How to find a reliable tradesperson

Whether you need a builder, roofer or decorator, Checkatrade founder Kevin Byrne reveals how to make sure you get the right tradesperson for the job

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What should I take into account when looking for someone to work on my property?

You need to ask:

  • Are they qualified?
  • Do they have the relevant experience?
  • Do they have the correct insurance?

A great tradesperson is often booked up for many months so don’t leave it too late; plan well in advance. You need to be able to trust workers you hire to do a quality job, turn up when they say they will, and be tidy and courteous. In addition, you want to be charged accurately according to the quote they provide.

What is the best way to find a reputable tradesperson?

You can do research on the internet, respond to an advert, or rely on the recommendation of a friend or family member. Check them out before hiring; ask to see their qualifications, their public liability insurance, ensure they’re VAT registered, and request names and addresses of local customers you can contact as references or to see their work.

Avoid trade sites online that don’t offer their contact details, most of these are simply selling your personal details on to trades. Try to use established firms with office addresses, landlines if they have them, and perhaps even a website.

Should I see more than one tradesperson before committing to a contract?

Get quotes from at least three contractors and insist on a written quotation or estimate for the work. Keep them on file in case of any disagreement.

Don’t always go with the cheapest. Look at the quality of their work and consider how easy it is to communicate what you want.

Get a written contract setting out what work is to be done, how much it’ll cost, when/how payments are to be made, and a start and end date for the project.

Are botched jobs common?

Checkatrade recently commissioned a survey of homeowners which revealed that half had fallen victim to rogue traders. It also revealed that, on average, UK homeowners pay £724 putting right jobs botched by cowboys. The fact that more people are being targeted by rogue traders highlights how important it is to check on tradespeople.

How can I sort the reputable traders from the rogues?

Be wary of cold callers who need to come to your door to gain business. The same goes for requests for upfront payments; it may imply they have cash-flow problems or can’t get credit at their local builders’ merchants, which could indicate they are not financially healthy. Don’t take on anybody who won’t give you references. Reputable tradespeople won’t mind you asking and will gladly provide them.

What rights do I have when a job is not completed properly?

If you feel you‘ve been treated unfairly, you can contact Citizens Advice, which may refer the case to local Trading Standards officers for investigation. The risk is that rogue traders often disappear or file for bankruptcy then start again under a different company name, making it hard to get your money back. Don’t pay with cash upfront, and always get a receipt – if you don’t and a job goes wrong, you’ll have little or no comeback.

Will I have to pay for work I don’t feel has been finished to a satisfactory level?

Ultimately, if you can’t come to an agreement with the tradesperson, the matter will end up in civil court. My advice is to pay money for the job in stages as different sections of it are completed, settling up when it is finished and you are happy with the work.

Once the job has started, regularly check with your contractor that everything is on schedule. If the job is a big one, consider putting a contract of works in place as this will help a great deal should a dispute arise.

checkatrade's kevin byrne on seven ways to find a reputable tradesperson