What is the Difference Between Registered and Licensed Plumbers?
“I’m a qualified plumber, I can do all types of plumbing except for roofing and drainage”
“I’ve almost got my plumbing licence, I’m qualified that’s all that matters”
“I have my plumbing registration so I can do toilets and change taps without a licence”.
You may have seen or heard similar things to the above. I see it a lot on local community Facebook pages. In the spirit of helping consumers make informed choices, I thought I would explain the distinction between a registered plumber and a licensed plumber.
Aren’t they all the same? No, there’s a vast difference between a registered plumber and a licensed plumber, and it’s not just the colour of the card you get. It’s to do with being insured and uninsured, and it is the difference between legal plumbing works and illegal plumbing works.
A critical factor often overlooked is the difference between a ‘qualified’ plumber and one who holds a valid licence. In any local community, you might come across numerous ads boasting the expertise of ‘qualified’ plumbers, including handymen eager to tackle plumbing tasks. But what does it really mean to be a Registered Plumber or a Licensed Plumber, and why should it matter to you as a homeowner?
What is a Qualified Plumber?
In Victoria, the plumbing industry is regulated by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). It does this to ensure the health and safety of Victorians is protected, and also the integrity of our water supply and wastewater systems is maintained. When printed, the current plumbing regulations equal about 5 reams of A4 paper; that’s a lot of rules we have to follow, so it’s no wonder we get our knickers in a knot about those who don’t follow this, risking the industry’s reputation and the integrity of our trade.
According to the VBA, to conduct ANY plumbing work in Victoria, a plumbing practitioner must be one of the following –
- LICENSED by the VBA (our plumbing licence is 47867).
- registered by the VBA (or have provisional registration) AND working under the supervision of a licensed plumber
- In training under the SUPERVISION of a licensed plumber (ie Apprentice, Work Experience).
There’s a key word in each of these three scenarios; licence.
A licensed plumber will carry a blue and white card, a registered plumber carries a green and white card.
Can Unlicensed Plumbers be Insured?
Still not convinced you need a licensed plumber? Here are three reasons you should only use a licensed plumber –
- Only a licensed plumber can issue a compliance certificate to certify that their work (all gas fitting, and plumbing works over $750) complies with the relevant plumbing regulations, codes and standards. A compliance certificate, for all works over $750, protects you against faulty workmanship.
- A licensed plumber must hold insurance that protects you in case of any defective plumbing work. No insurance, no licence is distributed to us.
- A licensed plumber may supervise other plumbers (registered or licensed) or plumbing apprentices in the same class of plumbing work in which they hold a licence.
The key takeaway is 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 (it’s called illegal plumbing if an unlicensed plumber conducts the works).
How Do You Become a Licensed Plumber in Victoria?
A licensed plumber must study at TAFE, or Master Plumbers Victoria, for 6 years before they gain their plumbing license. This includes a 4 year apprenticeship plus an additional 1-3 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.
Does A Licensed Plumber Have to Be Physically Present on Plumbing Works?
No, a registered plumber doesn’t need (or want!) to be watched changing over a mixer tap, or installing a hot water system they’ve done 150 times before. They do however have to work under someone’s licensed in order for their works to be insured. At McCarthy Plumbing Group, we have licensed plumbers, registered plumbers, apprentices and work experience students on our team, all playing an important role in completing plumbing works for our residential and commercial clients. As long as there is one plumbing licence everyone is working under, and that licensed plumber is insured, the plumbing works are legal.
Legal Plumbing Scenario – A 4th Year apprentice, working under her employer’s plumbing licence, installs a new toilet for a client. This job is insured if the flexi hose that was installed bursts and floods the client’s home.
Illegal Plumbing Scenario – A registered, but unlicensed, plumber advertises his services as a qualified plumber and completes a job for a client from Airtasker, also installing a new toilet. This job is not insured if the flexi hose that was installed bursts and floods the client’s home. A compliance certificate can not be given, and without a plumbing licence number the client will not have any evidence of legal plumbing works to give to the insurance company in the event of a flooded house claim. The registered plumber will not have the appropriate insurance in place to cover this situation.
How Do I Check If a Plumber Is Licensed?
The VBA have a ‘Find a Practitioner’ tool which will search your plumber’s name and let you know if they are registered, licensed or do not appear at all. If they are only registered or their name doesn’t appear, make sure they are working under another plumber’s licence (this should be on a booking confirmation or website of the plumbing company). The Find a Plumber tool is found here.
Always Use a Licensed and Insured Plumber
While the allure of a cheap ‘qualified’ plumber or a handyman might seem tempting, the safest route for your plumbing needs is to opt for a local licensed plumber.
For more insights into plumbing regulations and best practices, check out our previous blog on Can a Handyman Do Plumbing in Victoria?. And for any legal and insured plumbing required, please call McCarthy Plumbing Group on 03 9931 905.