How to avoid rogue traders? This might be something on your mind if you're planning a house renovation or home maintenance work this autumn or winter? For many of us, as the weather gets colder, the flaws in our homes become more apparent, whether it's an inefficient boiler or a roof that has seen better days. In fact, several house maintenance jobs for winter may well be playing on your mind because they need doing urgently right now.
Unfortunately, autumn and winter are also peak times for trade scams, from pushy boiler maintenance offers to doorstep callers offering to 'clear' your gutters. If you've watched Watchdog, you'll know how it goes.
So how do you tell the difference between a tradesperson you can trust and one you can't? Bestselling author dubbed 'The Trades' Coach' Alison Warner* gives her expert advice on how to get treated to great trade service, not tricked into a scam.
- How to compare quotes from tradespeople
- How to find builders who will do the job well
- House renovation: an expert guide
1. Make sure they have a landline
It is very important that you deal with a company that has a fixed landline and office address. Anyone operating with just a mobile phone can simply disappear and can’t be traced should something go wrong.
2. Check everyone's names and company branding
Make sure you know everyone's full names, including subcontractors. Refuse to deal with anyone who refuses to give you their full name, or can't produce any ID should you wish to see one. There have been cases of people pretending to be contractors to gain access to people's homes.
Next, pay attention to the tradesmen's clothing and vehicle: do both have branding? Are the tradesmen well presented and tidy? A company proud of its work will always try to get in as much branding as possible.
3. Always to a background check before agreeing to a job
Make sure you carry out a thorough check on a trades company, particularly if you are spending a large amount. Check review sites like Checkatrade, and check that the tradespeople have insurance. It's also recommended to read their Companies House entry to check experience and solvency, and there a wide range of online tools that highlight any previous or current legal or financial disputes. You may also want to check individuals are DBS checked where relevant.
4. Speak to previous customers
For larger jobs such as building extensions, you may be required to pay a proportion of the cost up front. Always contact at least three customers for a reference and speak to them rather than communicate over email. You will find out a lot.
5. Check the quote carefully
Read through the quote carefully and ask if there are any other items that have not been included and need to be aware of. Quotes should specify labour, materials, hours of work, scaffolding costs where relevant, tidying up and disposing of any waste and always indicate where VAT is applicable.
6. Protect your security
Do not post your address or details online when looking for a tradesperson, or advertise that you will be away from your property because of works taking place. Keep your valuables hidden and secure and always change your locks after giving someone unsupervised access to your property.
7. Don’t accept unsolicited offers
Never hire a tradesperson on the basis of an unsolicited telephone or doorstep enquiry. Check your Council website for updates on local scams and suspicious activity to look out for.
8. It's okay to walk away
Even if everything checks out and seems ok, but you still aren't sure about the tradespeople, it's fine to say no. If you feel rushed or that not everything has been discussed to your satisfaction, or something just doesn't feel right, you don't have to go ahead with the job. Avoid anyone who becomes pushy at this stage.
*Visit Alison's website dedicated to all things trade at Evolve and Grow