Cowboy tradesmen 'a product of the construction boom'

Poor construction can rack up costs later. This Nelson house had to be demolished due to its poor construction, ...

Poor construction can rack up costs later. This Nelson house had to be demolished due to its poor construction, including missing exterior cladding in parts.

Complaints about builders are on the rise in the midst of the construction boom. 

Over the last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment's licensed building practitioner board received 217 complaints about licensed tradespeople.

About 120 of the complaints resulted in disciplinary action, most of them in Auckland. Last year the board received 193 complaints and 80 of them resulted in disciplinary action. 

Auckland was responsible for 41 per cent of this year's disciplined tradespeople, Canterbury made up 26 per cent, MBIE figures show. 

No other region accounted for more than 7 per cent of the total. 

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Complaints against tradespeople are on the rise, MBIE practitioners have found.

Complaints against tradespeople are on the rise, MBIE practitioners have found.

The phenomenon of shoddy building is not exclusive to Auckland and Canterbury. 

A Wellington residential builder, who did not want to be named, said though he has never been asked specifically to remedy poor workmanship, "often with our renovations we come across shocking building that has been previously done".

The Commerce Commission is also seeing unhappy customers of the construction industry. 

In its Consumers Issues Report, it said 30 complaints were submitted specifically about the services of builders over the last year, and another 23 regarding the "design, development and construction of new builds". 

The report found three themes among these complaints:  Tradespeople not having the memberships or qualifications they claimed, building quality insurances not being met, and building services costing more, taking longer, and being built to a lower quality than expected. 

The Licensed Building Practitioners scheme has seven licence classes for carpenters, brick and blocklayers, roofers, external plasters, foundation specialists, designers and site managers.

Registrar of the scheme, and a former carpenter, Paul Hobbs said most complaints MBIE came across were for builders failing to provide a record of work once building work was complete, and a poor understanding and application of site supervision. The former was a violation of the Building Act, Hobbs said. 

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Electrical Workers Registrar (EWR) Simon Robb said his organisation had received 65 complaints about registered and licensed electrical workers in the past year.

The complaints included non-compliant or unsafe work practices, electricians with expired licenses and improper paperwork. 

Robb said the group also received 60 complaints about unregistered work.The complaints were mostly from workers in Auckland. 

A new mobile app called "Report-A-Cowboy" has been receiving complaints about "cowboy" tradespeople since December.

"In Christchurch there's been an explosion of work since the earthquake and when more work gets done you're going to see more issues,"  Master Builders Canterbury branch president Ivan Stanicich said.

"I'm not saying it's acceptable, but it's the truth."

Stanicich said he knew of three builders whose Master Builder licenses had been revoked by MBIE's licensed building practitioner board. 

"There's got to be repercussions if we want a body of good tradespeople in our industry."

Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said the complaint process was problematic.. 

She said, though consumers are protected under the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act, there were "poor systems" in place for dispute resolution in the construction industry. 

She said smaller claims often went through the disputes tribunal or a more expensive court process, and there was not an established and "unbiased" intermediary. 

"It's not that easy for a consumer to resolve a complaint because they usually have to go back to the builder to rectify it instead of immediately through a process like you would with a complaint about a bank employee."

Stanicich said when complaints are made against a builder, Master Builders sends out a different registered builder to rectify the problem free of charge.  

Chetwin said there have been some legislative changes in the industry have made life easier for consumers following shoddy workmanship, especially legislation in 2014 that required contracts for work over $35,000. 

 - Stuff


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