Complaints about plumbing work
The VBA Complaints Services department receives complaints from consumers and other agencies about plumbing work. These complaints may relate to:
- plumbing work that does not comply with relevant laws, regulations or Australian standards
- failure to lodge/issue a compliance certificate where it was required, or the compliance certificate was incorrect
- plumbing work carried out by people who are not registered or licensed to carry out that work.
We will assess the complaint, and try to resolve the matter wherever possible.
The complainant (the person making the complaint) is required to provide sufficient credible evidence to support their complaint, such as photographs or a plumbing report. The evidence is reviewed by a Senior Technical Advisor (Plumbing) who confirms what action is required.
We will take action on a substantiated complaint if:
- the complaint relates to regulated plumbing work completed within 10 years of the complaint
- the plumber or person who carried out the work can be identified.
Complaints about unregistered or unlicensed plumbing work must be within three years of the work being carried out. This is because unregistered or unlicensed work may result in prosecution, which has specific time limits.
The VBA is unable to inspect a site when we receive a complaint. We are reliant on the evidence provided by the complainant.
If a complaint about non-compliant plumbing work appears to be supported, the VBA expects the licensed plumber to return to the site and rectify the plumbing work. The plumber must provide evidence that compliance has been achieved. Once we are satisfied with the rectification, the complaint is closed as resolved.
If a compliance certificate was required but was not lodged or issued, the VBA expects the licensed plumber to lodge or issue the certificate to resolve the complaint. Similarly, if a compliance certificate needs to be corrected, the complaint is resolved when the certificate has been corrected.
An infringement notice may be issued if a compliance certificate was not lodged or issued as required by legislation.
A substantiated complaint may also result in the plumber being referred to plumbing audits, so their future work is audited for compliance.
Referral for investigation
A complaint will be referred to the Plumbing Investigations Unit if:
- it cannot be resolved because we are not satisfied compliance has been achieved
- a required compliance certificate has not been lodged, issued or corrected
- the property owner wants to make a claim on the licensed plumber's warranty insurance.
Complaints about unlicensed or unregistered plumbing work are referred for investigation if there is enough evidence and if the time frame will allow a prosecution to proceed.
If we identify a pattern of incompetence or negligence from the number of substantiated complaints against a licensed plumber, the plumber may be referred for an investigation.
We employ investigators and inspectors who are authorised to carry out investigative functions and inspections under the legislative framework.
In conjunction with the VBA's compliance and enforcement policy, the Investigations Unit will carry out a risk assessment to determine the appropriate regulatory action.
The Investigations Unit may issue a rectification notice or the licensed plumber may be required to attend a Formal Inquiry.
If the recommendation put forth is to proceed with a Formal Inquiry, the investigation is compiled into a brief of evidence and submitted to VBA’s Legal Services for consideration.
If Legal Services determines that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a Formal Inquiry, a formal notice to attend is sent to the plumber. It contains:
- an attendance and date and time to attend
- any relevant information regarding the formal inquiry process.
During a Formal Inquiry, the brief of evidence is presented by a VBA Legal services representative, with copies of the brief also presented to the presiding Panel Members and the plumber. Once all relevant parties have been provided the opportunity to make representations, the Panel will begin their deliberations.
When considering the outcome and associated penalties of the Inquiry, the Panel Members will take into consideration the following factors:
- the severity of the plumber's actions
- the cost of damages resulting from the actions
- prior offences.
Once a decision is finalised, the disciplinary action administered to the practitioner may include:
- a reprimand
- a monetary fine determined by a set amount of penalty units under the Building Act 1993
- the plumber having to complete further training in a particular class of plumbing
- cancellation of their plumbing licence or registration for up to three years.
Release of insurance
In some cases, a complainant may not want the original licensed plumber to return to the site to rectify work. If the compliance certificate confirms that the plumbing work was carried out within six years of the complaint, the complaint may be referred for investigation for release of insurance details. This will also occur if the plumber is no longer licensed or no longer available to rectify plumbing work.
The VBA does not have jurisdiction over insurance companies and cannot assist if a dispute arises in relation to an insurance claim.