We all love the idea of a quick fix. The phantom friend of that cousin or the much-respected mate’s-brother-in-law that can do it all. They can come quickly, you feel like you can trust them, and it’s promised to be cheaper than any other option. Here’s where you need to stop and do your homework.

When it comes to the essential utilities of your house or business, there is a lot to consider in the service – for example, if it isn’t done to the best standard, will it really be cheaper in the long run? Is it insured? When hiring a licensed plumber in Australia, it’s not enough to rely solely on their years of experience or the reputation of their business.

Plumbing is a licensed profession in Australia, and individuals who offer plumbing services must adhere to strict regulations and undergo rigorous training and certification processes. In this blog, we’ll explore why it’s essential to check with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to verify a plumber’s credentials before hiring them for any plumbing work.

 Unfortunately, in Australia, many tradespeople advertise and complete work without the current qualifications. You might have heard of the Doggie Brothers Plumbing on Current Affairs, luckily that’s a more extreme case. But they brought to light how hard unlicensed plumbers can be to pick, and the results are always the same.

 At Butler Plumbing, it wasn’t hard to collect four recent examples we experienced: 

  • In our mailbox, a local Handman advertised his services which included cleaning and replacing guttering. When we looked them up, they had no plumbing licence, so doing this work would be illegal.Any subsequent damage as a result of work also wouldn’t be covered by insurance. For example, if those new gutters become blocked with leaves and cause a flood, the insurance company would not pay for any damage, and the owner would foot an insurmountable bill.
  • There’s a local qualified plumber in our area who has been in business for over 20 years and is an experienced, pleasant and capable individual. He does a lot of work for domestic real estate and many of his clients use him repeatedly.Lo and behold, we, and we’re sure his clients, were shocked to discover that although he is a licensed plumber he is not licensed for drainage and sanitary. This means any of his work relating to bathroom renovations, toilet replacement or repairs to blocked drains is illegal and not guaranteed.If you have a rental property, you don’t have as much swing into choosing your service providers. So it’s important to ask if your agent is checking this.
  • Recently, a friend began selling their property that had been in their family for over 35 years. During that time the suburb had moved from Septic Tank to town sewerage. At the time they were lucky enough to have a mate who could do the work on weekends and this made the transfer much more affordable.However, as the work was completed for ‘Mates Rates’, these agreements don’t go for when it comes time to sell. There was no paperwork and the drain was never inspected or officially signed off as complete. 25 years later they’re trying to sell the property, and the sale could not be finalised until they had an independent licensed plumber inspect and sign off on the completion of the drainage.As the plumbing was predominantly underground or under concrete, it was a very stressful time for them.  Luckily, qualified licensed plumbers use CCTV cameras to inspect underground without having to break ground. Still, it was costly, and time-consuming and threatened the sale being successful.
  • Even Plumbing Companies can get caught in it. We recently interviewed a very experienced roof plumber who had been sent to us through a recruiting company. He interviewed well and showed us his social media with illustrated photos of many roofing jobs he had completed.We were impressed, but before offering him the job we checked the VBA site to ensure he was registered. Not only was he not licensed nor registered, he had never done an apprenticeship – it goes without saying, we moved on to the next candidate.

What is involved in becoming a licensed plumber and why are not all plumbers the same?

Plumbers are a bit like Doctors – there are General Practitioners and there are specialists. Each plumber’s training, experience, licensing and insurance determine which category they fall into. Plumbers who offer work to the public are licensed under certain skill sets, such as drainage, gas, stormwater and backflow among others.

 The journey to become a licenced plumber takes multiple years: 

  • Four-Year Apprenticeship: During this apprenticeship, aspiring plumbers gain hands-on experience and receive training in various aspects of plumbing. This foundational training ensures that they have a solid understanding of plumbing systems and the skills necessary to carry out plumbing work safely and effectively.
  • Registration: Plumbers register for the type of plumbing work they wish to work in.  To do this they have to gain experience in the particular field, complete further studies and sit further exams. Once registered the certified plumber can complete work in the area they have registered in but they must be supervised by a licensed plumber.  Most plumbers who are employees are Registered Plumbers.
  • Licensing: To provide plumbing services to the public they need to become licensed in the area they wish to work in.  This involves further study in the particular plumbing areas plus other studies that include OH&S, estimating and business.  They also have to take out public and professional indemnity insurance.Licensed plumbers are the only ones authorised to lodge compliance certificates for plumbing work in their specific area of speciality. This certificate is essential as it confirms that the plumbing work has been completed in accordance with all relevant regulations and standards. Without this certificate, you may face difficulties with your insurance company in case of any damage caused by unlicensed plumbing work. This is both public and professional indemnity.

How do I check if the plumber is licensed for the work I need?

 Always check the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) website for credentials and in particular they are registered for the type of work you need. The licensing is under the owner of the company’s name, not under the company name. For example, Butler Plumbing’s licence is under 25910 or Andrew Butler.

 While the Mate’s-Brother-In-Law go-to seems like a better deal, the risks are just too big. Remember that: 

  • There is no guarantee of their workmanship – it’s a risk whether they’ll even manage to do the job appropriately.
  • Insurance companies will not cover damage related to their work, even if their work is not the reason for the damage – think roof leak damage that damages the integrity of the building.
  • Manufacturers only warranty work completed by a licensed trade.
  • Licenced plumbers are required to complete continued professional development, meaning they’re always aware of changing requirements and the latest best practices.
  • Licenced plumbers must provide proof of their Professional and Public Liability insurance annually to the Victorian Building Authority.  
  • Licensed plumbers often provide warranties or guarantees for their work. This means that if any issues arise after the plumbing job is completed, they will return to address them at no additional cost, giving you peace of mind. The VBA regulates this as an independent third party, so you can rest assured you’ll be in safe hands.
  • There’s an increased property value when you can document the history of plumbing work completed by licensed professionals. Buyers and inspectors often look favourably upon homes with a well-maintained and professionally installed plumbing system.

Need a reliable, qualified and trusted Plumber? Get in touch today.