How To Spot The Signs Of A Cowboy Builder

Spotting the signs of a cowboy builder can be the difference in you having the redevelopment of your dreams, and the experience of your nightmares.

A cowboy trader, sometimes referred to as a rogue trader, can be described as a tradesperson who is not properly trained and delivers generally a low standard of work.

We have compiled a list of the most common signs that should set the alarm bells off in your head straight away. If you notice any of the signs below, steer well clear of these tradespeople!

No Accreditations

When a company has no accreditations, it is often an easy first step to spotting a cowboy builder. They can give you reassurance that their work has been previously vetted by a trusted trades body.

Whether it be the Master Builders Association or CHAS, always check that the tradesperson you decide to use has at least some form of accreditation they can show you. A number of these accreditations (such as GasSafe) supply them with ID cards that they can show you as proof.

So, if you do ask a tradesmen this question and they cannot supply you with any kind of accreditation evidence whatsoever, be very careful proceeding with their services. 

This is an easy way to vett somebody for being a cowboy builder.

Payment Upfront

Any tradesman you hire should work to the same parameters as you would expect from a larger company.

What we mean by this is that any behaviour that you would not associate with a reputable company, is likely indicative of a tradesperson that is guilty of malpractice. In other words a rogue trader or cowboy builder. 

Any tradesperson who asks for cash payment before they have even completed the job is likely someone you should try to avoid dealing with. Especially if they ask for cash in hand, which likely means they are trying to get out of paying tax!

Occasionally, these types of tradesmen can even do a runner, leaving you with incomplete and sub-standard work that will cost you even more money to remedy.

Do yourself a favour and ensure that you always pay an invoice and never until the work has been fully completed to the specifications that you asked for!


Generally speaking, in modern times, every company has review experiences posted about them online from previous customers. Whether that be on Trustpilot, Google Reviews, or any other review platform, somebody somewhere would have rated that company’s service.

If you cannot find reviews anywhere for the builder you are considering to use, this is definitely a red flag that requires further investigation. It is highly unlikely that you will be dealing with a first time trader that is taking on their first job.

It could mean a number of things. For example, the builder could be frequently changing their company name to avoid people reviewing their service. This way bad reviews don’t matter as much to them as you will be given a brand new company name that cannot be traced back to the bad experiences that customers have reviewed them for.

You should ask them to show you examples of their previous work, along with references that you can check out for yourself to ensure that you are not getting shafted. Legitimate builders will be more than happy to divulge you with such information as they would have nothing to hide!

They Knocked On Your Front Door
Cowboy builders are keen opportunists. They prowl the streets searching for targets. 

Often they will even instigate the first point of contact, telling you how something is wrong with your property and they have the experience to fix it before a catastrophe hits. 

This is most certainly a con artist at work!

Often the price will sound so appealing that you wonder to yourself how you could possibly turn down these rates from this good samaritan. But sadly this is often too good to be true. Whilst some can be legitimate, door to door business is something to be very careful of trusting.

If you are worried that they have spotted a problem, do not feel pressured into taking the first repair offer from the tradesmen that only just knocked on your door and has come straight out of an unmarked van. Get a number of quotes and be sure to carefully select the tradesmen to avoid getting caught out by a cowboy builder.

The door to door pitches are a cowboy traders hallmark!

Incredibly Low Quote Costs
The final sign we will mention is regarding the price a cowboy builder will often quote you.

Often to compensate for their lack of accreditations and historical evidence of work, a cowboy builder will quote you an enticingly low price. As stated above this is often too good to be true.

You should always get quotes from multiple sources, that way you can root out the cowboy trader easily by spotting the unrealistic rates that they inevitably charge you.

Low rates either mean they are going to hike up the price unexpectedly later, or skimp out on by using cheap cost materials and ill advised practises.

Always compare prices using handy websites such as Infobest, where you can search for the most reliable and highest reviewed builders in your area!

To Conclude
Hopefully this post has got to you before the cowboy builder could. These tips are simple to remember and will always do the trick in helping you identify the good from the bad builders.

Just remember, be careful and take your time when choosing a professional. They are performing a service for you, so it is important that you feel happy and comfortable employing their services.

Never feel pressured to take a service on your doorstep, always do your research and you can easily steer clear from the clutches of a rogue tradesman!

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