Sep 22, 2019 12:29 pm
Be wary of the ‘hidden asbestos’ and similar scams in Sydney if you a doing a knock down rebuild (KDR).
Its a confidence trick. Some demolition companies may win your trust, commence the job, then find non existent hidden asbestos, send you a few fake photos whilst you are at work etc, and charge you extra $ to remove and dispose of it. Extra fiddly manual labour ‘emu picking’ etc. They will say they are saving you money with their particular removal process. As well as hold you to ransom by not providing the clearance certificate required by your builder.
If you want to avoid this trick first make sure you get written into the demolition contract that you or someone needs to actually see the hidden asbestos on site to confirm it’s actually there before authorising any additional work. Turn up a few times unannounced to check the claimed additional work required is actually being done. Visually confirm what they say. Ask for the EPA Wastelocate system asbestos consignment number (its a legal requirement for the company to provide this) and go check the facts yourself online. Ask the neighbours to look out for you too. Gopro cameras on the site may also be worthwhile. They are good at it! don’t be scammed, no matter how nice and trustworthy they seem!
I have only had experience with one demolition company that used this trick. I have contacted others who have experienced the same, or very similar tricks by this company. They have also kept records. Both NSW Fair Trading and the EPA are aware. However, it’s not appropriate or prudent to name the company at this time.
Like any industry there will be a mix of demolition companies out there ranging from good to bad and with different focus, capabilities and ethics. As the building industry is not effectively regulated it really is a case of buyer beware with demolition services.
Be careful about any comments or recommendations made by the builder's salesperson or pre construction admin staff as they probably will not be in a position of experience, nor have the knowledge to reliably recommend or not recommend a particular demolition company. All they need is a clear block and an asbestos clearance certificate to start building. Volume builders do not usually manage or get involved in KDR demolition services. Just passing you some brochures, cards or weblinks etc does constitute an official or reliable recommendation. Balanced comments by real customers are a much more reliable source to consider.
Also be cautious with online testimonials in your research, try to ascertain if they are real, be particularly suspicious of the overly positive ones with no substance or facts included. Some key watch-outs are:
Reviews from people who have only ever posted one review.
No substance to the reviews, just generic comments with no specifics.
Reviews that look like adaptations of a template.
No balance of positive and negative aspects.that most realistic reviews would have.
The company's personnel are repeatably named and praised.
Reviews of companies that pay 'management' service fees to the website.
Reviews that repeatably praise the 'honesty' of the company's staff.
Reviews that disparage the company's competitors in general, or the industry collectively.
Spend time reading the reviews of each company both positive and negative. Look for patterns. Do not just accept the star ratings or the gushing copy you read! It may be a good idea to actually contact some of the review posters privately and ask for more specific details of the demolition to be reasonably confident the reviews are real.
The best defence against these tricks however is to read the contract carefully, question and understand all the fine print, plus observe and keep your wits about you during the demolition process. What extra fees might be payable? What’s your exposure? What notice to you of extra work and what approvals from you are required? Etc If someone demands more money from you make sure you can independently verify their story (both the extra labour costs and additional disposal amount & fees) before even considering their claim. If in doubt you can get an independent hygienist to inspect and issue the clearance certificate required by the builder so you are not held to ransom over this.
The demolition company’s approach and tactics are plausible, smooth, as well as integrated with their promotions, their documentation and various cooperative 3rd parties etc, having been well practiced over years on eager, anxious and naive first time knock down rebuild clients. Like other confidence tricks, they work because they win your trust first. Most victims probably won’t realise they have been tricked until it’s too late and the extra hidden asbestos money is paid, if they even realise at all. They will probably believe the demolition company's approach to manage the 'hidden asbestos' has saved them significant money!
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