Need to hire a tradesman? Here’s how to avoid the pitfalls

Get the right person for the job with our top tips

Getting the right tradesman to do a job isn’t always straightforward. You’re entrusting someone with the task of improving your home and potentially paying out huge sums for it.

Yet according to the Citizens Advice Bureau, home maintenance and improvement businesses are among the most complained about with 34,053 cases last year alone.

So, what can you do to ensure any home renovations are done with as minimal fuss as possible?

Recommendations

The best place to start is getting recommendations from people you know. Family, friends and your contacts on social media are all great sources – use them! If you can’t get personal recommendations, then ask for references and contact details for people they have done work for previously. It’s best to get two or three examples of similar work they’ve done.

One woman who wishes she had gone with a recommendation from a friend was left with high home insurance costs after a plumber caused a leak in her house.

“My living room had wooden floors and as I walked in from work there was what can only be described as a camel sized hump in the floor,” she said.

“He offered me a discount of £200 but when I said I wasn’t happy with his offer, he got aggressive and said he wouldn’t give me my house key back and said he’d come back in and rip out my bathroom.

“I resorted to saying I was calling the police at which point he left with my key. I filed a complaint to the police and changed the locks that evening. The damage came to £2,000 which I had to claim on my home insurance policy. When it came to renewing, my home insurance costs rose dramatically. Now, I’ll only ever hire tradesmen that have been recommended by friends and family.”

Credentials

Make sure the tradesperson is qualified to do the job you’re asking of them.

It’s the law that any gas-related issues in the home must be completed by someone who is Gas Safe Registered. To check if someone is Gas Safe Registered, visit the Gas Safety Register.

Electricians must have passed a number of relevant qualifications. You can check if they are registered here. Research for online reviews and beware of contractors who just provide a mobile number – you need to know where to find them should the worst happen.

Meet them in person – no matter how small the job

Trust your instincts! You are letting someone into your home. Will you be happy for them to be there? Are you happy with how they plan to approach the work?

Jon from Cardiff who had his kitchen and bathroom gutted and re-fitted, said he spoke to three tradesmen that came recommended before committing.

“I had the same list of questions that I asked every time a new contractor visited,” he said.

“The people I went with in the end gave me the most clear and thorough answers. They followed up our meetings with detailed emails too and we built up a good relationship quickly.”

Get a quote – not an estimate

Further down the line, the tradesman cannot legally increase the price of a quote. This is not the case for an estimate, where the final price could change.

Get a selection of quotes from the people you meet. Tradesmen that provide an unrealistically cheap quote might not be offering the bargain you are hoping for. Remember to check whether the price includes VAT and any other additional charges, for example are they buying the materials and is there a mark-up? Don’t be afraid to question details and haggle where you can.

Lucy from Manchester, who renovated her home from top to bottom, said: “We were on a tight budget and I offered to shop around and source loads of things myself, such as sockets and light fittings. I even managed to blag some kitchen door handles that were going spare at my local kitchen shop. It all made a difference to my budget.”

Insurance questions

Ask to see the insurance policies tradesmen have in place. Check the policy doesn’t run out before the work is finished. Public liability insurance will cover you and them if someone is hurt or the property is damaged.

Do they have employer’s liability insurance? Contractors who work through a company are breaking the law if they don’t have this.

You should also speak to your own home and contents insurance provider to make sure you are covered while the work is going on.

Get a written contract

For big jobs, get a contract in place before any work starts. It can help you get what you paid for, or at least get some of your money back.

Payments

Paying by card affords you more protection than paying by cash. If you do get ripped off and you’ve paid by card, contact your bank and say you want to use the ‘chargeback’ scheme. If you pay by credit card and it came to more than £100, you can claim under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

When the worst happens

It’s the responsibility of the contractor to carry out the work with reasonable care and skill. If they don’t, you can ask them to redo the work or refund some of the cost. Make sure you keep a record of all quotes, contract, receipts and take lots of photographs. If you can’t come to an agreement, you can take the claim to the small claims court – but don’t expect a quick fix – it can be time-consuming and difficult. If you do find yourself in difficulty with a tradesman, contact Citizens Advice.

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