Non-Conforming & Non-Compliant Plumbing & Building Products Are Illegal To Supply, Specify & Install
Non-conforming plumbing products that have not the appropriate WaterMark certification have always been illegal for licensed plumbers to install.
The WaterMark Certification Scheme is not voluntary. It is a mandatory and legally enforcible certification scheme for plumbing and drainage products. This is to ensure they are fit for purpose plus appropriately tested and authorised for use in all plumbing and drainage installations.
It has been illegal since 2017 for anyone to supply, specify, instruct others to install or for anyone to install non-conforming plumbing and building products in Queensland. Unfortunately, many companies think they can ignore their responsibilities to obey the law. Online sales of non-conforming plumbing products are rampant. There are advertisements all over social media promoting DIY installations of non-conforming plumbing products such as My Bidet Australia.
On 30 August 2017 the Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products-Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017, regarding the use and sale of non-conforming building products became law.
These laws further strengthened how compliance must be achieved with amendments to the Queensland Building and Construction Act 1991, the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018, and the Building Act 1975 concerning non-conforming building and plumbing products.
These laws create a chain of responsibility so that designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plumbing and building products have as much responsibility as licensed plumbers to ensure a product is compliant and fit for its intended purpose.
These laws give the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) new powers to investigate the manufacture, sale and use of non-conforming building products.
Building and plumbing products are regarded as illegal, non-conforming or non-compliant for an intended use if;
the product is not, or will not be, safe; or
does not, or will not, comply with the relevant regulatory provisions; or
the product does not perform or is not capable of performing, for the use of the standard it is represented to conform by such as Watermark certification.
Definitions of Non-Conforming Plumbing Products
There are 1000’s of plumbing products manufactured both in Australia and overseas. Consequently, it can be challenging to know whether or not a plumbing product is genuine and will perform as required plus will comply and conform with the WaterMark Certification Scheme.
You can check the WaterMark Product Database which lists all plumbing products that have been certified and marked in accordance with the requirements of the WaterMark Certification Scheme.
In general, everyone should be aware of the following terms regarding compliant plumbing products:
Non-compliant plumbing and building products and materials are any product used in situations where they do not comply with the requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC) which encompasses the WaterMark Certification Scheme. You must be aware any plumbing product can be both non-conforming and non-compliant.
Fraudulent documentation refers to a recorded claim that a plumbing product’s performance meets specified Australian plumbing standards when used or tested, do not meet that performance claim. This frequently will include falsified documentation, fraudulent certification or test results.
Product substitution is commonplace and can occur when a product is submitted for third-party certification testing and, after the WaterMark certification is granted, the manufacturer/supplier alters it and does not retest or recertify the product. Product substitution is also a widespread problem where a seemingly identical but non-conforming replacement plumbing product is offered to replace the WaterMark certified product.
Counterfeit plumbing products are also widespread and are an unauthorised copy of a plumbing product, created with the intention to deceive. They are illegally sold to suppliers, plumbers, building owners and consumers, as genuine.
These laws have created a legal chain of responsibility for everyone for reporting non-conforming building or plumbing products to the QBCC. This duty applies to every person in the chain of responsibility who becomes aware or reasonably suspects that the building or plumbing product installed is non-conforming and or non-compliant for the intended use.
As Licensed Plumbers, it has always been illegal for us here at Whywait Plumbing to install non-conforming plumbing products. However, it is now illegal for anyone to supply a non-conforming plumbing product.
At Whywait Plumbing we have always complied with these laws. We will notify the QBCC immediately whenever we discover non-conforming, non-compliant illegal plumbing products installed anywhere.
Ultimately these laws are for the protection, safety and security of everyone.
I recently had a client comment that Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes far more than doctors bury their mistakes. It is a comment I cannot disagree with in any way. Increasingly we see underground plumbing work that is so non-compliant it’s confirming Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes, knowingly and deliberately.
Calling them mistakes is not being truthful because we all know it’s a deliberate act to cut costs. We all understand those plumbing companies that choose to undertake construction work are under enormous competitive pressure to reduce construction costs continually.
However, because of these plumbing companies buckling to pressure from project managers, builders and developers, they are in an ever downward spiral of negligently breaking the law. The reality is all of the parties involved in the lawbreaking know the chances of them getting caught are slim as the inspections by City of Gold Coast’s plumbing, and drainage inspectors are cursory at best.
Underground water pipes, house sewer drains and house stormwater drains are all buried underground. Unfortunately for property owners, it can take years before the problems become apparent and they investigate the issue. By this time the original construction job is out of warranty, and the QBCC will show little interest in any investigation of negligence.
Investigation and rectification of non-compliant installation of underground plumbing infrastructure fall onto the hapless property owner. Rectification bills can be enormous, and the likelihood is there is no insurance coverage or any desire by the council or state regulatory authorities to investigate.
I believe we have the best plumbing regulations and standards in the world. We used to have the best enforcement in the world to ensure our buildings met the high standards required. The enforcement of the Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the preceding laws have become so lax that most buildings constructed in the last twenty years have multiple underground plumbing defects. Disastrously for property owners, the majority of these defects are waiting to break down and cause havoc finally.
When these buried mistakes are covered by insurance and break down, causing water damage, every one of us bears a cost via ever-increasing property insurance premiums on all buildings. If enforcement had occurred at the construction stage, then this water damage would have never happened.
It is our experience as maintenance plumbers that builders and developers perceive they can reduce costs and increase profits by not complying with the Plumbing and Drainage act of 2018.
The legal obligations of complying with the Plumbing Code of Australia, which is Volume 3 of the National Construction Code, is not even a consideration.
I accept this lack of compliance has come about due to multiple factors and pressures. Nevertheless, this short-sighted attitude and systematic non-compliance with what is the law affects property owners with prodigious rectification costs. I believe that the project managers, builders, developers and plumbers involved in this ongoing fraud of property owners and insurance companies are well aware of what they are doing but blame it on:
Competitive pressures in the construction industry where the lowest price wins mentality rewards plumbers who take non-compliant short cuts to reduce costs to win jobs
All builders actively forcing cost-cutting on sub-contractors and suppliers
Time constraints on plumbers to complete the job and be paid
The reluctance of builders to inform clients that unforeseen issues have arisen which will increase the cost of construction
The failure of building certifiers and plumbing inspectors to defect non-compliant work and the turning of a blind eye to incorrectly graded trenches, lack of compaction and inappropriate backfilling of trenches
Continual lack of enforcement by the Queensland Government regulators
Every one of the above has in their view a justifiable excuse for what is occurring but all that is required is for the law to be obeyed. The Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 merely need to be enforced to stop Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes attitude continuing.
By enforcing the law, everyone is a winner and will return us to the standards that previously existed where non-compliant work was defected without a second thought. Every plumber I discuss this with would be more than happy with this to occur as it would create a level playing field for the plumbing industry where efficiency was rewarded rather than non-compliant short cuts. It further protects property owners and the entire construction industry that is already under a cloud due to the cladding non-compliance in buildings throughout Australia.
As licensed plumbers, we are mindful that non-compliant plumbing is a public health risk. I reiterate most of the non-compliant work is knowingly and deliberate which is ultimately negligent behaviour. Sooner or later insurance companies and no-win no-pay lawyers will awaken to the fact that this non-compliance is negligence resulting in the plumbing industry as a whole is portrayed as cowboys with no integrity ripping off poor property owners.
This is a scenario where no one wins except the lawyers. As a critical industry plumbers cannot allow a perception that plumbers as a whole are unable to undertake legally compliant work. We certainly need no more regulation we just need the existing laws and regulations enforced to protect the community’s health as a whole.
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.
Three 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.
On 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.