A Ballarat carpenter has pleaded guilty to completing more than $60,000 of renovation works on a Daylesford bed and breakfast without a builder’s licence.
Darren Becker appeared in Ballarat Magistrates Court on Monday on four charges, including undertaking a major building contract without insurance.
The Victorian Builders Association (VBA) senior lawyer Stephen Buchanan told the court the victim found Becker on hipages.com.au, while searching for a builder to gut their property and install a new bathroom and internal walls.
When the victim and accused met in December 2016, Becker did not provide a written contract for the construction, but said he would work for $50 per hour, eight hours a day for three months from January 2017.
Becker invoiced the victim for work and materials, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per week, exceeding the $5000 threshold which the VBA considers a ‘major domestic building contract’ requiring a licence and insurance.
Mr Buchanan said when the complainant attended premises in July 2017, they were “surprised how little” work had been completed, considering the payments made. When a building inspection was completed on July 21, the victim was informed Becker was not a registered builder.
By the completion of works, Mr Buchanan said when the victim had paid $62,091 to Mr Becker for his work and materials, on a project estimated to have cost $152,000.
“The accused should not have taken on the work, the fact the works were in excess of $5000 means the accused was outside his limited qualifications as a carpenter,” Mr Buchanan told the court.
Defence lawyer Scott Belcher told the court his client Becker was “no longer self-employed as a direct result of this misadventure” and was working as an employee carpenter.
“There is no suggestion the work is of poor quality or was defective, but the VBA’s concern is that Mr Becker is not legally entitled to do this work by not being a registered builder,” he said.
Mr Belcher argued that because Becker “doesn't have any track record for this kind of offending”, he should be given a good behaviour bond.
“It has all turned south, we don’t argue that … but it has a traumatic impact on [Becker] and his wife,” he said.
The court heard that a usual fine for Becker’s conduct would be between $10,000-$15,000.
“It is not heartening to hear it’s had such an impact on him, but it is heartening to hear he's no longer doing this,” Mr Buchanan said.
Magistrate Letizia Torres said she had considered the defence argument, and would impose a payment “significantly less than (the) guided" amount.
“I understand your workmanship is not in question, and there were some attempts to document the process of the job,” Magistrate Torres said.
Becker received a three year good behaviour bond, and was ordered to pay $2,500 to the court fund and court costs of the VBA.