What to Do in the Case of a Dispute?
All work that comes under the jurisdiction of the WA Home Building Contracts Act (1991) is subject to a six year statutory warranty. If you have concerns about the work it is important to raise it with the cabinet maker at your earliest opportunity. In the event that the cabinet maker is a CMA member you are welcome to contact the CMA for advice.
If your cabinet maker is a member, the CMA will, if necessary organise an inspection of the work and present both parties with a comprehensive report covering the issues raised and suggesting the best ways to resolve these. For more information about the dispute resolution service, contact the CMA office on 1300 768 016. The dispute resolution service is free for CMA members and their clients. The CMA is also happy to provide advice for people having difficulties with non-member businesses.
The CMA has been able to resolve the overwhelming majority of the disputes it has dealt with over the past 30 years, saving many people and members from the cost and inconvenience of legal action. Visit the Building Commission website for more information on its dispute resolution process and the Home Building Contracts Act.
Pitfall one - Failure to familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation
No matter the complexity and cost of your project it is critical to ensure that you have an understanding of the Home Building Contracts Act (HBCA) and how it applies to you and your cabinetmaker. The major requirements of the HBCA are that for any work valued at over $7,500 and under $500,000 a written contract must be drawn up and that the cabinet maker can only ask for a deposit of 6.5% on signing of the contract, with further payments occurring in stages according to materials purchased and work carried out.
Don’t proceed on the basis of a quote or handshake. If you cabinet maker isn’t prepared to comply with the above then find someone else. The CMA has received numerous complaints from people who have handed over deposits significantly larger than the amount legally specificied and then experienced difficulties in getting the cabinet maker to do the work, or worse, discovering that the business has closed up.
The CMA recommends that you obtain a written contract, drawings and a clear specifications list even for work under the above threshold. Disputes can arise over the smallest detail and resolving these disputes can have considerable costs in both time and money and attending to detail will help to minimse the likelihood of disputes of this nature.
Pitfall two - Recommendations
Recommendations from family members, friends and work colleagues for example are useful as they can provide you with some idea of the competency and professionalism of a business. However, it does pay to do your own research and talk to a number of other businesses about your project. Carrying out this research can help to confirm whether the recommendation is a good one or not. It is also important to bear in mind that recommendations that have turned sour can also cause relationships to go sour.
Pitfall three - comparing like with like
Given that the average kitchen renovation is in the order of $20,000 plus, getting a professional design done can give you very good value for your money. Done correctly it will provide you with the most functional, aesthetically pleasing design for the space you have available and will give you greater insight into the options available within your budget. Good design however takes time and you should be prepared to pay for the end product. Many cabinet makers have or employ people with design skills and will generally incorporate the costs of design into the kitchen cost of you choose them to undertake the project. Having a plan and a specification list will help to ensure that quotes obtained will be for exactly the same work.
A not uncommon tactic within the industry is for the cabinet maker to quote a job using lesser specifications, which will then result in a significantly lower quote. Once the contract has been signed the cabinet maker will then question the specifications and variations (cost increases) are often the result.
Pitfall four - attention to details
Chose your cabinet maker carefully, price is one important consideration but many other factors can determine whether or not your experience is one that brings your great satisfaction or considerable frustration. Level of service, attention to details, compliance with legislation and preparedness to offer explanations and advice are some of the other factors you should consider when choosing your cabinet maker. A wise choice means that communication breakdown or failure to communicate is less likely to occur and this means less likelihood of the job going wrong.
Another important aspect here is to ensure that you receive clear drawings of your kitchen, specifying dimensions and layout and that you get a comprehensive specifications list identifying all the components of the project. including colours, type of bench top, door profiles and the cabinet hardware. This information should be provided along with your contract (the CMA recommends written contracts even on work which falls below the legal threshold value). Having this information means the potential for ‘you said we would get’ or ‘this was what I quoted on’ arguments is minimised.
Sometimes it is wise to come to an agreement with you cabinet maker as to the time frame for the installation of your work. Any agreement on this should be noted on the contract. It is important to remember however that cabinet makers, like many other businesses, are reliant on prompt delivery of supplies and common sense should be applied if the cabinet maker requests an extension of time.
Pitfall five - Kit (imported) kitchens
In recent years a number of the more difficult disputes the CMA has been called on to assist consumers with have involved kit kitchens. These kitchens are in most cases manufactured overseas and the components don’t always comply with the Australian Standards.
There are a number of issues to consider when purchasing a kit kitchen. The first is that the base and overhead cabinets are usually of modular construction, that is they only come in certain sizes. This can make installation very complex, often necessitating the use of infill panels to take up surplus space. Generally speaking most cabinet makers are reluctant to undertake the installation of these kitchens and people who have purchased them either do it themselves or find a handyman to do it for them.
In one notable case a couple in South Perth obtained several quotes from cabinet makers for their new kitchen and decided to use a contractor who purchased the imported kitchen from an auction. Unfortunately the installation was particularly difficult due to the nature of the property (an old weather board home) and the contractor wasn’t a cabinet maker.
The end result was a litany of mistakes and had to be seen to be believed, granite bench tops cut onsite with an angle grinder, cabinets hanging off the walls and installed out of plumb and out of level, fixings popping through the walls of cabinets, to name just a few of the issues. Essentially the job could not be fixed and in desperation the couple sought the assistance of the CMA. After several inspections by the CMA and a representative from the Builders Registration Board the matter went before the Building Disputes Tribunal which ordered the contractor to refund the cost of the kitchen and installation and pay for the removal of it.
After having endured a considerable amount of trouble trying to resolve the problem the couple chose a CMA member business (which had originally quoted the job) to replace the work. Having the kitchen locally built to a higher specification and professionally installed ended up costing them $1,500 more than the original which itself had cost them $16,000.