What can you do when there’s a problem with your builder or plumber?

What can you do when there’s a problem with your builder or plumber?

Dodgy building or plumbing work can cost time, money, and stress. But understanding your legal rights can help to avoid problems 

Poor work quality is an issue that lurks in many industries, but in building and plumbing, it’s a significant concern. When the fundamental parts of a construction are non-compliant or unsafe, the entire structure could be unsound, presenting sizeable risks. So, what can you do when there’s a problem with your builder or plumber? 

What is the role of the Victorian Building Authority?

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is a statutory authority that regulates building and plumbing practitioners. It supports practitioner compliance while also pursuing targeted enforcement for non-compliance.

Recently, the VBA handed out severe penalties to several plumbers and builders for non-compliant or dangerous work, including:

  • A plumber lodged a misleading compliance certificate. It contained a misstatement of fact. Penalty: fined more than $3500
  • The VBA investigated a former plumber for domestic building work for which he wasn’t qualified. Penalty: convicted and fined $1000 
  • A builder was found to have performed non-compliant work and allowed another builder to use his building registration. Penalty: fined $36,500 and cannot take on any new work for two years  
  • A builder allegedly provided false compliance certificates for a residential development, engaged in a sham building contract to procure a building permit, and carried out building works that significantly departed from the approved building permit documents. Penalty: $38,000 and had his commercial registration cancelled for three years  
  • A builder conducted demolition works that damaged a neighbouring property. Penalty: his building registration was suspended for two months, and he was ordered to undertake additional training. He was fined more than $24,000 

How can you avoid dodgy builders and plumbers?

Before engaging a builder, make sure they are registered with the VBA. All registered building practitioners (excluding companies) are issued with a Photo ID card that lists their registration and the work they are eligible to complete. You can request to see the Photo ID at any time. 

Failing to use a registered builder, particularly where the value of work the is over $10,000, puts you at risk of not having any protection against poor quality work.

Similarly, before engaging a plumber, make sure that they are registered or licensed with the VBA. All licensed or registered plumbers are also issued with a Photo ID card that lists the work they are eligible to complete. 

A licensed plumber is the not the same as a registered plumber. A licensed plumber:

  • Can issue a compliance certificate to certifying that their work complies with the relevant plumbing regulations, codes and standards
  • Must hold insurance for defective plumbing work
  • Is more knowledgeable and experienced than a plumber who is registered or in training
  • May supervise other plumbers

You can also check for licences or registration on the VBA website. 

What can you if there’s a problem with your builder or plumber?

The VBA website contains useful resources to help resolve building and plumbing disputes. Consumer Affairs Victoria also operates the Building Information Line which provides free advice and information. 

However, for more complicated matters, especially those involving unlicensed or unregistered trades, it is best to seek immediate legal advice.

The final word

Before starting any building or plumbing project it’s important to do your research. If you’re having problems, our experienced property and building legal team can help.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help resolve your problem with your builder or plumber.

By Zoe Pinch



DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can receive from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.