Make Your Home a Cowboy-free Zone

22nd August 2014
Posted in Advice

Cowboy traders are responsible for ripping thousands of UK householders off every year – over-charging, providing inferior quality materials and workmanship, and all manner of other petty offences. Their preferred victims tend to be elderly, people who they view as easier to trick and less likely to confront them, and they can average over £1000 with every scam they pull.


If you need some work doing on your home then it’s important to use someone you can trust. Here’s how to avoid the cowboys.


Ask friends and relatives for recommendations
Few things count more than experience, and if you know of someone with a good reputation, it’s worth waiting for them to become available rather than taking a risk on someone you don’t know but who can start immediately.


Use organised schemes
Visit a website such as Trustmark or Check-a-trade. With Trustmark you can have confidence that every tradesman there has been assessed independently for the quality of their work to government standards. On Check-a-trade, it’s possible to view dozens of customer recommendations before booking a quote.


Always shop around
Never go with your first quote, unless you’re using a trusted provider who you’ve used frequently in the past, and even then only if it sounds reasonable. Getting three or more quotes means you can directly compare costs of labour, and approximate costs of materials, and make a more balanced decision. Look also for guarantees of workmanship, if VAT is included, how the company handles complaints, and whether they want money upfront (not good), in stages, or on completion.


Never trust doorsteppers
Traders who ring your doorbell offering their services should be treated with caution. If you don’t know anything about them never let them inside your property or hand over any money. Instead ask for a website address or phone number you can contact them on to check their credentials. If you’re suspicious or feel threatened or pressured, make a note of their license plates. The same caution should apply for any trader who cold calls you from a mobile phone.


Pay in installments
Try to get a fixed price if you can, and request payments in installments so that the trader can pay wages and buy materials, but so that you are also protected if they down tools. Also, try to pay by credit card – this may give some extra protection for shoddy jobs or if you are charged for materials that aren’t used.


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