Welcome to the 22nd edition of Foundations, NSW Fair Trading’s enewsletter for the NSW home building industry.

We want to make sure Foundations is relevant and interesting to you, so please send us your comments, suggestions or topics you wish covered to foundations@services.nsw.gov.au

Fair Trading campaign puts spotlight on unlicensed tradespeople Check your tradie, check your rights

Fair Trading has launched a new campaign to promote the use of licensed home building tradespeople in NSW. The Check your tradie, check your rights campaign urges consumers to always do a free licence check on Fair Trading's website before they hire a tradesperson.

The campaign follows new Fair Trading research which showed that more than 80% of home owners say licensing is 'very important' or 'essential', but only one in ten home owners went to Fair Trading’s website to do a licence check.

Last financial year Fair Trading conducted 37 prosecutions of unlicensed tradespeople across NSW. During the same period, Fair Trading received 204 complaints or enquiries about unlicensed home building tradespeople.

Go to Fair Trading’s website to do a free Home building licence check and to read more about the Licensing research findings.

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Waterproofing warning  
A major cause of residential building disputes is water ingress and consequential damages due to failed or poorly installed water membranes to shower recesses, wet areas, planter boxes, balconies and podium levels.

This is not only a major cause of dispute but can also be very costly for the builder to identify the source of the water ingress and to rectify the problem. This involves destructive investigation and the cost of all remedial works to make good, as well as rectifying all consequential damages caused due to the water ingress. The building contractor may also be held accountable for loss of rent and other losses and costs if it is determined that the builder or sub-contractor is responsible.

The primary contractor is responsible for ensuring compliance with all statutory warranty provisions of the Home Building Act.  It is important to check that the design and materials used are suitable and contractors engaged to do this work are appropriately licensed and experienced.

Here are some useful waterproofing references:

  • Building Code of Australia Volume Two. Part 2.2 Damp and Weatherproofing, Part 2.4 Health and Amenity, Part 3.1.2 Drainage & Part 3.8.1
  • Australian Standard: AS3740.
  • The Acceptable Standards of Domestic Construction handbook available from all industry associations or the Acceptable Standards of Construction Committee website.

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Nominated supervisor responsibilities - take them seriously 

When you agree to be the nominated supervisor for a licensed company, this carries important and serious responsibilities.

You are responsible for supervising the carrying out of all the work on-site relevant to the licensee’s contract with the consumer. You cannot delegate those responsibilities to another person.

This doesn’t mean you have to be personally present at all times during the work, but you have to make sure that any sub-contractors on-site are fulfilling their responsibilities. You must make sure that only properly licensed trades are sub-contracted, that you are readily contactable to give instructions to others and that you promptly inspect any work done in your absence.

The nominated supervisor in control of a building site is guilty of improper conduct if codes and regulations are breached, improper materials are used, or work is not done in a proper and ‘workmanlike’ manner. If you leave the company, or you are nominated but never take up the role, you need to let Fair Trading know immediately. Otherwise we will continue to consider you responsible for the work done under that company’s licence.

For further information on the responsibilities of nominated supervisors can be found on the Applying for a licence or certificate page on the Fair Trading webiste.

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Building Business Expos - 2013 program another success 

Fair Trading has completed another round of successful Building Business Expos with nine seminars conducted at various locations in regional NSW and the Sydney metropolitan area this year.

The 2013 program attracted 1,300 licensed builders, tradespeople and their business partners. Since the program started in 2009, over 9,600 people have attended 60 building expo events.

The 2013 expos combined major presentations on relevant issues with the opportunity for builders to speak one-on-one with industry experts from Government agencies and the private sector.

The NSW Self Insurance Corporation conducted a presentation at each expo and clarified the issues regarding builders' eligibility for home warranty insurance.

Expert advice was provided on a range of other issues, including:

  • business improvement strategies
  • dispute resolution and compliance issues
  • building contracts and variations
  • continuing professional development
  • plumbing reforms

Feedback from participants this year was positive and Fair Trading plans to conduct more of these informative Building Business Expos in 2014. Further details will be available on the Fair Trading website and in Foundations next year.  

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Mandatory recall of Infinity brand electrical cable 

On 9 October 2013, the Commissioner for Fair Trading announced a mandatory recall and prohibition notices for all Infinity branded TPS and 'orange round' cable.

The insulated electrical cables are commonly used for household electrical wiring as well as industrial and commercial work. The cables concerned include:

  • All TPS cable - all sizes and configurations of polymeric insulated electrical cable that is PVC sheathed, PVC insulated, flat and flexible low voltage electrical cable also commonly known as TPS imported, sold or distributed by Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd; and
  • All 'orange round' cable - all sizes and configurations of polymeric insulated electrical cable that is PVC sheathed, PVC insulated, round and flexible low voltage electrical cable also commonly known as 'orange round' imported, sold or distributed by Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd.

The recall and prohibition follows a public warning issued by Fair Trading on 27 September 2013, when the agency became aware the company had been placed in liquidation, advising consumers and electricians not to purchase or install Infinity cables.

The prohibition notice was published and took effect on 4 October 2013. For further details as well as answers to frequently asked questions go to the Mantatory recall: Infinity brand electrical cables page on the Fair Trading website.
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Who is your local plumbing regulator? 

Plumbers and drainers can download the new guide to Local Plumbing Regulators in NSW to see who carries out the plumbing regulation functions in their local area.

Fair Trading is the plumbing regulator for NSW. However, some of the functions are delegated to local councils or other authorities. To find your local authority go to the Plumbers and drainers page on the Fair Trading website.

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New technical notes for gasfitters 

Fair Trading has a selection of technical notes for the gasfitting industry that provide technical and safety advice about the interpretation of the relevant industry codes and standards.

Copies can be downloaded from the Gasfitting standards and notes page on the NSW Fair Trading website. Gasfitters can also email Gassafety@services.nsw.gov.au with any technical enquiries.

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Housing industry site safety pack 

WorkCover NSW's Housing industry site safety pack assists small subcontractors with ten or less employees working in the residential construction sector.

The Site safety pack provides a framework for traders to meet their main work health and safety (WHS) legal responsibilities. Authorities, clients and principal contractors may require evidence of your WHS system. If you use the Site safety pack as directed, you will be able to provide the necessary documents. 

You can download the Site safety pack forms from the Housing industry site safety pack page on the NSW WorkCover website.

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Is your swimming pool registered? Swimming pool safety 

Every year in NSW around 10 children drown in backyard swimming pools and many more suffer brain damage and other serious injuries associated with near-drowning experiences.

To help pool owners stay up-to-date with pool safety messages and inspection requirements local councils need to know where pools are located. If you own a swimming pool in your back yard you are required to register it at the NSW Government's Swimming pool register website.

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NSW tradespeople produce happy customers 

A new Fair Trading survey shows that a high 88% of respondents are satisfied with the most recent work carried out by home building tradespeople.

Assistant Commissioner John Tansey said the research demonstrated that the vast majority of NSW tradespeople do quality work.

"Consumers think highly of their own tradesperson, although the research also indicated that seven out of ten home owners think there is shonky work out there," Mr Tansey said.

The survey also shows that word of mouth is the most common way to find a home building tradesperson with 44% of home owners using this method.  This is followed by repeat use of a tradesperson used in the past (36%). Around a quarter of home owners will use Google or the local newspaper to find a tradesperson.

The research is part of a Fair Trading’s Check your tradie, check your rights information campaign to promote the use of licensed tradespeople in NSW. The research surveyed 1,000 NSW home owners who had used a tradesperson in the past 18 months.

You can read more about the Licensing research findings on NSW Fair Trading’s website.

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Unlicensed electrician fined more than $50,000 

A Lurnea man, Cristian Roberto Martinez, aka Cristian Roberto Villazon and Christian Martinez, has been ordered to pay $50,740 fines and costs by Downing Centre Local Court, after being found guilty of carrying out unlicensed electrical work in breach of the Home Building Act 1989.

Mr Martinez, as sole director of Newstyle Electrical Pty Ltd, had never held a licence or certificate qualifying him to undertake specialist electrical work.

For more information go to the Ersatz electrician fined more than $50,000 media release on the Fair Trading website.

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