Don’t fall victim to home improvement scams and rogue traders – follow our tips on how to make sure you hire a reputable home improvement contractor.

trusted-tradesmenIf you need to hire a homeimprovement professional, how do you find one you can trust? Unwittingly hiring a rogue trader can have devastating consequences, as Richard Clarke from consumer direct highlights: “This can result in poorly finished work, bad safety standards and the need for the work to be undone and started again from scratch.”

So how do you avoid falling for a home improvement scam or hiring a rogue trader?

Check if they belong to a trade body – word of mouth recommendations are great for hiring a tradesman, internet forums and online reviews can also be helpful. However: “Membership of a reputable trade federation is the best check of a professional’s credentials,” says Julia Evans, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB). Trade organisations like the NFB or the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) check each contractor’s qualifications, references and insurance for you. Always be careful with tradesmen who turn up on your doorstep touting for work – many scams operate in this way.

Ask to see their paperwork – independently check a tradesman’s credentials by asking to see proof of their qualifications and insurance, you also have the right to request references. This is especially important when it comes to potentially dangerous work such as gas or electric fittings, as Phill Brewster from the Gas Safe Register points out: “In the hands of an illegal fitter, gas can kill.” A reputable company will normally have a landline and company address, be wary of tradesmen who can only provide you with a mobile phone number or email address. A good contractor will be happy to answer questions, provide documentation and may even have a portfolio of past projects to show you.

Get at least three quotes – “Set a detailed brief and be clear about what you want, as this can make a huge difference to quotes,” says Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). “When you are ready to decide, don’t just go with the cheapest option, consider communication and quality too,” he adds. Comparing quotes allows you to get a general idea of what your home improvement project should cost and enables you to weed out any high-priced scams. Be careful of suspiciously low quotes too – if you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Draw up a contract – verbal contracts are a bad idea. Always draw up a clear written contract for your home improvement project stating exactly what work needs to be completed. Make sure the contract covers cost and payment method and specifies a timescale for the work – with a completion date if possible. One of the most important things to remember, says Brian, is: “Never pay the full cost of the project up front.”

Report rogue traders – if you do have the misfortune to come across a rogue trader or fall prey to a home improvement scam, make sure that: “You report cowboys to the office of fair trading and standards,” says David. This will hopefully prevent other people from becoming victims of the same tradesman and may enable you to prosecute or claim compensation too.

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