'All we got was a hole': Unlicensed tradies flying under the radar
Unlicensed workmen are flying under the radar as platforms such as Facebook Marketplace become increasingly popular.
Mum of one, Divina Taschke paid $1500 deposit up front to tradesman Simon Todd after he demanded a 50 percent deposit to begin work on a fence she desperately needs.
“I worked long, long hours to do overtime to come up with the deposit … Which I did. It almost broke me, but I did,” Divina told A Current Affair.
Divina's son Victor has Down Syndrome. He's now four years old and as he becomes more mobile and inquisitive, she increasingly worries about his safety.
“He would just go out that door and straight out onto the footpath, or further,” she said.
She found Mr Todd on Facebook Marketplace – his ads were full of great-looking fences and they even shared a mutual friend.
“I just ran with that, because he's just a suburb down from us … I have a face sort of to put to him, he's not just a random person out in the open there,” she said.
Her CCTV captures him arriving to do her quote – no tools, not even a measuring tape – he just steps out the distance on foot. She says it didn’t raise alarm bells at the time, “because he was just coming out to measure it I assumed.”
His quote came back within two days – it was for around $3000. She paid a 50 percent deposit, but received no service in return.
Divina says he made numerous excuses over a number of weeks, and it was only then she Googled him to find a stack of unhappy customers.
“If you can do it to someone with a child with disability, where safety concerns are high, you can do it to anybody,” Divina said.
Divina reported Mr Todd’s phoney ads to Facebook, but within days they were back online.
Simon Todd claims he's been ripped off himself and is trying to settle his debts.
When approached by A Current Affair he said he had paid Divina back, before changing his story.
“I’ve been in contact with her the whole time … I planned to have it last week, I'm not getting anything through til (sic) mid this week … I’m trying to pay her back,” he said.
Lisa Rutherford is another victim. She also found Mr Todd on Facebook Marketplace and paid a 50 percent deposit but didn’t get a fence.
“In the duration of over a month, the only thing we got done was a hole dug in the backyard,” she said.
She's says she's been promised several times the money would be in her account by the end of the week.
“I don't think I am going to get it, but he has tried to give me some more excuses and things, I guess,” Lisa said.
A search on the Queensland Building and Construction Commission website reveals Simon Todd is currently unlicensed and has been fined for nine separate offences in the past 18 months, totalling $17,000 dollars.
QBCC Commissioner, Brett Bassett says he is on the industry regulator’s radar.
“It's people like this that we're making sure we warn people about and help them understand that they can take steps to protect themselves,” he said.
Laws vary from state to state but generally, anyone asking for a 50 percent deposit should be a red flag.
“What we also need is for people to pick up the phone or to send us an email to tell us who these dodgy people are,” Mr Bassett said.
In a statement a spokesperson from Facebook says, “we have removed the listing that was posted on Marketplace ... We encourage people to use good judgement when buying and selling online.”