What you need to know before you hire a tradesperson, and what your rights are if you are not happy with any work done.

Always hire registered and licensed tradespeople. You will have more rights under consumer laws if anything goes wrong.

Check before you hire a tradesperson

Before you hire a plumber, electrician, builder, tiler or some other tradesperson, you need to check they are licensed and registered to do that type of work. If they aren’t, you may not be insured for damage caused by poor workmanship, and the work may also be illegal.

Electricians, plumbers, drainlayers and gasfitters, architects and engineers are all licensed by their own occupational body, which keeps a public register of licensed and qualifying tradespeople. It is illegal to do certain tasks yourself in each of the different types of trades.

Builders must be registered as Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP) to do or supervise certain residential work, called Restricted Building Work. Their licence defines the type of building and design work they are allowed to do . The building owner is responsible for using the right people for the job.

You can still do some limited DIY building, electrical and other trades work, but you need to check this on each of the websites listed below.

Check to see if a tradesperson is licensed on the relevant register:

Find out about restricted building work (external link)and DIY but build it right(external link)

Checklist to avoid problems

  • Use a registered or licensed tradesperson, and check their photo ID and licence.
  • Ask to see their authorisation/ID card and check the expiry date to see if it is current.
  • Check the icons on the ID card to see if the type of work to be done is permitted by the licence.
  • Shop around and get a range of written quotes before you decide who to hire.
  • Find out about different contract types and requirements before you hire.
  • Make sure they are well-established firms or individuals.
  • Get recommendations or references and check on trade organisations’ websites.
  • Ask if they have insurance and if it covers damage to your property.

Comparing quotes

When you get a range of quotes, look at whether you are being offered the same quality of materials and workmanship before you compare prices. You can always ask questions and do some research to clarify potential issues with the job you want to hire a tradesperson for.

See also:

Know your rights

When you hire a tradesperson, you are covered by the guarantees for services and materials under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). Generally you can expect that:

  • the work is done with reasonable care and skill
  • any materials used are new, of acceptable quality and fit for purpose
  • the work is completed in a timely way.

The exception is building practitioners’ work – materials are not covered by the CGA. Instead, you have similar guarantees under the Building Act(external link).

You can get a refund and compensation under the Fair Trading Act if a tradesperson misleads you by claiming:

  • work needs to be done when it is unnecessary
  • they belong to a trade association or have some industry approval and this is untrue.

Before you hire a tradesperson, check their licence card to make sure they are licensed and qualified to do that type of work.

See also:

Written contracts and payments

Use a written contract when hiring a tradesperson as it gives you certain rights in addition to your rights under the CGA. The contract should describe:

  • what work is included and any exclusions
  • what materials will be supplied
  • the payment schedule
  • your rights to cancel.

For larger, more expensive jobs, get independent legal advice before you sign the contract as this can help you to avoid some problems. Building practitioners (including tradespeople and designers) must provide contracts and disclosure statements for work over $30,000 (including GST).

If you pay a deposit, this is usually non-refundable. Only pay up to 10% as a deposit. If you change your mind, the tradesperson does not have to return your deposit. Pay by credit card so that if the tradesperson goes out of business, you may be able to get a chargeback from your bank or credit card company.

Break the payments into stages and make payments as the work is completed to your satisfaction. You may have to pay upfront for materials. Keep your receipts.

Read Contracts, quotes and estimates to find out more.

If things go wrong

Contact the tradesperson

First, go directly to the tradesperson if you are unhappy with:

  • the work carried out
  • the price charged if none was agreed before the work was done
  • any delays in completing the job, or non-completion
  • faulty materials.

Read Resolve a problem for more information.

Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the builder, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Tradespeople

Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.


Common situations

Unsafe electrical work

Francis is unhappy with the work done by an electrician who installed unsafe light fittings in his bathroom. These overheated and caught fire. He lodged a complaint with the Electrical Workers Registration Board (ERWB) against the electrician for doing work that was not electrically safe. This is a disciplinary offence and the Board may fine the electrician and order him to pay costs if his work is found to have been unsafe.

Deficient engineering work

John wants to have a two-storey house built on his new section. He instructs a structural engineer to design and oversee its construction. The new house is built according to the design documents. Five years later an earthquake causes the house to collapse. John is later advised by the insurers that the structural design was deficient in its earthquake-proofing. John should complain to IPENZ about the engineer, who is a chartered professional structural engineer.