Our Trading Standards officers would like to warn residents against rogue builders and contractors, as demands for home improvements, roof conversions, extensions and landscaping rise.
The number of complaints regarding home improvements received has been escalating to an exceedingly worrying level, with over 200 complaints received during the past year, involving sums ranging from £5,000 to £250,000.
Nationally, Trading Standards services estimate that unscrupulous traders have cost homeowners around £3.5 billion every year.
To attempt to investigate rogue builders and contractors can be very difficult, especially when there are no documents or paperwork provided, and consumers have paid by cash.
The dangers of rogue builders
Engaging with trades that are not fully qualified, insured and competent, may leave consumers with not only devasting financial losses but also leave their homes in unacceptable and potentially dangerous conditions.
Actual figures relating to reviewed cases show that a simple knock at the door ‘advising’ the homeowner there is a loose tile on their roof, which they say can be fixed for a few pounds, can and does spiral to a new roof – the existing roof being perfectly sound, at costs of £80k to £150k.
As long as consumers continue to engage with exploitative traders, they will continue trying to scam and defraud their customers.
Don’t get caught out
As there is no national registration scheme in the UK, anyone can be a general builder.
It is therefore very important to stay vigilant and follow these simple but important steps:
1. Never employ anyone who cold calls at your home and be wary if they can start immediately. If you at any point feel unsure, call the police.
2. Make sure you get details of reliable accredited builders from approved trader schemes, for example the Trading Standards Buy With Confidence scheme. Ensure the scheme you use carries out audits and vets the businesses that are signed up to their platforms.
3. Always get written proof of what you and your builder have agreed to in the form of a contract, including:
- Time scale for the work to be completed.
- Payments in stages - never pay all the money up front. It's also best to avoid paying in cash or by banker’s draft as you get no financial protection.
- A cancellation notice.
- Check there is appropriate insurance.
Spread the word
Councillor Leslie Pumm, chair of the Equalities, Community Safety & Human Rights Committee, said:
“There are a lot of very good, reputable builders in the city. But we are concerned about reports of rogue operators targeting residents, including the elderly and vulnerable.
“Such exploitative practices cause unnecessary distress and financial strain on consumers and often cause more issues than they fixed.
“We ask everyone to always make sure you are dealing with a reputable builder and get details confirmed in writing, before making any payment.
“If you feel like you were a victim of a rogue builder, do not hesitate to contact Citizens Advice and spread the word among your friends and neighbours to ensure it won’t be easy for them to find more business.”
More information and guidance
For further advice or assistance, please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service online or call on 03454 04 05 06 or 0808 223 1133. This information will then be referred to Trading Standards.