Photo reveals family’s $103k reno ‘hell’
A NSW family claims they have "been through hell" after two tradesmen left them with a badly damaged home - and tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
The saga began in July 2013 when Rachel and Brian Palmer decided to renovate their four-bedroom house on the NSW Central Coast.
The Palmers planned to split their home's single large bathroom into one main one and one master bedroom en suite.
But the work was completed by a local who, unbeknown to the family, did not have the correct licence to carry out the renovation - which meant he also did not have home builders insurance.
The $40,000 job took 18 days in total, and the result was "beautiful" - but just 18 months later, the tiles started to crack because not enough space had been left between them, which meant they didn't have enough room to expand and move with the weather.
It caused serious problems, leaving one bathroom unable to be used.
They reported the rogue tradesman to Fair Trading NSW but were told nothing could be done as he was unlicensed.
They then took the case to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and won, and
the Palmers were awarded $55,000 in damages, which included court costs and legal fees.
They also applied to the court to force the tradie into bankruptcy, which means he can no longer get credit - but the Palmers say they still haven't received a cent.
In desperation over their ruined home, the couple then decided to remortgage their home so they could hire a second tradie to rectify the problems.
They found a new, fully-licensed tradesman and were quoted $48,000 in total.
They had a written contract confirming the work that was to be done, but Mrs Palmer claims he failed to include a second layer of waterproofing, which they had agreed upon.
She told news.com.au he ripped up the bathroom tiles three times in an attempt to fix the uneven surface, which damaged the top layer of the waterproofing membrane.
They have also been left with "wonky" tiles and doorframes and a shower enclosure with odd angles.
There is now a "huge" 47mm step up into the main bathroom when it used to be flush and an incorrectly sized window in the main bathroom.
The second tradie also moved a wall without the couple's knowledge "by about 100mm".
It means one bathroom is now so tight and poorly planned that if you sit on the toilet your leg touches the wall, and the toilet roll holder had to be removed from the wall completely as there was simply no room to accommodate it and a person.
Mrs Palmer said the tiling gaps were also different throughout the bathrooms, a tap and the en suite shower head leaked, and a new granite vanity had been chipped by the tradesman - but he refused to return to fix the problems.
There is also mould growing in the en suite, which means they are unable to use that shower.
"The list goes on and on," Mrs Palmer told news.com.au, describing it as a "complete botch-up of both bathrooms".
The second tradesman has stopped responding to emails, and while the family also reported him to Fair Trading NSW, it was deemed not to be a "code issue", which means they have no other option but to return to NCAT.
An emotional Mrs Palmer told news.com.au the couple were now in debt by a staggering $103,000 after both failed renovations, and the years-long saga had been devastating for her and her family.
"We've been trying to get the money out of (the first tradie) but it's not looking good, I don't think we're going to see the money again," she said.
"It has affected our marriage badly, we've had to remortgage … it's been a nightmare. I can't sleep at night.
"We went to the UK recently, and I didn't even want to come home. We've got two teenagers, and they've been through hell. It's so bad what people can get away with."
Mrs Palmer said the situation was "ridiculous" and "soul-destroying", and she warned other Aussies to do their own research, make sure any tradespeople they hired were fully licensed and insured and to consider drawing up a contract with a solicitor before work began.
"Get every single detail in writing - don't trust their opinion, do your own research as well, and don't buy into the charms of a tradesperson," she said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent about $8.7 billion on home renovations last year.
But Allianz Insurance general manager of home and lifestyle, Rachael Poole, said renovators who inadvertently used unlicensed tradespeople could be left with no insurable solution.
She said that could leave your biggest investment vulnerable, as some tradespeople can't even issue a certificate of warranty on completion.