Be cautious of roof repair conmen on the rise in WA

By Vesh Arumugam

Lately, couple of unprecedented events where conmen disguising to repair good roofs that need no repairs have resurfaced in WA.

In relation to that the Consumer Protection and Building and Energy are warning WA home owners not to deal with roof repair conmen who have approached three consumers, with one handing over $7,000 for work that wasn’t carried out.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said consumers should be aware of their right to a cooling off period when agreeing to buy services during an uninvited approach from a tradesperson.

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 ten business days; in which time the consumer can cancel the contract without penalty.

“Even if you have invited a tradesperson to your home to only provide a quote, the cooling off period still applies,” Ms Chopping said.

Consumers are advised to get at more than one quote for work around the home. It is necessary to check the credentials of the contractors before agreeing or signing a contract. Finding reviews about the tradesperson and the services on the Internet is a great place to start.

Ms Chopping said that the conmen have a similar characteristics and they are easy to spot.

“Conmen often operate door-to-door and can charge exorbitant rates for sub-standard work, if any work is carried out at all,” she said.

Ms Chopping also said that the pricing must be reasonable enough.

“Itinerant workmen use clever sales pitches to get consumers to agree to have their roofs repaired at a supposedly low cost. The initial pitch will usually be friendly and helpful pointing out how lucky it is that they spotted some 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.

Building Commissioner Ken Bowron said the Home Building Contracts Act sets out the minimum requirements for contracts and applies to home building and associated work valued between $7,500 and $500,000.

“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.

“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,” Mr Bowron said.

Home owners can protect themselves from entering into a non-complying contract by ensuring they receive and fully understand the information in the prescribed ‘Notice for the home owner’ before they sign the contract. This notice summarises the requirements of the Home Building Contracts Act and should be provided to the owner by the builder.

The first case reported in WA was when one of the consumers was approached at his home by three men in a white ute wearing fluoro shirts who told him that his roof and gutters needed urgent repairs.

The dodgy door knockers pretended to carry out some work and charged $7,000, but it was later discovered that they had damaged the roof instead of repairing it.

The second case relates to a consumer in Cannington who was approached by two men driving a red four-wheel-drive vehicle who claimed that they were roof tilers and said there was a hole in his roof that needed repairing.

One of the men went up on the roof and returned with a broken tile which the consumer believes was broken off by the conman.

The offer to fix the roof was declined by the home owner who had to fix the damage caused.

A third report has been received from a senior couple in Fremantle who were approached by roof coaters.

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