hold an Australian Financial Services (AFS) Licence for claims handling and therefore qualified expert assistance on any insurance related matter, including Victorian Plumbers Warranty, should now be sought from a suitable lawyer or other expert holding an AFS claims handling licence. Metropolis Solutions can still consult on insurance claims handling matters, but only in the instance where we are directly engaged to do so by your authorised legal representative.


When a property owner is faced with plumbing defects, often the problem is hidden within the structure of a building or else fixing it will inevitably cause extensive collateral damage to the building in some way.


Here are some classic examples:


  • A metal roof product is installed by the licenced roof plumber at a pitch which is too low and the roof is constantly leaking because the rain can’t escape fast enough from the low-pitched roof area. This requires the underlying timber roof structure itself to be regraded to the correct pitch, then new metal roofing put on.


Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?  But the unseen problems include who will regrade the roof structure and make sure it’s right this time?  Removing the existing roof sheets will also mean the flashings and cappings will need to be pulled off and parts of the adjacent render-clad walls on the first story will then also be significantly damaged.  All of the problems and damage will need to be fixed properly but the all-up costs can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.


  • PEX multilayer gas pipe has not been protected from UV damage. There are two sections, one at the gas meter near the front door of the house and another one at the instantaneous gas hot water service out the back.  Both of the affected sections of pipe must be removed and replaced. Again this sounds easy, but it can’t be done unless the outer bricks of the house are removed or else the wall inside is cut away to give access in all of the locations.  Multiple trades will be required and all-up repairs will cost at least $6,000 and if not done properly your house will be a cosmetic mess.


  • No trap was fitted under a shower. The house is built on a concrete slab.  As a result of this defect, dangerous sewer gases are constantly belching into the house.  The structural slab needs to be cut away (necessitating engineering design input) so that a proper trap can be fitted but that involves structural building works, large areas of the bathroom will be destroyed, all of the water proofing and tiles will need to be redone and holistic repairs will cost at least $20,000.


The plumber has offered to come back and fix it all for you at no cost – should you accept??


Unfortunately the answer is a big and emphatic NO.


Here’s the problem.  All of the above work (including the plumbing components) is ‘building work’ as defined in the Building Act 1993 and that means you need assistance from a licenced builder, not only to make sure the work is actually done correctly and in a tradesman like manner, but also to comply with Victorian Law.


A plumber is not a Licenced Builder.  A plumber cannot undertake building work otherwise the plumber can be prosecuted under the Building Act 1993 and under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 for working as an illegal builder e.g S.176 Building Act 1993.


In the case of the metal roofing and shower trap defect examples above, a Building Permit is also going to be required – something that can only be issued by a Building Surveyor to a licenced builder.   Plans will also need to be drawn to even make the permit application.  Advice from a Structural Engineer will also be required in support of the permit application and also most likely to supervise repairs as they are done.  The Building Surveyor will be involved to not only issue the permit but also to monitor the work and conduct progress inspections.


The Law requires the builder to be engaged with appropriate permits and plans etc, and for the builder to then engage the plumber to carry out the plumbing component of the repairs whilst the builder does the rest.  The builder also has overall responsibility for the project.


Because the works will equal or exceed $6,000, the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 also requires the work be done under a Major Domestic Building Contract.   This can only be entered into by a licenced builder with the property owner.  If repairs cost over $16,000 it is also a legal requirement that all the work must be protected by Domestic Building Insurance which again can only be obtained by a licenced builder.


Unfortunately these significant cost and procedural items way beyond the expertise and competence of the plumber are often ignored by an insurer of the plumber on the basis of trying to save money or else out of complete ignorance of the law.


Some insurers have even argued that somehow the poor homeowner will just cough up all of these additional costs themselves and engage their own builder, engineer, Building Surveyor, pay permit fees and so on, whereby the insurer will try and pay only for the plumber to rectify his own little bits and pieces – when the entire cost is actually due to the major mistakes made by the plumber in the original work and should therefore be recovered in full from the insurer of the plumber.


Regardless of anything else, the fact that your plumber – who has already proven himself to certainly not be a master of plumbing yet alone anything else, has left you with plumbing defects which will cost a lot of money to fix – and is not even remotely qualified as a builder, means you should not in any circumstances agree to letting him attend to any building work at your house.   You have already had one disaster he caused – you certainly don’t want another one.


The other sting in the tail here is that as the owner of a property, you can also be subjected to prosecution if you willingly allow this to occur; for example if you know a Building Permit will be required but you turn a blind eye and allow work to be done without one, as the owner you can also be prosecuted under Part 3, Clause 16 (1) of the Building Act 1993 and if convicted could you be fined 500 penalty units – currently $77,730.


So, when someone (and based on our experience that ‘someone’ could easily be the plumbers own insurer!) suggests to you that the plumber can just come back and fix any defects you need to be extremely careful.


If there is any building work involved and no provision has been made for a licenced builder and any other professionals to be involved to comply with Victorian Law, to protect yourself and your investment you must refuse permission.  There is no other option.


Metropolis Solutions understand your rights and the legislation and are ready and willing to assist you in ensuring that you get a full, proper and LEGAL outcome on your plumbing defects claim.




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