How to avoid a dodgy tradie

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A tradie drilling on a building

With today’s abundance of online information and ratings, finding the right service or product is seemingly easier than ever. However, there are still some areas where the consumer can feel they lack the information they need to make the right choice.

And while a thousand reliable tradespeople may go unremarked upon, there's a special category of dinner-party horror story reserved for the dodgy tradie.

It can be daunting to allow someone into your home for extended periods of time, to whom you pay large sums of money and entrust with the appearance and stability of your home. Here are a few ways you can boost your chances of a job well done:


Researching a potential new service is a sound first step for everything from coffee to home renovations.

The very best research is to seek recommendations from trusted people in the industry – another tradesperson, or someone who uses tradies regularly. A friend or colleague who is happy with work done can be another useful source.

If you don’t have a direct contact as a starting point, or want a second opinion, remember that others have gone boldly before you and conveniently critiqued their experience online complete with a star-rating.

Bear in mind that in the world of populist online rantings, some people are impossible to please, so read all kinds of reviews and find a balance. A quick Google search should yield effective results.

While you’re at it, have a look on to check whether your preferred tradesperson is licensed to do the job.

Compare and contrast

Once you’ve done your research, get at least three quotes from providers and compare prices. If there’s a significant variance between the lowest and highest quote, consider that over-quoting may mean that the tradie doesn’t want the job and is trying to put you off, while underquoting could indicate a willingness to cut corners or a penchant for poor-quality work.

Keep timing in mind – if you’re keen on a particular tradie and their quote, are you willing to wait until they’re free to do the job?


Once you’ve settled on someone to do the job, be as clear as possible about your expectations and needs to avoid complications later on.

Write it down

For bigger jobs, put together a contract once you’ve reached an agreement and have set goals that are achievable. This works for both parties: it protects you in case that staircase you wanted in the foyer ends up in the garage, and will protect the tradie if that garage staircase was agreed on in the planning stages.

Be as detailed as possible. If you make changes, make sure these are included in the contract and acknowledged by both parties. There are plenty of websites that provide a template for contracts if you’re not sure how to start.

If it all goes wrong

Even the savviest consumer can’t avoid things going awry from time to time. After choosing a tradie, if you notice that they are vague, late, unresponsive or require a large deposit or payment up front, you might have hired a cowboy.  

There are steps you can take to limit the damage a cowboy tradie can inflict on your home and finances. As long as you’ve kept hold of your receipts and invoices, have a detailed contract and hire someone who’s registered, you should be liable for cover by consumer protections. Consumers can seek reimbursement for services of an unacceptable standard, broken contractual obligations and work that doesn’t fit the specified purpose.

If this is the case, approach the builder first to try to resolve the issue. Detail your issues with the work in writing and ask for amendment or refund, if necessary. If you’re unable to resolve your issue directly, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria or Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria and lodge a complaint.

Written by Jade Thrupp
September 01, 2017