Avoiding cowboy builders

Extending your home or upgrading the bathroom or kitchen is a popular way to try and add value to your home, but embarking on a building project is a big decision and even small projects can represent a big financial commitment.

Choosing the right builder is crucial to your project running smoothly. Research from the Federation of Master Builders reveals that anxiety about cowboy builders and rogue tradespeople is costing the British economy more than £6bn every year as people delay starting projects for fear of falling into the hands of unscrupulous or unskilled traders.

But not every project need end up like an episode of Rogue Traders or Cowboy Builders! The Citizens Advice Bureau have a number of tips to help you avoid cowboys:

  1. Make sure your chosen builder can give you references, and follow them up.
  2. Beware of builders who offer you a very cheap quote or estimates that are way cheaper than competitors'. This could mean that they don't have the experience to properly price the job. Also, make sure you get a quote in writing.
  3. Warning bells should ring if the builder is too keen to start the job straight away. Cowboy builders often do lots of work in one area before moving on to another place leaving a trail of dissatisfied customers in their wake.
  4. A reputable builder will be able to give you contact details that can be verified (like an address or landline number). Be wary of anyone who only provides a mobile number.
  5. If a builder claims to be a member of a trade association, check the organisation's website to be sure.
  6. A reliable builder should offer you a contract.
  7. Be suspicious of anyone asking you for money in advance of completing the work.
  8. Look out for builders who don't charge VAT when they should (small or new traders may not need to pay VAT), and also for anyone asking to be paid solely in cash. Avoiding VAT is dishonest and against the law.

If you are having a problem with a builder, you can contact your local Trading Standards office who will be able to advise you on the steps you can take.

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