Many customers have complained about being overcharged by their plumber after forking out thousands for a simple job such as commercial kitchen fitout. So how can we prevent spending too much next time we need our pipes unblocked?
The majority of plumbers are professional and charge their clients a fair amount, however the highly in-demand nature of the industry has allowed for some shifty people to prey on innocent clients. Here’s how to find a good catch:
Do your research
Word-of-mouth recommendations are arguably the best way to find top quality plumbers, but if you can’t get any, you’ll have to do some online research instead.
Of course, this assumes that you have the time to do so – an overflowing toilet is a pretty urgent situation that may require you to call the closest plumber around. The Institute of Plumbing has a reputable website which provides a directory of registered plumbers; this is a great way to find a plumber near you via postcode. Alternatively, you can look them up using the Yellow Pages.
Once you’ve located a plumber, you’ll want to assess them for quality. You can do this by:
- Asking them how long they have been working for and if you can visit their premises
- Asking them for references
- Asking them if you can see any examples of work they have performed
- Asking them if they have insurance for your property – and your neighbour’s property
- Asking them if they guarantee their work and back this up with insurance; and
- Finding out if they are an official trade body member (e.g. APHC); this requires them to adhere to a code of practice.
No matter how reassuring they are over the phone, it’s important to check that they are appropriately qualified. You can do this by visiting them in person, viewing their past work and checking with trade bodies.
Also make sure that you call several different plumbers to compare – and get different quotes.
How much should you pay?
There are no official guidelines around how much you should be charged by a plumber. This makes it essential to get a number of different quotes, so that you can get an average price; if one charges $2000 for a job and another charges $200, this is a clear sign that you need to do more research.
The APHC suggests avoiding plumbers that require you to pay a large amount of the fee upfront. While a deposit is okay, any more than 50% is too much. Make sure you agree to a price before they start work so you don’t get a rude shock at the end.
Get a written contract
Getting your plumber to give you a written contract before commencing work is an excellent way to establish the price and keep you safe legally if something goes wrong. This contract should include a full description of the work that will be done, the plumber’s agreed upon quote, start and end dates for the work, and information on any guarantees. You might also want to take notes of the work as it goes on.
How to make a complaint
If you have a bad experience and are dissatisfied with the outcome, the best place to start is with your plumber in question. Make a complaint in writing specifying the problem, your desired solution and a time frame, and in most cases they will be happy to help. If this doesn’t help, you can then go through their registered trade organisation’s complaints procedure. If they aren’t a member of any trade bodies you will have to take them to court.