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  • Homeowner Checklist – How to Avoid Cowboy Builders

    Employing a tradesperson to carry out work in your home can be a stressful experience, so it is handy to have some sort of basic checklist, so you know exactly what to do, to ensure that you hire a competent and reputable local tradesman every time.

    Testimonials & Previous Work

    In addition to the information we have gathered for you online, there are other questions to consider asking before hiring anyone to work in your home. The most important being asking for references from previous customers and then checking out their previous work. Even if a tradesman has positive reviews online, you should always try and speak to previous customers and check their work if possible.

    Get a Written Quote

    Even after you have decided on hiring a tradesman, there are still some questions you should consider! First of all, whenever you get a price for a job, always ask if this is a quote or an estimate? Is the clean up and rubbish removal included? What about the materials? Always make sure everything is agreed before any work commences, especially the timescale and payment schedule. Ask about written guarantees on the work and make sure to get a written quote which clearly lays out everything discussed. Getting everything right before the job starts will eliminate most of the reasons why major disagreements occur between homeowners and tradesmen.

    Be Wary Of Cheap Quotes

    When gathering quotes be careful if a tradesmen gives you a dirt-cheap quote that is much cheaper than all the others. This may at first seem like a great opportunity to get the work done cheaper than expected, but there are usually good reasons why they are much cheaper, usually this means shoddy work and hidden costs further down the line to put things right. If the tradesmen also insists on cash payment up front, then it is unlikely to be a great deal for you! Be wary also about tradesmen who are eager to start the job straight away, this may not always be a sign of a cowboy, as jobs sometimes do fall through, but most good tradesman are busy for days if not weeks in advance.

    Always ask about the VAT status of anyone quoting for work. Choosing a small local tradesman that does not charge VAT can be a good way to cut costs, but if a company that is VAT registered offers to not charge VAT when they should, this should ring alarm bells, often it is a way of avoiding any paperwork which leaves you in a poor position when things go wrong!

    Trade Associations

    When it comes to membership of trade organisations, simply asking prospective tradesmen is not enough! You should always check with the trade body themselves to see if they do in fact belong to the trade association. Often this can be done online in seconds, but dodgy traders know that most people simply wont check, so they will just claim to be members and have all sorts of consumer protection and quality assurance! Even if the prospective tradesman does not have a well known trade association, there are general trade organisations which are government approved such as the TrustMark scheme (a Government endorsed quality mark for reputable local traders, the Trading Standards Buy with Confidence scheme (not available in all areas) or the Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network.

    Don’t Be Pressured into Getting any Work Done

    The vast majority of complaints about tradesmen made to Trading Standards arise from cold calling. While it is obviously possible that a genuine and reliable tradesman may cold call for work, most of the cowboy scams work in this way. The way they generally work is to claim they are doing some work in your area, perhaps for the local authority or a house just “a few streets away”. Then they try and pressure you into agreeing to have some work done there and then, usually offering a really low price if they can start immediately. If someone does cold call you looking for work, always treat them just as you would any other tradesman, asking all the same questions (as above) and making all the usual checks. If the fantastic deal offered means you must go ahead right now without doing any checks or paperwork, then it is likely to good to be true. Cowboy traders will come up with all sorts of inventive reasons why you should agree to the work on the spot, but never let yourself be pressured into anything, ask for a quote in writing and take your time before making any decisions.

    Paying For The Work

    Normally it is common practise to pay a deposit and the rest on completion or in stages. If it is a small job you may be tempted to pay upfront. Whilst this is fine, we recommend striking a balance where possible so that both parties are happy and confident that the job will go as intended. If paying for a big job, do not give the tradesperson the total amount. If the trade is a cowboy, this will lead to further issues with trading standards if they don’t return! Always make sure you have a written quote, company name and the address before parting with a large amount of money, therefore if anything does go wrong you can take action with full details of the tradesperson.

    After the Job is Completed

    Once the tradesperson has completed the job and has been paid it is important to leave feedback on the job to help others who may wish to use them in the future. Our Review system is designed to bring accountability to our tradespeople but also help them show off their skills and achievements when they have made customers happy.

    Cowboy Builder Checklist Summary –  Things to Watch Out For:

    • Offers a dirt-cheap quote
    • Asks for cash only payment up front
    • Does not give written quote
    • Gives a written price but with no landline phone number or address, just a mobile number
    • Cannot provide any written references
    • Refuses to agree a timescale for completion
    • Will not sign a contract
    • Will not provide any paperwork
    • Is really keen to start the job straight away
    • Needs you to agree to the work on the spot for a “special discount”
    • Make sure that you ask questions in stages if the job spans over many hours or days. It is important to balance this with allowing the tradesperson to work in peace.


    Save Money with up to 3 Quotes with

    Our free system is designed to provide much of the information required to help you to assess the the tradesman and make an informed choice. The tradesmen registered on our system have to provide business information regarding the size and age of the business, plus information about skills, qualifications and experience, along with examples of previous work. All qualifications are verified before they appear on the tradesmen’s profile so you know that they are genuine. Previous customers can leave reviews so you can also check just how their experience went, but don't be put off if the tradesman has no reviews yet as they may simply be new to the website, yet still very reputable. Although we insist that all tradesmen have sufficient public liability insurance, but not all have yet uploaded proof of cover. So if there is no verification of public liability insurance online, you can (and should) still verify this directly with the tradesman or company.

    Post a Job for Free with MyJobQuote and compare up to 3 Quotes. Compare Trades on the price and quality of their work to make sure you know you have the right tradesperson for the job. Post a Job with us Today.


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    Last updated by MyJobQuote on 9th January 2018.

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