A Perth tradeswoman has been fined a total of $7,400 after pleading guilty to seven offences including contracting for building and painting work without the required registrations and demanding excessive deposits.
Serene May Ling Ng (also known as Serene Huang) of Stars Homes & Granny Flats was sentenced at the Perth Magistrates Court on 1 April 2022 in relation to home renovation work at two properties in Applecross and Willetton.
According to information presented in court by Building and Energy, Ms Ng was contracted in August 2019 to carry out renovation work quoted at over $115,000 at the Applecross house. This included installation of kitchen cabinets and windows, paintwork, flooring and construction of decking steps.
Under WA’s builder registration laws, only a registered building contractor can undertake building work valued at $20,000 or more that requires a building permit. Ms Ng was not a registered builder.
Registration as a painting contractor is also required for paid painting work valued at $1,000 or more. Ms Ng did not hold the required registration for the painting component of the contract, which was valued at approximately $10,000.
The Applecross contract stated that a 20 per cent deposit was required. Under the Home Building Contracts Act 1991, a maximum deposit of 6.5 per cent is allowed to be demanded for residential building work valued at $7,500 or more before the work begins.
The Act also requires the home owners to receive a notice outlining their contract rights, which Ms Ng did not provide.
A separate State Administrative Tribunal matter concluded in January 2022 with an order for Ms Ng to pay $70,000 to the Applecross home owners.
In relation to the Willetton house, Ms Ng also pleaded guilty to contracting for building work without the required registration, demanding an excessive deposit and not providing the contract notice to the owners.
In February 2021, Ms Ng provided a quote of $58,000 for work at this property including room extensions, installation of walls, ceilings and flooring, and bathroom and bedroom alterations. She requested and received a 30 per cent deposit from the owners.
Building and Energy Acting Executive Director Sandy Randall said this type of conduct undermines the industry as a whole and is unfair to those builders and painters who are appropriately qualified and registered.
“The unregistered conduct in this matter was serious. Ms Ng was contracted to carry out substantial works that were valued far beyond the limit of an unregistered person,” Ms Randall said.
“The importance of having a registered builder exceeds more than just the quality of work. Home indemnity insurance can only be taken out by registered builders, and is compulsory for home building work valued over $20,000. This insurance protects home owners as it covers losses up to a prescribed value in the event of their builder’s death, disappearance or insolvency.
“The requirement to give a prescribed notice is designed to ensure home owners are aware of contract requirements, their rights and the builder’s obligations before they sign a contract.
“The 6.5 per cent deposit limit is also there to protect consumers by minimising their potential financial losses. Ms Ng demanded excessive deposits, being 20 per cent and 30 per cent, and put the consumers in a vulnerable position.”