June 8, 2016 – 7:13PM
Consumer Affairs Reporter
Damage from the recent storm has driven up requests for roof repairs by more than 1000 per cent, prompting a warning from the Fair Trading Commissioner to consumers about escalating costs.
Job requests for tradespeople in NSW experienced the biggest spike in Parramatta, increasing by 2400 per cent in the three days between June 3 and 6, according to data from trade professional hire site hipages.com.au.
NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe has warned consumers to avoid cold callers and only use licensed contractors for work valued at more than $5000.
Engineers enter some of the storm damaged properties in Collaroy, Sydney. Photo: Janie Barrett
“We’ve had issues in the past when we’ve had very significant disasters where there have been shortages of material and tradespeople and we have seen costs escalate,” he said.
“What we do see is people frequently turning up in the disaster areas going door-to-door indicating they’re able to do repairs and many of them aren’t properly qualified or licensed to do the works.”
Mr Stowe warned affected homeowners to be alert to “warning bells” for unlicensed tradespeople, such as being asked to pay cash or transfer money to their bank account, or being told a tradesperson is only available that day to do the work.
Damaged beachfront homes along Pittwater Road at Collaroy. Photo: AAP
“I know people are desperate, when there’s a shortage. It’s not worth it, often when they do the work, it’s done so poorly you’ll need to get it redone, and you may compromise your insurance policy.”
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, roof repairs, roofing, waterproofing and gutter cleaning unsurprisingly topped the list of job requests that experienced the biggest increase in demand on the Hipages website.
Job requests in Sutherland increased by 2000 per cent, followed by north-western Sydney suburbs (1700 per cent), inner west suburbs (1350 per cent), western Sydney suburbs (925 per cent), while on the Gold Coast demand increased by 1500 per cent.
Repairs in the home often cost less than consumers estimate. Photo: Yellow Pages
Mr Stowe said Fair Trading had no control over pricing set by tradespeople but added that, where people are insured, insurance companies should maintain “downward pressure” on escalating costs.
“If you’ve got a home insurance policy, the first thing to do is to contact your insurer and let them know what’s occurred,” he said.
On Tuesday the Insurance Council of Australia announced estimated insured losses resulting from the storm had reached $56 million.
NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe has warned affected homeowners to be alert to “warning bells” for unlicensed tradespeople, as they begin repairs after the storm. Photo: Peter Braig
Chief executive for the Housing Industry Association Graham Wolfe, said homeowners who do not require emergency structural repairs could avoid higher costs by waiting a few months.
“The focus is too much on what the week-to-week price might do as a result of the storms. You’ve got to let emotion and opportunity for unscrupulous tradespeople abate,” he said.
“Provided there are no immediate structural problems…consumers can inquire today and if they are not happy with the price or service they can inquire again in a few months.”
The spike in demand for tradespeople comes as research conducted by Yellow Pages shows Australians overestimate the hourly rates charged by professional tradespeople by an average of 43 per cent, and in some cases by up to 90 per cent.
The survey of 1021 Australian homeowners and 317 Australian tradespeople found the perceived hourly rate for standard trades greatly exceed the actual average rate.
For example, the perceived hourly rate for a builder was around $104, despite the actual cost being only $76, while the perceived rate for a plumber was $98, with the actual cost being around $73.
The greatest price misconception surrounded landscape gardeners, whose perceived hourly rate was $72, around 90 per cent more than the actual average hourly cost of $38.
According to Yellow Pages data, on Monday following the wild weather, the number of people looking for an expert to fix their roof in the greater Sydney area was eight times as many as the same day one week earlier.
Source : Sydney Morning Herald