Recently there was a case online that raised many interesting questions in regards to whether you can sue your electrician if they botch their job. Considering how dangerous a botched electrical job can be, of course you can sue your electrician. Here’s the case I read about online:

“I have run into some complex and unfortunate situation.

I am building a new home through project builders in Brisbane (2 storey). I hired the electrical contractor myself directly. After 4 days of rough-in work by 2 qualified electricians, I noticed the work was not of the right quality. I asked 3 other qualified electricians and they all raised concerns, and that the work was not upto the standards, and not fit for purpose. I had asked the original electrician to reassess his work and fix things that he could but he refused to talk to me before I make 100% of the payment.

I insisted on fixing things before I could release any more payment (paid 65% plus). On his refusal to act any further, I engaged another electrician to do the work, after giving him notice of couple of days to fix. I was under pressure from the builder to complete work on time.

Furthermore, my builder later discovered that he had drilled holes in the joists – through the bottom of the posts of the joists and some holes were drilled less than 300mm away from the corner. Frame inspection failed by council inspector. The engineers are assessing the complete damage, as I write this post.

So the key errors he did, in summary

  • poor workmanship on wiring – many were not clipped even where roof cavity was more than 600mm, and loose wiring all around the house, going diagonally across the house without any organised manner, wrapped around the timber, many number of wires from a same hole, short cuts used for some type of wiring etc.
  • not as per plan – some power points were not as per location in the plan, and few light / power points were completely missed
  • electrocution risks – smoke alarms circuit didnt have an earthing cabling, data and electric cables not isolated
  • structural damage done to the property – drilling holes through load bearing structure etc

Things to support my claim

  • I have pictures of the work the electrician had done
  • electrician who did the rework / fixing of the above is preparing list of defects as mentioned above
  • there was another qualified electricians inspected the site and he is also happy to provide few defects he noted in writing
  • engineering report will be provided by the builders to support the structural damage
  • I have made more than 65% of his total invoices (including the initial lead in work he did, and materials he bought), so I have not withheld everything
  • he sent me a text message saying I have complete the work as per plan (no other written evidence on that, though)

Weakness in my claim

  • there is no contract that I signed with this electrician (came through a known referral)
  • he only gave the hourly rate, so he is saying I was working on pay for hours done basis and he would charge more to come back and do further work and he will only come back after I pay the due invoices (I have since used another electrician to fix certain things)

My builder is working out the total cost impact to me – for engineers report, joists replacement, revisit of plumber and airconditioning person if the joists are replaced as some of that work was going through the damaged joists, my new electrician will have to come back again and do more rewiring if joists are replaced. And other incidental costs I am not aware of as of now.

My questions

  1. What should be my next steps? and what claim do I have against the original electrician?
  2. Likelihood to get all my expenses back (as mentioned above) from the electrician?
  3. Do you think the electrician can challenge any of the above, given there was no written contract and he was working on hourly rates basis?
  4. What legal avenues do I have – small courts, QCAT etc? Any idea on the time frame it can stretch, and how difficult these proceedings could be?
  5. Any recommendation on any law firm who take such cases on ‘no win no fee’ basis?

What compensation matters can you sue an electrician for? In this day and age, it is better to be knowledgeable about your rights. Most people avail of some type of services. It could be daily, weekly, or monthly. It could be janitorial, electrical or other skilled work that needs to be done, and done quickly. Sometimes things get messy. And we let things slide because we need them and might be needed again. But should you?

Say you wanted to improve the feel in your building. You decided to have some pendant lighting installed in your house or business. For this you would need a decorator and an electrician. Installations can be tricky especially wiring it correctly. It still has to pass inspection and building codes and such. If, after some time your building catches fire, often it would be thought of as caused by some electrical fault. If it is, what compensation matters can you sue an electrician for? If the origin was the installation, can you sue the electrician?

Short answers are not really going to be sufficient. There are so many other things to consider when seeking compensation from a tradesperson. Experts have to be called in – especially it’s well worth bringing in a highly reputable electrician to help make estimates of the damage, risks and other factors. If there were casualties, there would be more investigation than normal. Is it really the electricians fault? Is it prone to rain or earthquake or other natural occurrences? Have the installations and connections been recently checked or approved? Is the building in good shape? The delicate nature of their job makes it a rare occasion for the electrician to get something wrong and cause a fire.

According to some studies, most fires in establishments are indeed electrical in nature. It occurs more often when winter has set in. Heating and more hours of electrical lights are needed because of longer darkness.

Improper matching of light fixtures are often made by not certified electricians. This can also be a cause of fire. As well as paper or any igniteable material that is close to the fixtures as they begin to get hot. Extension cords and outlets when left too long plugged in can melt the plastic they are encased in. Ordinarily a certified electrician would tell you the computation and approximately how long your appliances and everything else be used so to prevent it from going up in flames.

If you are an electrician, there is a good chance you would never be out of a job. Unless you mess up tremendously and cause a fire, or worse accidentally kill someone because of carelessness that leads to a building fire.