The Western Australian government has put out a call for WA property owners to watch out for roof repair conmen who are asking payment for work that isn’t carried out.
The warning, which comes from government bodies representing consumer protection and building and energy, focuses on conmen purporting to be roof repairers targeting those who are not aware of their consumer rights.
In one instance, a property owner was doorknocked by three conmen in fluoro shirts, who claimed to be roof repairers and said the property owner’s roof and gutters needed to be repaired. After being paid $7,000, they ended up doing damage to the roof, rather than repair it.
Another case saw a property owner approached by two men claiming to be roof tilers who just happened to notice a hole in the property owner’s roof that needed fixing.
One of the men went up to the roof and discovered a broken tile, yet the property owner believes the tile was broken by the conman.
He rejected the offer by the conmen to have the roof fixed.
Lanie Chopping, Commissioner for Consumer Protection, said that, in these instances, consumers need to be aware of their right of a cooling-off period for unsolicited sales, such as those from doorknockers claiming to be tradespeople.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, a cooling-off period applies to unsolicited sales and means no money can change hands and no work be carried out for 10 business days, in which time the consumer can cancel the contract without penalty,” Ms Chopping said.
“Even if you have invited a tradesperson to your home to only provide a quote, the cooling-off period still applies.
“We recommend that consumers get more than one quote for work around the home and check the credentials of the business before signing any contracts or handing over any money. Ask for references, inspect previous work and carry out an internet search of the business name to see if positive or negative comments arise.”
If approached by conmen claiming to be tradespeople, Ms Chopping said that their initial pitch would be friendly in nature and likely reference how lucky the property owner was that the conmen just so happened to identify the issues.
“In reality, the price is often more than the dodgy job is worth. It’s also difficult for consumers to track down these traders for a refund, or to make a warranty claim, if they are not satisfied,” she said.
In addition, Ken Bowron, Building Commissioner, pointed out that the Home Building Contracts Act states that home building and related work valued between $7,500 and $500,000 requires a contract.
“If the value of the building or associated work is between $7,500 and $500,000, the contract must be in writing and be signed by both the owner and the builder,” Mr Bowron said.
“The contract cannot provide for the builder to receive a deposit of more than 6.5 per cent of the total value of the work.”
Once the work has commenced, the builder must not demand or accept payment for work that has not been performed or materials that have not been supplied.
To protect themselves further from non-compliant contracts, Mr Bowron said that property owners need to make sure they read the information in the “Notice for the home owner” section before signing anything.
“This notice summarises the requirements of the Home Building Contracts Act and should be provided to the owner by the builder,” he concluded.