You’ve most likely heard stories about builders starting a construction job, and then disappearing after a couple of days with their victim’s money. Unfortunately, it’s all too common, as there are legal loopholes that cowboy builders can take advantage of which allow them to get away with scams like this.
Every year organisations like Action Fraud and Citizens’ Advice receive tens of thousands of builder fraud-related complaints. Thankfully TV programmes like Cowboy Builders and Rogue Traders are now exposing scam building practices and the public are more informed when checking out traders. As a build and design company, we’re experts at weeding out fraud, so here’s our 10 tips for avoiding cowboy builders.
1. Never Trust Cold Callers
There’s a knock at the door and a builder asks if you’ve got a minute. He’s working in the area and has noticed your pointing (for example) needs some attention. He gets you looking at the ‘problem’ and offers a reasonable sounding quote. He tells you when he can start work and gives you his mobile number. He asks for cash up front.
Never trust cold callers. No reputable builder would make this kind of approach.
2. Start With a Specification
Get yourself in the driving seat. If you have a project, start with a specification laying out what you need from your builder. It may include architect’s plans, or a clear description of the work. Be precise about what you want included, such as paint finish, or rubbish removal.
3. Always Get 3 Quotes
A scammer always wants the customer having to make quick decisions. Don’t fall for it. Get 3 quotes before choosing which builder to go with. Your specification will be helpful, but they will need to visit your premises in order to provide an accurate quote.
4. Check Out Before Choosing
So, you get a quote you like the look of, and the guy seemed trustworthy when he came round. Don’t hire them yet. Here’s what you need to do next:
- Check out their accreditations. You want to see Trustmark, Federation of Master Builders (FMB), or National Federation of Builders (NFB).
- How long have they been around? Check out when they set up their business.
- Customer reviews – never trust a company that can’t produce customer reviews on TrustaTrader, Google, or Facebook.
5. Agree a Payment Schedule
A contractor will normally ask for a deposit up front – 30% is reasonable – followed by staged payments. You should negotiate to hold back the final payment until 2-4 weeks after completion. This allows you to check carefully for any snags that you may have initially missed.
6. Talk About Insurance
A trustworthy building contractor will hold Public Liability Insurance. This guarantees that any injury sustained on site is covered (including builders, member of public, family members), as well as any damage to the property.
7. Make Sure Materials are Included in Quote
This sounds obvious, but often an amazingly good quote is only that good because it doesn’t include the cost of materials. Check what is included and what isn’t.
8. Do You Trust Your Builder?
Even after you’ve made all your checks, you should take a step back and consider how you feel about a particular builder. This is someone who will spend a reasonable amount of time in your home, so if you have any doubts, look elsewhere.
9. Agree a Deadline
Don’t assume that a builder will naturally get the work done as quickly as possible. You need to negotiate a reasonable deadline. This should include leeway for unavoidable delays such as bad weather or illness. Clarity on your deadline, as part of your signed agreement is important.
10. If You Sense There’s a Problem
If a builder is an experienced cowboy, it’s likely that once they have your money, there’s little you can do about retrieving it. Many scammers set up Ltd companies and then liquidate if pursued through the courts. You can report them via The Dept of Trading Standards, Citizens’ Advice and Action Fraud.
Looking for a No Risk Approach to Finding a Builder?
Construction Supermarket exists to kick the fraud out of the construction sector. We put clients in touch with verified builders in their area, and we ensure that no payment is released until the work has been checked by an independent Quality Surveyor.