Important Info2018-08-28T23:17:09+00:00

Choosing a Quality Landscaper

Novascape Landscaping has been building gardens and completing structural landscaping for almost 10 years. Unfortunately, we see a lot of dodgy behaviour that damages the reputation of landscapers and the landscaping industry. This costs customers financially and emotionally.

We decided to put together a guide to help you choose a quality landscaper.

Some Things to Check

There are a number of key signs that will help you to identify if the tradesperson you are thinking about engaging is going to provide you with a quality service. Be wary if your tradesperson:

  • provides you with a quote that is significantly lower than the others
  • tells you that you don’t need a contract (and your project is valued over $5,000). Find out more about Contracts below.
  • tells you that you don’t need to worry about Home Building Compensation cover (and your project is valued over $20,000). Read more about Home Building Compensation cover below.
  • asks you to sign a contract quickly to start quicker or secure a lower price
  • tells you that structural works such as retaining walls do not require engineering. Read about Engineered Plans below.
  • tells you that you don’t need council approval when you do. Read about Council Approval below.


According to a recent study conducted on behalf of the department of Fair Trading, 75% of home owners claimed to check a tradesperson’s license before hiring them. However, only 10% check the validity of the tradesperson’s license on the NSW Fair Trading website.

In NSW, a landscaping tradesperson must be licensed to do work over $5,000. Working with a licensed landscaper protects you in the event that something goes wrong.

Novascape are licenced Structural Landscapers
We are licenced under Schedule 5 of the Home Building Regulation 2004 to carry out structural landscaping. Here’s the definition:

Work involved in the construction of pergolas and the like, cabanas and other non-habitable shelters, driveways, paths and other paving and retaining walls not associated with dwelling construction, as well as the construction or installation of ornamental ponds, water features and other structural ornamentation, the construction of which requires development consent. In addition to the above definition, the holder of the structural landscaping class may engage in the work of fencing.

Here’s a link to Fair Trading.

Do a licence check
Completing a licence check is quick and simple:

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your tradepersons licence number or name – Novascapes’ is 215415C

Licence Check will display a green tick to show you that our licenses are up to date.


By law, a tradesperson must provide you with a written contract as soon as your project price is over $5,000 (including GST).

If your project is valued between $5,000 and $20,000, you’ll receive a Small Works contract from us which includes important information including the date of the contract, your name and ours, our licence number, a description of the work and price information.

If your project is valued over $20,000, you’ll receive a Large Works contract (see below).

Landscapers who do not provide you with a contract are not only breaking the law, they are also placing you in a position of little power should something go wrong.


There are legal limits on the size of the deposit a tradesperson may request. For any project over $5,000, we are legally allowed to ask for a deposit of %10.

It is illegal for a tradesperson to request more than 10%.

It is also illegal for a tradesperson to ask for a deposit for projects over $20,000 unless they have issued you with a Home Building Compensation cover certificate.

Large Works Contract Checklist

If your project is valued over $20,000, you’ll receive a Large Works contract. By law, this contract must include the following checklist:

  1. Have you checked that contractor holds a current contractor licence?
  2. Does the licence cover the type of work included in the contract?
  3. Is the name and number on the contractor’s licence the same as on the contract?
  4. Is the work to be undertaken covered in the contract, drawings or specifications?
  5. Does the contract clearly state a contract price or contain a warning that the contract price is not known?
  6. If the contract price may be varied, is there a warning and an explanation about how it may be varied?
  7. Are you aware of the cooling off provisions relating to the contract?
  8. Is the deposit within the legal limit of 10%?
  9. Does the contract include details of the progress payments payable under the contract?
  10. Do you understand the procedure to make a variation to the contract?
  11. Are you aware of who is to obtain any council or other approval for the work?
  12. Do you understand that you are not required to pay the contractor a deposit or any progress payments until the contractor has given you a certificate of insurance under Part 6 or Part 6B of the Home Building Act 1989 (except where the work is of a kind that does not require insurance)?
    12A) Does the contract include either of the following:
    (a) the cost of the insurance under Part 6 of the Home Building Act 1989,
    (b) the cost of the alternative indemnity product under Part 6B of the Home Building Act 1989?
  13. Has the contractor given you a copy of the Consumer Building Guide, which provides key information about your rights and responsibilities under NSW’s home building laws and where to get more information?
  14. Does the contract include a statement about the circumstances in which the contract may be terminated?

If you answer ‘No’ to any of the questions in the checklist, you should reconsider signing the contract.

You can find this information and much more about Fair Trading on the Fair Trading website.

Home Building Compensation Cover

If you are undertaking landscaping works with a contract value of more than $20,000, your landscaper must provide you with a certificate of Home Building Compensation cover. Some people find this off-putting. However, Home Building Compensation cover protects you for loss caused by defective or incomplete work in the event of the death, disappearance or insolvency of your tradesperson.

And, it’s the law. We must provide you with a certificate for this insurance before requesting a deposit from you.

If your landscaper is offering to do a project for more than $20,000 and not providing you with a certificate of Home Building Compensation cover, they are placing you in a risky position and breaking the laws that are designed to protect you.

Obtaining Council Approval

There are certain conditions under which you will require council approval (in addition to engineered drawings) for your landscaping work. Acquiring council approval, in the form of a development application (DA), is not as difficult as you may have heard.

We suggest you begin by checking out the development steps provided by your local council:

Newcastle –
Lake Macquarie

We also recommend that you familiarise yourself with the relevant State Environmental Planning Policy, Subdivision 15 Earthworks, retaining walls and structural support. This is available here: This policy governs when council approval for structural landscaping works is required. We constantly monitor these standards and we’ll let you know when you require council approval if we believe it is necessary.

Do I need “engineered” plans?

Engineered plans are drawings which show us how we must build a retaining wall in order for it to be stable and safe. Council determines whether or not you must arrange engineered drawings for your retaining wall.

If you do require engineered drawings, we can help you organise them. Just let us know if council has determined that you must provide them.

Nominating a Certifier

In cases where council approval is required, you will also need to arrange a certifier who will certify that we have completed the work according to the engineered drawings and development consent. You can nominate council as a certifier when submitting your DA. Alternatively, you can use a private certifier.

If you prefer that we apply for council approval on your behalf we will also take care of nominating the certifier. You don’t need to do a thing.