A recent phone call I received regarding suspected illegal plumbing from an insurance company assessor was a timely reminder of why property owners and property managers must ensure the following where any plumbing work is concerned:

  • that all plumbing work on your property is undertaken by a licensed plumbing contractor
  • that all legislated council inspections are undertaken and all fees paid
  • get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee
  • and that all products such as taps and toilets are WaterMark and WELS approved products

In this particular incident, the assessor was verifying with us what the property owner had claimed after a child had undertaken some experimental work with a pull out kitchen spray hose. We were able to supply the documentation he was seeking and all was well.

But this is not always the case. We had a situation we had to rectify last year where the owner of a hairdressing salon broken every rule in the book and paid dearly for it when her salon was flooded.

Like us all, she was extremely busy. Needing to replace her taps on the hair washing basins she did a Google search and found the perfect taps online at half the price she was expecting to pay.

A week later the taps arrived with instructions on how to install them so she decided her husband could do the installation as he was a bit of a handyman. The following Sunday when the salon was shut her husband removed the faulty taps and after a few minor mishaps had the taps up and working by that evening all ready for the next days trading.

The taps were a huge improvement on the old ones because they actually worked with the water mixing beautifully to the right temperature at the touch of the handle. Everyone was happy – clients, employees and owners.

The salon owner and staff talked with their clients whilst doing their hair how great the new taps. A major topic of conversation was what a bargain they had been to buy online plus they had saved a fortune on employing a plumber by doing all the installation themselves.

illegal plumbing causes water damage to hairdressing salonThree months after the taps were installed the salon owner got a call at home on a Saturday morning just as she was leaving for work to say there was water coming out of the front door to her salon.

When she arrived at the salon the water was indeed pouring out of the door and everywhere else. Water was flowing continuously from a burst connection hose on one of the new taps. Luckily she knew where to turn the water off on the street. Unfortunately, the taps did not have individual control valves under the hot and cold connections despite it being a required installation of the taps instructions.

A flooded salon meant that she had to get her staff to cancel client appointments despite it being the busiest day of the week. Instead of it being a cash flow positive trading day it became cash-flow negative with staff cleaning up the salon in conjunction with a multitude of tradesman beginning rectification.

a tap without a WaterMark logo is illegal plumbingOn Monday with the rectification work already underway the insurance companies assessor arrived to inspect the damage. As expected he was a model of empathy with her plight taking a number of photos of the damage to the salon.

The Salon owner showed the assessor the faulty tap which he checked over and agreed it was indeed the cause of her flooded salon.

The assessor then asked her where she had brought the mixer taps and who was the plumber who installed them. Proudly she explained how she had saved a fortune purchasing the taps online and that her husband had installed them so they had saved the cost of the plumber as well.

She also told the assessor she had emailed the online store where she had purchased them as they had no phone number demanding that they supply a replacement tap.

On Friday she received a letter from her insurance company not only declining to cover the damage to the salon but also declining coverage on her business interruption insurance. Their reasons were she had through her own negligence directly caused the damage which also caused her business to have to temporarily cease trading. The negligence was:

  • the installation of non-compliant taps with no Australian WaterMark or WELS certification in the salon’s basins
  • the said taps were installed by a non-licensed person with no compliant contractor registration in contravention of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and Queensland Building Services Authority Act 1991.

So the bargain taps and the do it yourself plumbing installation turned into a financial nightmare for the salon owner. The repairs and rectification cost in excess of $30000. In addition, there was the loss of eight days trading plus the loss of clients who went and found a new salon.

You get what you pay for is an old cliche but with plumbing its definitely true. If the salon owner had complied with the law and done what she ultimately had to do, in employing a licensed plumber to install compliant mixer taps with individual control valves at the connection point she would have had not a single problem. Even if she had still had a burst connector flexihose to the tap her insurance coverage would have covered all of her costs as would have the public liability insurance policy of the plumber.

Ultimately its always to your advantage to:

  • employ a licensed plumber and
  • make sure the products he installs are WaterMark and WELS compliant and
  • ensure you get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee.

If you do all of the above you will never have a problem with an insurance claim being rejected because you have a paper trail for the assessor to follow. And I’m sure you will be surprised but our salon owner never received a new tap or any reply from the online store.

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