Legal Requirements of Trades People

Notes for home owners considering trade work

A downloadable and printable PDF version of this document is available.

In this article I cover:

  • Licensing
    • Trades people and Contractors – what is the difference?
  • Insurance
  • Receipts
  • Australian Standards
  • Electrical
    • Licensing
    • Australian Standards
    • Compliance Certificates


Most trades people are required to have a contractors license that is issue by Fair Trading (in NSW). Some trades such as plumbing, electrical, and building work are restricted trades and can only be done by trades people with specialised licenses. You can check licensing requirements with Fair Trading:

Trades people and Contractors – what is the difference?

If a trades person is operating a trade business, the trades person must be a licensed contractor with Fair Trading (in NSW). Just because someone is a trades person, doesn’t mean that they are licensed to charge money for trade services provided to customers.

A person who charges money to provide a trade service, must have a contractor’s license.

A trades person who does not have a contractors license, can only work as an employee to a licensed contractor. The licensed contractor is effectively the supervisor of the trades person.


You should insist that all trades people working on your home have Public Liability Insurance – however it isn’t a legal requirement.


Any damage to your property that they may inadvertently do, can then be claimed against their insurance. Should they cause an accident that results in damage to property or person, make a mistake that has significant consequences (fire, water leak, electric shock, failure of another component), their insurance is the only protection that you have. However, their insurance may NOT cover you against non-compliant or illegal work that they may undertake.

Insurance must be relevant to the work they are doing. It must be completed to the standard required and appropriate for the Australian state that the trades person is working in. Different states may have different rules.

e.g. A $10 million minimum coverage is required to work on some government buildings. Special requirements levels of insurance are also required for other areas.

If you work on the border of NSW and Queensland for instance, you must have insurance coverage for both NSW and Queensland, because the requirements are different.

If the trades person does not have any insurance and an incident occurs, you would need to take legal action against them directly in order to recover costs of damage or injury.

There may also be an avenue to take action through Fair Trading and NSW Civil and Appeals Tribunal (NCAT) if they are not covered by insurance.


All trades people are required under consumer law to provide a receipt (like every other business).

Most trades people (if not all) are required to provide a workmanship warranty on their work. Currently in NSW this is 6 years for major defects, and 2 years for minor defects. This is a mandated requirement by Fair Trading.

Should a major defect occur within 6 years of installation, it is a requirement of Fair Trading that the contractor repair the defect.

If you don’t receive a receipt from your trades person on completion of their work, you have no warranty for their workmanship. You will also have no warranty for any equipment they install.

Should you have a piece of equipment that fails during the warranty period and the manufacturer cannot verify the installer or installation date, you may not have any warranty for the equipment they installed.

Your $1000 oven may therefore be worthless if it fails.

Australian Standards

All work by trades people must be completed to Australian Standards. Make sure that your trades person specifies that their work is undertaken to Australian Standards on the receipt or quote they give you.

Electrical – specific requirements


All electrical work in Australia can only be undertaken by Licensed Electricians. Your builder, plumber, carpenter, painter, tiler etc, are not legally allowed to alter, move or change any electrical component in your home. This applies to cables, lights, power points, ovens and every other piece of electrical equipment.

Any electrical component that is hard wired into your homes electrical network can only be altered by a licensed electrician.

It is also illegal in every state and territory of Australia for home owners to undertake their own electrical work unless they are currently a licensed electrician.

As a matter of interest, should you undertake any electrical work in your own home and you are not licensed to do so, if an accident occur, or there is a fire, your home insurance policy will be void – so beware!

Every state has variations in licensing. Your trades person must be licensed to work in the state they are working in – in my case NSW – I am not licensed to work in any other state in Australia.

Plumbers and Air Conditioning mechanics – electrical work

Plumbers or Air Con mechanics with a disconnect/reconnect license are allowed to disconnect a hot water heater (Or air conditioner) for instance – they are then allowed to reconnect a hot water heater.

They are NOT legally allowed to move the cables in any manner (unless they are a licensed electrician)

If cables are moved in any way it is considered an alteration. Any alterations may compromise the mechanical protection that may exist. An electrician is required to move or alter any cables attached to your electrical system.

If the plumber or Air Con mechanic does not have the correct disconnect/reconnect license, they are NOT legally allowed to disconnect the water heater (or other similar equipment).

Australian Standards

Electricians are required to comply with the current requirements of the Wiring Rules – Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000:2018. (AS/NZS 3000:2007 can apply until 1st January 2019). This is a mandatory requirement in every state and territory of Australia. Some states have some extra compliance requirements. Check with your states regulator.

Compliance Certificates of Electrical Work – CCEW

For all alterations or additions to your electricity system, it is a MANDATORY requirement that a Compliance Certificate of Electrical Work (CCEW) is supplied to the customer and submitted to the Supply Authority (Ausgrid in Sydney) within 7 days of completion and testing.

The Supply Authority determines the level of risk the installation poses, and decides whether to inspect the installation. If the electrician has a bad record, their installations will be inspected often. If the electrician is reliable, their installations will be inspected less frequently.

An alteration could be considered to be moving a light fitting by 30cm, or a power point 5cm. Equally, it could mean removing one power point or light fitting from the system.

An addition is more clear in its definition. Any change to your circuits that results in one or more added components. This could be one more light fitting, or 20 more. It could mean one more circuit, one more circuit breaker, or 20.

Should an installation be non-compliant according to Australian Standards, the Electrician will receive a defect notice and be order to repair the installation. If your electrician has not given you a CCEW, you would never know if there is a defect, and your family’s lives could be at risk – electrocution or fire.

Repairs do not require a CCEW unless they result in an alteration or addition. A repair would suggest replacing a power point, or light fitting that is broken, or similar.

There are specific clauses within the wiring rules that indicate what an alteration/addition or repair is. Your trades person MUST comply with those requirements.

A CCEW is your only guarantee that your installation is safe – it is a MANDATORY requirement in every state and territory of Australia (it may be called a different name in different states).

For further information, please consult Fair Trading at:

Greg Rowell

Licensed Electrician: 42683C
Mobile: 0490 055 203
ABN: 84 545 590 347
Address: PO Box 119, Pennant Hills, NSW 1715

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