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A Plumbing Inspection Is Not A Guarantee

A Plumbing Inspection Is Not A Guarantee

A plumbing inspection by the council is not a guarantee and never has been. They are a compliance audit – nothing more, nothing less.

Recently Kelly from Hope Island sent me an email that began with the comment, “builders are liars, plumbers are incompetent, and the Gold Coast plumbing inspectors are frauds who take no responsibility…..”

I can only repeat to Kelly what many of us know and see every day in new or recently renovated buildings – “everyone who worked on your home did so because they were the cheapest, not because they were the best qualified and skilled to undertake the work.” Sadly that has become a reality in the construction industry.

The pressure by builders on plumbers to reduce prices and take “SHORTCUTS” increases daily, as I have stated previously, and in fairness, is frequently driven by the client demanding a “LOWER PRICE” and looking for the “BEST DEAL”.

In respect to Kelly’s comment about the Gold Coast plumbing inspectors, I understand the remark as there is a common urban myth that once your home or building has had a final inspection that it has been certified by the council and that the plumbing is perfect and that they are guaranteeing it.

This is incorrect as the plumbing inspector’s functions are set out in the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002. A plumbing inspector’s functions are to conduct investigations and inspections for monitoring and enforcing compliance with-

  • the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002; or
  • the Sustainable Planning Act 2009; or
  • the Local Government Act 2009.

The critical word in the legislation is COMPLIANCE. When the council inspector signs off the plumbing and drainage work on your home after being requested to undertake a final inspection by the licensed plumber responsible, you will only get a letter that says it is a PLUMBING AND DRAINAGE COMPLIANCE CERTIFICATE. It will state clearly, “This Compliance Certificate approves the regulated work or on-site sewerage work for the above property in respect of Compliance Permit number…..”

A compliance certificate from the plumbing inspectors is not a guarantee in any way, shape or form and should not be construed as such.

Unfortunately and sadly but these days, it is ultimately up to you to ensure that you are getting high-standard, quality work by dealing with reputable, experienced licensed contractors who perform work to the standards set out in the Plumbing Code of Australia.

Always ask to see the plumber’s contractor’s license, and always ensure for insurance purposes, you get a copy of either the council compliance certificate or the QBCC Form 4 compliance certificate, depending upon the work you have had undertaken.

Do We Need Plumbing Inspectors in Queensland?

Do We Need Plumbing Inspectors in Queensland?

For as long as I can remember, there has been a debate about whether we need council plumbing inspectors. After all, there is no such thing as council building inspectors anymore or electrical or gas inspectors. Plumbers in Queensland are the only licensed trade still legally obligated to have work inspected by the local council plumbing inspector.

In reality, Queensland is the only state in Australia still with council plumbing inspectors. All other states now only have audits of work undertaken which depend on the honesty and integrity of the plumbers lodging the correct paperwork.

With the amendments to the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 coming into effect in Queensland in November, I believe we will have the best of all worlds. We will still have council plumbing inspectors, but their role will change to allow them to concentrate on ensuring new buildings are fully compliant, plus undertaking much more audit work.

The most significant improvement will be that much of the work on existing buildings will become notifiable, meaning that it can be undertaken without a council permit or inspection. This will reduce red tape and fees dramatically, plus speed up the ability of work being launched, as there will be no waiting of 2-4 weeks for applications to be processed and approved.

Of course, these improvements will only benefit plumbing companies that already obey the law and ensure they undertake work in a compliant manner. It will make no difference to those plumbers who have refused to comply with the law and lodge no paperwork. Likewise, it will make no difference to those without plumbing licenses who undertake plumbing work.

In recent years I have undertaken projects in Asia based in Singapore, where we have an office specialising in advanced hot water systems and sustainability products such as waterless urinals. Having returned from Singapore this week, I am reminded why we need plumbing inspectors because there is no sense in having world class laws and regulations when there are no audits or inspections of the work to ensure the plumbing systems are compliant.

Gold Coast plumbing inspectors

Above is a photo of a 25-litre hot water service installation in a bathroom in an apartment worth around $1.75 million in downtown Singapore. This would have been installed as part of the building construction and is impossible to maintain without completely disconnecting as the element and thermostat face into the wall. Even more concerning is that the relief valve does not discharge into a tundish but onto the floor.

This scenario is not unusual in Singapore, as there are no plumbing inspections. Although similar to Australia, buildings are constructed to a cost, not to a standard but at least in Queensland, with council plumbing inspectors undertaking inspections at all stages of a building’s construction, building owners can be assured that the plumbing and drainage installations are compliant and of a high standard.

On the Gold Coast, it is to be hoped that the GCCC plumbing inspectors embrace the reforms and improve their track record for “interpretations” of both the legislation and the Australian standards.

Ultimately local council plumbing inspectors are a critical part of the system in protecting public health and safety, and a well-run council plumbing inspectors department benefits the community as a whole.

What Value Is There In An Audit By Gold Coast City Council Plumbing Inspectors?

What Value Is There In An Audit By Gold Coast City Council Plumbing Inspectors?

Gold Coast homeowners are increasingly subjected to allegedly “free compliance audits” by Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors. To justify their jobs in a depressed market with almost nil construction activity, Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors act like desperate door-to-door salesmen knocking on the doors of homeowners who have upgraded hot water systems. There is no legislative requirement for these audits to occur, and the homeowner does not need to allow them to enter their home.

To fill in time and justify their jobs, Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors are undertaking “audits” that are not requested and are unannounced. The plumbing inspectors are knocking on the door and stating they are there to inspect the hot water service.   Legally they can assess the work if invited to do so by you. No Gold Coast plumber is asking them to evaluate the work, as none of us sees any value in doing so. Neither Gold Coast City Council nor its plumbing inspectors take any risk or responsibility, so their inspection is of no real value except to justify their jobs.

If Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors arrive unannounced at your door, he has no right of entry. He may request access by your invitation to inspect work that pertains to the form 4 plumbing contractors are legally obliged to lodge, but that is the absolute limit. If you refuse him entry, then he must immediately depart.

Unfortunately, the plumbing inspectors are loose with the truth and make out that they are legally obligated to undertake this audit. They do not inform homeowners that it is optional and not a legislative requirement.

The individual plumbing inspectors are not to blame for these events but are forced to do so as they work in an appalling atmosphere at Gold Coast City Council. It has been common knowledge within the plumbing industry for many years that the Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors are a deeply troubled organisation with bullying, abuse of power, nepotism, cronyism and double standards a daily occurrence.

Several clients of Whywait Plumbing that have received these unexpected visits were shocked when we phoned to say their hot water service we installed six months ago has had a defect notice issued. In every instant, as long as Whywait Plumbing receives the defect notice, we undertake the “repairs”, which invariably are that the tempering valve legally required to deliver hot water at 50 degrees is over temperature. To date, every home we have returned to is between 1-3 degrees over temperature. To see more information on the requirements of tempering valves and your obligations, click here.

Many of our clients have told us that they do not want the plumbing inspectors returning to their homes to re-audit. This we have conveyed via email to Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspectors on behalf of our clients. As a result, we had a phone call from the Gold Coast City Council Plumbing & Drainage Supervisor, Brian Till, recently, who informed us we should be encouraging our clients to have the re-audit undertaken; otherwise, we will remain responsible for the defects despite our notifying Gold Coast City Council that rectification work has been conducted.

Furthermore, Brian Till advised that the property will have registered against the title that there are outstanding plumbing defects which can have severe financial repercussions if you wish to sell your home.

If you get an unexpected knock on the door from a Gold Coast City Council plumbing inspector, we recommend you decline to allow them entry to your home. However, declining access does not affect you as they walk away, and the file is closed.

However, suppose you have had a defect notice issued. In that case, we recommend allowing a re-audit at a time that is suitable for you to ensure no defects are registered against your property. If you desire, we will attend at no cost to reassure you and ensure that due process is complied with.