Carpenter David Crawford could have lost his house after a contractor failed to pay him. How he has a warning other subcontractors.
Carpenter David Crawford could have lost his house after a contractor failed to pay him. How he has a warning other subcontractors.

Tradie warns others after three-year battle for payment

A arpenter who "could have lost his house" after a contractor failed to pay him for almost $9000 of work is warning other subbies about the dangers of working for him.

David Crawford, who owns Berry Springs car­pentry business DTC Constructions, was subcon­tracted to complete several jobs for Scott Davis - owner of Humpty Doo business McDonald-Davis Carpentry - in 2017.

In November of that year, Mr Davis still owed Mr Crawford about $8,500.

"At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt," Mr Crawford said. "Then Christmas came and went and I sent him a message saying 'when are these invoices being paid?'."

Over the next three years, the father of two tried every avenue to get his money - including winning a claim through the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and more recently court action.

According to an order made under the Small Claims Act - seen by the NT News - Mr Davis was ordered to pay the $8,500 in unpaid invoices he owed to Mr Crawford by November 2018, which he ignored.

When Mr Crawford recently saw that Mr Davis had registered his business for the NT Government's home improvement scheme, and was possibly going to receive vouchers from the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation, he tried to acquire the money from the government once Mr Davis cashed in his voucher.

But according to the court order dismissing the claim, also seen by the NT News, the government's lawyers said the Crown could not be liable as a third party for the purposes of settling debts.

"It has long been held by the common law that garnishee proceedings do not lie against the Crown," the order said.

Seeing a need for law reform, Mr Crawford had a meeting with his local member, who informed him he would bring it up with Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

Mr Crawford also wrote an email to Attorney-General Natasha Fyles asking that the law be changed so the government can be used as a garnishee.

In correspondence from Ms Fyles's office, Mr Davis was told: "While I note the issues you raise, there is no current intention to change the operation of an attachment of debts order to be made against the Crown."

 

Carpenter Dave Crawford has tried everything to get the money he is owed.
 Picture: Katrina Bridgeford
Carpenter Dave Crawford has tried everything to get the money he is owed. Picture: Katrina Bridgeford

Mr Crawford said the years of trying and failing to get the money he was owed had taken its financial and emotional toll, and he had basically accepted now he would never get his money back.

"I was just lucky that my wife has a good job and we were able to keep paying the mortgage, because if she didn't we would have lost the house," he said.

"The court process, when you go through the civil court at least, there's seemingly no real consequence of not following their orders. If the person ignores them you just have to summons them again.

"Everything seemed to be stacked in favour of the contractor instead of the subbie."

Mr Crawford said he now just wanted to get the message out warning other subbies to have a long hard think before working with Mr Davis.

"I know of four other subcontractors who have told me they are owed money by this guy," he said.

"If we can get that legislative change of the garnishee orders so the Crown can be made accountable … that will possibly help out other tradies in the future."

When contacted for comment, Mr Davis confirmed he was aware of court proceedings against him, and was "in the process of organising it (payment) now."

He said he was not aware of any other allegations that he failed to pay subcontractors.

Originally published as Subcontractor warns others after three-year battle for payment