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23 January 2020
Builder using drill

Information for homeowners


If you have a home insurance policy, contact your insurer as soon as possible. If you don’t have a copy of your insurance documents, contact the Insurance Council on 1300 728 228.

Beware of travelling conmen

Travelling conmen turn up as tradespeople and demand cash upfront for repairs or cleaning services. If you take up their offer, you run the risk of:

  • substandard work
  • being out of pocket if the trader disappears before finishing the job
  • being unable to contact the trader once they have been paid
  • paying more to have a legitimate tradesperson repair shoddy work.

Be wary of anyone offering a ‘government grant’ for assistance, or demanding your bank account details. Your local council or relief centre can provide information about your entitlement to genuine government assistance.

Report travelling conmen to Consumer and Business Services (CBS).

Choosing a builder/tradesperson

  • Get recommendations from friends or relatives. Contact professional associations or industry organisations to find local building services.
  • Check that the builder or tradesperson is licensed - ask to see their digital or plastic licence card, or check the licence details on CBS’ Licensing Public Register.
  • Avoid tradespeople who give only mobile numbers and first names. You may not be able to contact them if there is a problem.
  • Get at least three quotes.
  • Ask to see examples of recent completed works.


If the job will cost:

  • Less than $12,000

A formal contract and building indemnity insurance are not required by law. However, a written contract or at least a written quote is recommended as proof of what has been agreed – e.g. price, scope of the job.

  • More than $12,000

There must be a written contract. If the job requires council approval, and you intend to act as an owner-builder, you must have a private building surveyor or registered building work supervisor to oversee the job. Any builder contracted to do work costing over $12,000 must take out building indemnity insurance, and any plumbing, gas-fitting or electrical work must be completed by licensed tradespersons.


As a general rule, you should only make progress payments for work done. However, the builder may ask you to pay in advance for certain expenses - e.g. council approval, building indemnity insurance or engineer/surveyor’s report.

Apart from this money, the builder cannot take a deposit of more than:

  • $1,000 where the contract is between $12,000 and $20,000
  • 5% of the contract value if the contract costs more than $20,000.

If a building project had already started before the crisis

Talk to your builder - their general construction insurance may cover it. If you have lost your contract documents, contact your builder and ask for another copy. Talk to your insurer or the Insurance Council by phoning 1300 728 228.

If you want to make changes to the building contract:

  • Discuss these with your builder and ask them to clarify the impact of these changes in writing.
  • Talk to your building surveyor about additional permits that may be required. Their contact information is on your building permit. Request a copy from your local council if your permit has been destroyed.
  • Contact your local council to find out about building control requirements, including changes to permits.

Need more help?