Your legal obligations when employing a plumber

Hiring a plumber isn’t as simple as getting someone who ‘knows about pipes’ or just anyone who presents himself as a qualified tradie. No matter the size of the job, you ALWAYS want to hire registered or licensed plumbers. This will protect you and your property if anything goes wrong.

After doing some research with plumbers based in Auckland, I found these tips homeowners and property managers should know to avoid legal troubles down the road.

Assuming you have already gathered some quotes and found a few good plumbers who have experience doing the type of work you need, now’s the perfect time to check for their registration and licence.

1. Check their licence

Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers in New Zealand must be registered with the Plumbing Board. Registration with the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board (PGDB) also means the plumber has met the minimum qualifications and competencies required of their job.

It is worth noting that there are three classes of plumbing registration with the PGDB: certifying plumber, tradesman plumber and journeyman plumber.

A certifying plumber is legally authorised to carry out, test and verify (where required) sanitary plumbing work. They may also supervise sanitary plumbing undertaken by other non-certifying plumbers.

Both tradesman plumber and journeyman plumber are authorised to carry out and test sanitary plumbing work under the supervision of a certifying plumber. However, only the former is allowed to conduct physical supervision work undertaken by a person under supervision such as a trainee.

Any unregistered person carrying out plumbing will have to work under the supervision of a certifying plumber, who will be responsible for the work.

An easy way to sort the real pros from cowboys is to ask them to see their PGDB authorisation card. Registered plumbers need to renew their licence annually, so be sure to check if their licence is current as well.

This is arguably the most important step in vetting your plumber, so don’t skip it. Hiring an unlicensed tradesperson could put you in any of these unpleasant situations:

  • your insurance company may refuse to cover damage caused by poor workmanship
  • the council may not issue sign-off certificates if the work required consent
  • when it’s time to sell your home, you may have a problem getting it off the market since you don’t have the insurance and council sign-off
  • the work might be unsafe or unsanitary.

2. Get a written contract

It doesn’t matter if the job is big or small, a legally binding contract is a non-negotiable. Good plumbing companies will have no problem in providing this document. It will be part of their standard operating procedure. That’s one way to know you’re dealing with people who are committed to their services.

Now, while it is the plumber’s obligation to fully disclose all costs and services involved in a project, it is your obligation to check that everything you have discussed is accounted for. The moment you sign on the dotted line, you agree that you have full knowledge of what was written in there. You cannot later claim that something wasn’t included and hold your plumber accountable.

There are cases where homeowners would complain of being overcharged for a particular fixture or service which they thought was already included in the quote. Read the fine print to avoid headaches like this.

3. Warranties and certificates

District and city councils issue consents where required before plumbing work commences and a code compliance certificate once the work is completed. 

Always ask what paperwork the plumber will give you when they complete the work. A good plumbing company would normally include the code compliance certificate in their service, proving that the job was done by an authorised person and complies with NZ laws and safety requirements. Otherwise, you will have to apply for it yourself.

There are a number of things that could go wrong during or after a plumbing job. Take these precautionary steps so you won’t find yourself in hot waters.

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