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This situation might ring a bell. You’ve called a plumber, he’s identified and fixed the issue at hand, given you a certificate of compliance and left. A few days later, the issue resurfaces. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Before you get flushed with worry about what you should be doing next, here are a few legal pointers to help you through the next phase.

What is the allowable claim period?

Home owners who have suffered loss and damage may have a claim pursuant to the Licensed Plumbers General Insurance Order 2002. The Order specifies the insurance by which a plumber must provide for plumbing work that has a total value of $500 or more. However home owners must ensure that they make a claim within the allowable claim period of six years in the circumstances mentioned below.

Slater and Gordon have noticed a trend in the defective workmanship claims where the plumber has failed to properly undertake plumbing works including defective roof plumbing; stormwater overflow; balcony and plumbing leaks; inadequate flashing or capping; inadequate falls in stormwater and sewer leading to rising damp and groundwater in basements. Where reactive soil is involved, it is common to find as a result of failing to install flexible joints crushed stormwater pipes that result in blockages and leakage. The defects may take months or years to manifest themselves.

What should the plumber’s compliance certificate cover?

The plumbing compliance certificate provided to the owner following the completion of works covers any liability to pay for the cost of rectifying any plumbing work required because of:

  1. Defects in the plumbing work;
  2. Any trade practices liability;
  3. Any public liability;
  4. Any completed work liability.

And includes:

Any liability arising from any consequential financial loss reasonably incurred by the building owner as a result of any defects or noncompletion of the plumbing work including but not limited to:

  1. The loss of any deposit or progress payment (or any part of any deposit or progress payment); and
  2. The cost of alternative accommodation, removal and storage costs that are reasonably and necessarily incurred;

Any liability arising from non-completion of the plumbing work due to:

  1. His or her death or legal incapacity;
  2. His or her disappearance; or
  3. His or her becoming an insolvent under administration as that expression is defined in the Corporations Act; or
  4. The cancellation or suspension of his or her licence as a licensed plumber under the Building Act 1993; or
  5. The early termination of the contract by the building owner as a result of the plumber’s wrongful failure or refusal to complete the plumbing work.

Circumstances under which a homeowner can make a claim

Home owners can claim for defects where work is not carried out in a proper and workmanlike manner, in accordance with any plans and specifications, or where unsuitable materials have been used. The insurance also applies where there is a damage to a third party, or any loss or damage to the property of a third party that arises out of the activities of the plumber in relation to plumbing work.

Be mindful of the six year mark

Owners should be aware that a claim must be made within 6 years after the plumber last issued a compliance certificate or if the plumber does not issue a compliance certificate in relation to the work, 6 years after the date the plumber stopped carrying out the work. The limitation period also includes claims for public liability and completed work liability that arises from personal injury to a third party or loss or damage to the property of a third party (other than damage to property that is part of the plumbing work itself) that occurs during the period of insurance caused by an occurrence that happens in connection with the carrying out of the work (regardless of when the work was carried out).

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