The 7 signs of a cowboy builder
Finding the right tradesmen for your home improvements can be a little like the wild west. Whether you’re looking for a good sparky to install new lighting or a team of builders to add an extension, it’s hard to know who can be trusted and who might turn out to be a cowboy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 7 tell-tale signs of a cowboy builder you should look out for.
1. They knocked on your door
This is often the signature sign of cowboy tradesmen. While there may be a few good tradespeople out there who are looking for a bit of extra business going door to door, this is something to be extremely wary of. An unmarked van pulling up on your street offering home improvements at rates so discounted they seem too good to be true, will often be, well, too good to be true.
2. No accreditation
The Gas Safe Register, the Federation of Master Builders, the Government’s Competent Person Register — there are a number of qualifications and accreditations (some of which are required by law in order to operate) that tradespeople may possess together with ID cards. If the workman who turns up at your house can offer you no sign of their legitimacy, alarm bells should start ringing and it may be best to look elsewhere.
If a tradesman cannot provide proof of their public liability insurance, or gives you some spiel about how they’ve “been in the business for 30 years and don’t need it”, show them the door.
Public libability insurance may be voluntary, but it covers the tradesperson for any damage they accidentally cause to individuals or property. This is unlikely to happen, but you should be able to sleep easy knowing that your builder has the right insurance to compensate you if the worst happens.
4. Cash up front
If any tradesperson asks for their pay 'cash in hand', especially if it’s in advance, be extremely wary. You may just assume that they’re trying to avoid the tax man (which is bad enough). But what's worse is that their intention may be to do a runner with your money before it starts, or leave a job half finished.
5. “I don’t do red tape”
Similarly, make sure your tradesman is happy to provide you with signed time estimates and cost quotes in writing. That way you have evidence to provide to an official authority if they do go walkabout or suddenly start asking for a substantially larger sum than was originally agreed upon.
6. Impossible to find
It's 2017, most tradesman of any merit will have some kind of web presence. If your tradesmen can’t provide you with a registered business address (even if they’re a one man band) or even a number it’s likely you’re dealing with a cowboy. Do a little detective work on Google to see if their number or address really does check out.
It’s unlikely that you’re going to be dealing with a newly qualified tradesman who has started out alone and as such you're their first job. Ask to see photos of previous work or references to see if they check out. Even if they are a legitimate tradesmen, this is also a good way to garner the actual quality of their work.
Try not to worry
While there are conmen and cowboy builders in the world, they are the minority of people working in the trade. Look out for the signs, stay safe, and don't ever let this risk put you off turning your house into the home of your dreams. There are a plethora of honest, hardworking builders out there.