Unpaid tradies outraged over dodgy builder back in business

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

Tradies still owed thousands from unpaid public housing construction in 2022 are up in arms after a bill-dodging builder steps back on site. 

Back in late 2020, the NSW Government’s Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), now called Homes NSW, chose insolvent company Matrix Group Co to build four government units at 16 Spring Street. 

Not even a year later, the company owned and operated by former builder Troy Loh would officially go into liquidation with almost $3 million of debt owed to more than 200 contractors who signed onto the public housing project.

But fast-forward almost three years, and the now-unlicensed Loh is back in business under a new name, Matilda Build Australia, while subbies have been left tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket. 

For Amy Burns from Oasis Scaffolding, who was owed more than $90,000 when Matrix collapsed, the news made her “blood boil”.

“He should be black banned from every construction site in Australia,” Burns told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair last month.

Is this even legal?

Under new laws passed in 2023, Loh’s history of insolvency should bar him from securing a building license to form a new company.

But the allegedly broke builder claimed his new venture is purely a construction consultancy firm, telling reporters that his latest project was “being built under a different licence of an owner-builder”.

The NSW Building Commission said it would investigate allegations that the company was performing work without a suitable license. 

In an official statement, Homes NSW said that the government watchdog would ensure that no more “hardworking mum and dad businesses” were impacted by Loh or the companies he is involved with.

“It is concerning that Troy Loh may still be operating within the building and construction industry following his mishandling of Matrix Group,” said a spokesperson.

Where’s the compensation

While the public housing body has tried to distance itself from Loh’s dodgy dealings, it’s because of their original negligence with Matrix that tradies have been left in the lurch. 

When the company collapsed all the way back in October 2021, liquidators found that Matrix may have been trading as insolvent from as early as February 2019 – a whole year before the organisations brought the company on board. 

Decision makers behind the contract would’ve had to fail to see both a public online notice revealing Matrix Group Co lost its insurance and a public online notice indicating it was in liquidation – continuing its contract with the Sydney-based company after both of these events.

Having lost its building insurance, Matrix should’ve been restricted by law to only working on contracts worth $20,000 or less. But when asked why the LAHC signed Matrix to work on the $1.5 million Spring Street development, a spokesperson said public sector agencies have an exemption that allows them to contract uninsured builders.

Despite calls from Wagga MP Joe McGirr that the organisation has an “ethical if not actual legal” obligation for compensation, Homes NSW repeatedly denies owing any payment to subcontractors under the now-defunct builder.

The organisation claims Matrix hadn’t done enough work to meet requirements for the $150,000 payment and that Loh was solely responsible for outstanding subcontractor payments.

According to Anthony Igra from Contractors Debt Recovery, workers and government officials should hold Homes NSW accountable for their endorsement of a company trading in the red. 

“What gets me the most was the government department was told no one was being paid and nothing happened,” Igra told reporters last month. 

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.