9 Ways You can Spot a Home Improvement Con

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When should you involve the authorities if you find out you have been scammed by a cowboy builder? While it may seem like a straight forward question, the answer isn’t. The real question is when will you know you have been scammed? Cowboy builders are notoriously slick and charming, and will string customers along for months, even years.

Eleven customers across the North East of England heaved a collective sigh of relief when a notorious cowboy builder was sentenced to jail last week. With victims from Newcastle, North and South Tyneside to Durham and Gateshead, he had the same M.O. All his victims claimed he’d ask for 50% upfront, when he was awarded a job. He’d start the job then suddenly disappear.

If he was eventually contacted by the home owner, he would blame his absence on family issues. He told one customer that his son was on life support in the hospital. Another was told that his brother-in-law had just died, but in the end, all his excuses were revealed to be lies.

Surprisingly, some home owners have been blamed for falling prey to dodgy builders. Their critics say that dodgy traders have been around for ages and people shouldn’t fall for their tricks. This is a flawed perspective as some of these traders will go to any lengths to hoodwink home owners. One convicted trader was fined for displaying the FENSA logo on his stationery and claiming he was a member, when he really wasn’t. Home owners can only seek to constantly educate themselves on the tricks used by these builders. The top tell tale signs of a cowboy builder include:

• Insisting on getting cash up front, instead of getting paid as the project progresses.
• Not having a trade account; this often means they are either dodgy or in legal/financial straits.
• They say “Trust Me”. A LOT. It’s almost as if they are trying to convince themselves that they can be trusted.
• Like our next culprit, they use a lot of unnecessary jargon just to make sure you are never 100% clear of what you are getting.

But dodgy builders are only one part of the equation. Window and door manufacturers have also been accused of using underhanded tactics to drive sales. Their door-to-door salesmen are accused of using misleading advertisements and creating a high pressure environment when pushing for a sale. The following are some of the tricks they use to try and force a sale:-

• “Buy now and I’ll knock 25% off!” – This line is tacked to the end of every sales pitch in an effort to trick the home owner into making a decision on the spot. But it’s only a sales gimmick and you shouldn’t fall for it. Another trick is to start out with a high price then pull the ‘I need to call the boss’ technique. After the ‘call’, they suddenly claim they can go even lower. Companies that sell like this are notorious for not providing after-sales service to their clients.

• “These doors will slash 25% off your energy bill.” – While a professionally installed patio door or window that uses the best quality glass and aluminium can reduce your bill, it doesn’t do it in isolation. Your total savings will depend on a number of factors, such as the direction the house is facing, the quality of the windows and doors being installed, the quality of the installation, etc. Quoting an exact 25% on something that has so many variables is another example of how they mislead home owners.

• “Buy three replacement windows and get one free!” – There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This is known as a bait and switch and are only advertised to get people to call the company. These ‘deals’ aren’t deals at all; once you are sucked in and make an enquiry, you’ll be followed up by one of their pushy salesmen. The sad truth is that a lot of window manufacturers in the UK use this tactic in their TV ads.

• The U-Factor Deception – The U-factor measures the windows ability to keep heat in your home in the winter months and a/c in the summer. A lower U-factor means the windows allow less heat ‘leak’ through the windows and doors. What shady installers fail to tell you is that if the frame is poorly designed or has cheap weather-stripping, you’ll still have cold air pouring in around your ”new” windows and doors.

• “Any window installed for only £200!” – That price was only given to pique your interest; once these installers get into your home, they often start to add on items that most window replacement companies already have in the base price. Some of the ‘add-ons’ include £80 for an aluminium replacement, £30 for removing storm windows; they even try to charge you shipping and handling fees. By the time they are done, the initial quote of £200 ends up costing at least three times that.

The tricks used by salesmen and cowboy builders are only going to cost you more money, either by selling you an inferior product or leaving you with a half completed job. Either way, you’ll end up with having to buy another door/window and get help from another installer.

At SRL Limited, our customer’s satisfaction is the number one priority. We’ll take their vision and show them on all the options available to them. Our certified technicians will install doors with minimum fuss and we proudly stand by our guarantees. 

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