Hiring a tradesperson – how to avoid dramas!

Hiring a Tradesperson

At some stage everyone needs a tradesman. Whether it’s fixing the leaking tap in the sink or doing a major renovation. But finding the right tradie for the job is not always easy.
However, there are ways to ensure you set off on the right foot. Here are some tips to avoid potential kitchen sink dramas…

• Don’t rely on Yellow Pages or the local paper. That’s not a criticism. They are terrific sources of information but, if you don’t know anything about the businesses concerned, there’s a strong temptation to go with the one who has the largest ad. And biggest definitely isn’t best in this case!
• Word of mouth is probably the most reliable source to follow. But, even then, make sure your needs are similar to the person making the recommendation. If the two jobs are totally different it’s like comparing apples and pears, so be careful.
• Take a drive around the district and take a note of who is already working in your area. Tradesmen and builders usually have their sign displayed at a site entrance – or you’ll see start to notice their vehicle driving around locally.
• Understand what you’re asking for. Do your homework on what’s involved in your job. Then you can ask the right questions and look like you know what you’re talking about (even if you don’t!)
• Check credentials. Only deal with qualified and licensed professionals. Each State has its own regulations concerning licensing so find out what your State requires. Go to the Office of Fair Trading in NSW to check on the currency of licenses and any history of complaints.
• But, not only do you need his/her formal qualifications, you also need to know that the individual has the right experience for the job. Many tradies specialise these days so, if you have a job that requires specialist experience, take the time to seek the out the right person.
• Insurance is a must. If a tradesman or builder doesn’t have the right insurance or, indeed, the right level of insurance don’t risk it. Public Liability lnsurance covers any damage or injury that may occur whilst the tradesman is on your property. If something happened on the job and the person you’d hired has insufficient cover, you could be left in a very difficult situation.
• Ask for references. Bona fide tradesmen will welcome the chance to introduce satisfied customers. Follow the references up personally because, unfortunately, they are easy to rig. And don’t be afraid to ask your tradie how they’ve dealt with a difficult situation. You probably wouldn’t go to such lengths for a leaking tap but you may want to go the extra yard with a builder if the job is worth a lot of money.
• Get it in writing! If it’s a big job get a detailed written quote that also includes the expected start and finish times and the payment terms. The quote itself will give you a few clues…
o It should include an ABN and /or licence number (both of which you can check to make sure they are genuine) AND it should include an office address and phone number. To be fair, a lot of people rely on their mobiles these days but having a physical address is important.
o In the case of building work you may be expected to come up with a 10% deposit based on the quote price. But if, for example, the builder is asking for 15% or 20% deposit you have every right to question it. And try and avoid paying outright for materials up front. If there’s a large amount involved you may have to negotiate the terms and most professional businesses will expect this.
o Don’t always go for the cheapest quote. Take time to find out why it’s cheaper. Cutting corners to keep costs down usually ends in tears! For example does the painter’s quote include a number of coats of paint they are intending to apply? Or have they only allowed for one?
o Really good tradies – and especially builders – will include what’s excluded as well as what’s included in their quote

Hiring a tradesman or builder isn’t a one-way street. The relationship works both ways. So be clear what you want and don’t change things halfway through a job. Little things count too. Be there to let them into the property, or inspect work, when you say you will. Be pleasant and courteous and you’ll find that everything runs a lot smoother.

And, finally, pay them on time! Good tradespeople are worth cultivating and you may well want them to work for you again.

Mitchell Partners Architects is one of the leading residential architectural firms specialising in sustainable building in Sydney. http://mitchellpartnersarchitects.com.au

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