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23, Jul 2019 -

Consumers urged to steer clear of unregistered contractors

Consumers urged to steer clear of unregistered contractors

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The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), South Africa’s professional body for the engineered timber construction industry, urges consumers to do due diligence when embarking on construction or renovation projects and to enlist the services of registered or accredited contractors.

According to Amanda Obbes, ITC-SA General Manager, the Institute saw a marked upswing in queries and complaints from the public relating to poor workmanship from non-members in the trade in the first quarter of 2019. “This is a recurring phenomenon and can, for the most part, be attributed to a stodgier economy; tougher times make for an environment in which consumers look to cut costs and many desperate contractors are willing to cut corners to secure work.”

“Unfortunately, when consumers reach out to the ITC-SA to assist with recourse to matters of sub-standard workmanship or compliance issues, there is little that can be done, beyond providing advice, to remedy the situation if the contractor in question is not a member of the Institute,” she says.

As a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) accredited professional body, the ITC-SA is mandated to support high standards in the trade via a two-pronged approach: “By tackling the issue of quality in the industry, not only by way of supporting registered tradespeople, but by offering the public assurance in their dealings with ITC-SA accredited member contractors, the Institute is a pivotal and reliable safety net for both the trade and consumer in a fluctuating industry,” Obbes remarks.

Making the industry better

Hand in hand with its membership, the ITC-SA monitors each of its members, not only in relation to the training they must do on an annual basis to attain and maintain their professional designations, but in carrying out random inspections for quality assurance at both truss plants and building sites, which have a bearing on the member’s status with the Institute.

The ITC-SA plays a pivotal role in regulating and controlling safe, consistent building standards in the industry by way of its involvement in various committees and boards that inform National Building Regulations. The Institute plays a crucial role in the development of training material for the manufacture of nail-plated timber roof trusses, for the erection of timber roof trusses, and to facilitate training in these disciplines, in compliance with the Skills Development Act.

All professional members recognised by the ITC-SA must abide by the Institute’s published Code of Conduct as well as its mechanism for reporting and investigating members who are alleged to have contravened this Code.

How does the consumer benefit?

The role of the ITC-SA is to ensure consumer protection in the use of timber engineered products in contracts entered into with the ITC-SA membership and to regulate the professional conduct of its members. Where prima facie evidence confirms professional misconduct, in order to protect the consumer and the reputation of the industry, the ITC-SA shall apply proper sanctions.

ITC-SA Members…

a) must discharge their duties to their employers, clients, associates and the public effectively with skill, efficiency, professionalism, knowledge, competence, due care and diligence;
b) may not undertake or offer to undertake work of a nature for which their education, training and experience have not rendered them competent to perform;
c) must, when carrying out work, engage in and adhere to acceptable practices.

How can the public guard against shoddy workmanship?  

“In trying economic times, it is increasingly common for consumers to be tempted to save money on the construction of a roof, timber home or deck, but this comes at a much higher price in the long run, with much more at stake than just financial burden,” says Obbes. “Consumers who severely cut costs on building projects will most often have to spend even more money to fix the problems that arise from using sub-standard materials and workmanship. In many cases, the problem cannot be fixed, but rather has to be undone, before correct building or installation can begin. This is not to mention the physical threat to life and valuable possessions posed by non-compliant structures,” she says.

Obbes advises educating oneself on any construction project upon which they are about to embark. “Whether you are having a house built or investing in a small renovation or add-on, do your homework and be absolutely sure to enlist the services of a professional knowledgeable and experienced individual who is backed by an organisation like the ITC-SA.” She concludes, “This will most likely cost more initially than hiring an unqualified contractor, but is guaranteed to save money and stress down the line. Doing otherwise puts you at risk of having to accept poor quality materials and shoddy workmanship – with little to no recourse to recover losses.”

With the ITC-SA, both the trade and consumer can enjoy the peace of mind and protection that come with a safely erected and inspected timber frame home, roof or deck structure. The Institute encourages queries and engagement from both the trade and the public and will assist where possible to help inform and educate the market on timber construction best practice. For more information, visit www.itc-sa.org.

Source: ITC-SA

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