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Shonk alert

Saturday, 25th May, 2013

John Franklyn with a folder filled with advertisements and business cards from shonky builders that he has collected here over the years. John Franklyn with a folder filled with advertisements and business cards from shonky builders that he has collected here over the years.

Blow-in builders ‘targeting city’

By Craig Brealey

Don’t build your castle on sand, says the Bible. Good advice. Another thing to avoid is a dodgy builder.

There are quite a few around at the moment, says Broken Hill builder John Franklyn.

The city has been beset in recent years by itinerant, unqualified outfits who take the money and run, leaving behind sub-standard work and sometimes disaster, says Mr Franklyn who has been a builder here for 24 years.

The former President of the Broken Hill Master Builders Association said he wanted to warn the public about them following recent complaints of people being cheated.

Right now there were about half a dozen unqualified builders in the city offering cut-price renovations and repairs, Mr Franklyn said.     

“People always want a cheap price but these fly-by-nighters wreak havoc. They owe money everywhere and leave behind them a trail of destruction.

“Do it once and do it right, otherwise the work has to be dismantled and rebuilt, so in the end it costs you more.”


  • They will ask for cash up front or a progress payment. “This is because they don’t have any money to buy their materials. So they take your money, start the work but leave and go on to another job. They’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,”  said Mr Franklyn.
  • You have to chase them to finish the job. 
  • If you complain about the work, “They will try to intimidate you and they won’t come back and fix it.”
  • They will not answer your phone calls. “Typically, they will come into a town for a few months and then disappear.”
  • They will tell you that you do not need Council approval for certain work. “This has serious legal implications, especially when you want to sell the property.”
  • The dodgy builder will run up credit at a building supplier. When they don’t pay and their credit is withdrawn, they go to another supplier and repeat the process.


  • Ask for a list of people they have done work for. If they are reputable builders, they will be happy to oblige.
  • Check that they have a licence. “Go to the Fair Trading website. It only takes a few seconds to get on, and away you go.” 
  • If they have a licence, make sure it is for the work you want done. A qualified painter, for example, is not the best person to re-roof your house.
  • Scrutinise their advertisements and business cards. A proper builder will display their licence number. 
  • Interstate builders working in NSW must have a NSW licence. Some will show an Australian Business Number (ABN) but this is not a builder’s licence.
  • Does their advertisement or card carry an address? If it does not, and they do not answer their phone, how will you track them down?
  • Check the quote. Shonky builders will offer a cheap price but will try to charge more later (“You wanted glass in your windows? Should’ve said. That’ll be an extra ...”). Mr Franklyn’s advice is to demand a written quote and examine it thoroughly.
  • Are they insured? They should have a certificate for third party, workers’ compensation etc.,
  • Stand up to them. “Some people will cop it sweet,” said Mr Franklyn. “Some seem to think that because they paid in cash the tax office might come after them or something. Go to the Fair Trading website and lodge a complaint.

“People are reluctant to complain about these guys, but they do a lot of damage to the town.

“They don’t employ your children, and if they do they will underpay them, and they leave a trail of disaster in their wake.”

Mr Franklyn gave as examples a pensioner who paid for a new roof that leaked and ruined her ceilings, and another who paid $50,000 to have his house restumped and who now has to have the work completely redone.

He said Broken Hill was prey to crooks because of its isolation and the lack of skilled tradespeople in the bush these days.

It was no coincidence, he said, that they were turning up here at the same time as building slowed in the big cities and regional centres.

Another problem was that the Department of Fair Trading rarely sent inspectors to Broken Hill to check on builders because it was so far away.
Mr Franklyn has tried to counter this by collecting misleading advertisements and business cards which he forwards to Fair Trading along with a formal complaint.

He also offered free advice to anyone stung by a crooked builder. “If all else fails, give me a call.”

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