The plague of cowboy builders has plagued UK households for almost a decade.
Just look at the following facts:
• In 2010 alone, a gang of cowboy builders made nearly £1M scamming homeowners in the South of England.
• The mess they leave behind due to their shoddy work often needs to be re-repaired, to the tune of £1.9bn a year.
• There are over 100,000 complaints about them every year. It’s so bad, there have been TV shows and elaborate stings set up just to catch them.
For a long time, the government left it to insurance companies to deal without, but with the launch of the Trustmark site in 2006, it became easier to choose trustworthy, vetted firms.
Firms quickly signed up, at the rate of 100 a day. However, over time, many copycat sites have developed similar services, claiming to have individually checked and vetted thousands of tradesmen. Sadly, this isn’t true. Some of the popular sites have been caught out after they were discovered allowing users to recommend each other and build up false ratings.
Why do we put ourselves through this?
• Well, one in 20 of those in a recent TrustMark survey admitted they chose a trader based on the cheapest quote.
• Others call in tradesmen to mop up the mess from a botched DIY project.
• Sometimes, its a panic move. The recent Arctic weather conditions have put homes in affected areas in a rush to put weatherisation measures in place.
This is picked up on by these cowboy builders. They walk up to your door and claim to be in the neighbourhood offering their services. Always regard this as a red flag and never deal with cold-calling traders. Last year, almost 90,000 households were approached by people claiming to be tradesmen. Good tradesmen do not need to go door-to-door drumming up business. Their work speaks for them and they are always busy.
Other warning signs include:
• Claiming to work for a company when in fact they are working independently. They get away with this many times, as they possess clothing issued by the company. This usually occurs from being sub-contractors at some point. Ask to see a current ID card.
• Are they reachable? Not only on a mobile phone but do they leave a landline. Mobile phones are not traceable or linked to an address. Be wary of a builder offering such.
• Failing to give a detailed quote should tip you off that they are either going to sub-contract the job or don’t know what they are doing.
1. Carry Out Your Checks – If you are going to let someone in your home, it pays to check up on them.
◦ Find out whether a trader has been sued or has a court order against them.
◦ Double check their claimed industry connections by verifying with the association they claim to be members of. FENSA, TrustMark, CERTASS, are associations in the UK for different trades.
◦ Does the address given show up on Google Maps? Be sure you can tie them to a physical location, using the address given or displayed on their van,
2. Ask questions – When in doubt, ask questions. It is your property and you have the right to question everything. You should have an absolutely clear plan and definition of what you want from the building work. If in doubt, ask the right questions. Get a solid checklist of exactly what they are doing
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You might consider asking:
◦ how long they have been trading,
◦ to see examples of any recent work they might have done.
◦ Ask them to explain the job they are doing. If they start to use a lot of unnecessary jargon, be wary.
3. Always Shop around – Get a few quotes and works specification before accepting a deal. This gives you an idea of the cost of the work you want done and expose anyone who is trying to rip you off. Remember that the cheapest trader isn’t necessarily the best.
4. Get it in writing – Always ask for a written contract. Making them provide a breakdown of the job and what you paid on paper or by email clarifies everything. It also provides proof in case of any disputes down the road.
5. When possible, pay by card – Many of us choose to pay cash, but what happens if the work is not done to your spec? Paying by card allows you to lay a claim to your credit card company if the services or goods are not delivered to the specified standard.
Though even the PM has admitted that he has unknowingly paid tradesmen in cash, some dodgy tradesmen will try to trick you into giving them cash. Always insist on a written receipt on a piece of the company headed paper.
With these tips available, dodgy traders will look for other ways to rip you off.
Our top tip is to always look for traders that come recommended by family and friends. You should also consider using local traders. If you can walk into their office, it’s easier to settle any disputes that may arise.
The saying goes; “If you pay cheap, you pay twice” Having to pay for a redo is bad enough after having to endure the first shoddy job. Ensure you follow our recommended tips on avoiding dodgy traders when choosing your next tradesman.
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