Can a Handyman Do Plumbing in Victoria?Cat McCarthy
“Plumbers are so expensive! Why should I use them and not someone from AirTasker to do my plumbing job?”
I want to start out first and foremost by saying this isn’t an anti-handyman blog. We work with handymen and handywomen every week on projects and recommend their services often. The handypeople we work with understand what they can legally do and not do in Victoria.
Handypeople (hey, it’s 2023) have a diverse skillset and are part of a booming $1,000 million dollar annual industry. In any given day they can prune a hedge, clean gutters, patch up a hole in the wall, put together a flatpack and fix a sticky door handle. In recent years, and due to popularity of shows such as Channel 9’s The Block, there has been a surge of handypeople advertise their services on websites such as Airtasker and hipages.
The problem that can occur on these sites, and through other platforms like facebook and gumtree, is that amateur tradespeople take leads for plumbing work that they aren’t qualified to complete. CAN they physically install a toilet? Yes, probably. SHOULD they? Absolutely not. Handymen should not perform plumbing tasks as it is illegal.
What is illegal plumbing?
A licensed plumber must study for 6 years before they gain their plumbing license. This includes a 4 year apprenticeship plus an additional 2 years for a Cert IV, and proven plumbing management experience. It’s not just digging holes and smoko; we have one of the most diverse trades around from roofing to gas fitting, sewers and HVAC.
An unlicensed plumber or amateur tradesperson has no public liability insurance for any plumbing works. Public liability insurance can only be attached to a valid plumbing license from the VBA (and this insurance is also extremely expensive as its attached to a Victorian Ministerial Order). It’s called illegal plumbing if an unlicensed plumber conducts the works.
What could go wrong using an unlicensed plumber?
It’s illegal to perform plumbing tasks unlicensed. Never use a plumber (or electrician while we’re at it) without evidence of their license.
An unlicensed plumber can put your health and your property at risk with faulty services. Bad plumbing services can result in property damage as well as injury, illness, or death. For example, we shudder every time we see handymen advertise their ‘cheap’ bidet installation services on social media. For starters, its illegal. Secondly if something goes wrong due to incorrect backflow prevention, your family and neighbours can get very, very ill.
But if something goes wrong my insurance will cover it, right?
Wrong! We’ve seen it so many times and it is heartbreaking for our clients when we show up after an amateur tradesperson has completed illegal plumbing works. You may have the best insurance a broker can get you, but if you had an unlicensed plumber complete plumbing works in your home and it went wrong (i.e. a bathroom renovation includes a toilet installation, this has a burst flexi hose and floods the house) your insurance wont cover it without a compliance certificate.
What is a compliance certificate? Only a licensed plumber can issue you with a compliance certificate, which certifies that the work complies with prescribed VBA plumbing standards. In June 2022, the VBA released findings that 6 amateur tradespeople were fined a total of $44, 855.79 for impersonating plumbers.
VBA Executive Director of Regulatory Operations, David Brockman, recently stated “Plumbing work is vital and carries with it safety risks if the person does not know what they are doing, which is why it’s important you only engage a registered or licensed professional”.
We recently heard of a beauty salon that didn’t want to use a licensed plumber and chose to use a handyperson from Airtasker to install a new mixer tap. The installation wasn’t completed correctly, and the end result was a flooded business premises. When trying the claim the $30,000 worth of damage through insurance, the owner was rejected as they couldn’t provide any evidence of a plumbing license or compliance certificate for the completed works.
VBA compliance certificates are required for:
- Plumbing works totalling >$750. This includes labour, GST, materials, appliances etc even if supplied by the client
- Any Type A gas appliance installation/relocation/replacement
- Gas conversions
- Gas piping work
- Below-ground sanitary drain construction/installation/alteration
- Cooling tower construction/installation/alteration
Any other plumbing activities that aren’t mentioned above are still covered by a licensed plumbers public liability insurance; no license = no insurance = no protection when things go wrong.
How will I know if I need a plumber or can use a handyman?
A simple rule of thumb is if a task needs a licensed trade to complete the works, such as plumbing or electrical work, its not worth risking the implications of using an illegal amateur tradesperson. Sure, you could save a few bucks at the time but when things go south and trust me, they do, that cowboy will have rode off into the horizon never to be seen or heard from again, along with any chance of you getting the illegal works rectified or damages insured. I believe the kids call it ‘being ghosted’ or ‘left on read’.
All of the registered plumbers and apprentices on the McCarthy Plumbing Group team operate under our Director David’s plumbing licence; that means that all plumbing works any of our team completes is covered by our public liability insurance. Only a licensed plumber can apply for a compliance certificate. We also have Operations and Compliance Managers to ensure all of our plumbing works conducted are compliant as per the Victorian plumbing regulations and standards.
If you’d like legal, compliant, fully insured plumbing works completed now or in the future, please give McCarthy Plumbing a call today on 03 9931 0905. We can also assist if you’ve previously had an amateur tradesperson come in and complete plumbing for you (i.e. illegal bidet installation, bathroom renovation) and you are worried about the integrity of the works. We can offer advice or conduct a plumbing inspection to inform you of your options. We recommend reading the VBA’s tips on engaging with a licensed plumber for more information.