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How to Avoid a Rogue Trader

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Catch out rogues by checking if they are a legitimate business. The good ones will be registered as a Sole Trader or a Limited Company and registered with the Inland Revenue or Companies House – if not avoid them! 
Do they have premises and or a registered office, check if they have a landline number together with a web site and/or email contact – and someone contacts you when you enquire. If it’s just a van and a mobile, they are best avoided. 
Ask for references and check them out by visiting the last two to three jobs they have done
  Look and check membership of trade groups such as Gas Safe or NAPIT and see if they are approved contractors for larger/well known organisations.  Beware of fake claims!
Please note: very small or newly formed companies may not be part of any trade group does not mean that they are Cowboy builders!
  Will they provide a written detailed estimate and costings for the job, as well as a time frame for each stage of the work? A proper tradesman will gladly provide these.
  Be wary of unusually low quotes and those who can work immediately. Not all are rogues who do this, as good companies might have had a job cancelled. But the best ones are rarely ready to go now. 
  Always ensure you have a contract. If they don’t want one, then either organise your own or walk away – if something goes wrong, your legal position won’t be strong.
Ensure in all contracts your tradesperson isn’t paid for additional or unforeseen works unless agreed in advance. 
Contracts do not need to be long, but should detail the work to be completed for the price agreed. 
No legitimate business will work “off the books” so be wary of requests for cash payments and offers of ‘cash-in-hand to avoid VAT. There is no come back if there are problems. 
Ask to see their insurance and what protection you have if they go bust. You don’t want to have to pay out for an accident or incident which causes problems to neighbours!
Ask for a copy of insurance documentation...and keep it!
Safety is key when carrying out work on your home. Any reputable builder will provide you with a written 'Safe Method of Work' or 'Method Statement' detailing every stage/work activity of the project and how he/she intends to manage them. 
To ensure safety is adhered to, ask for certification and/or personnel training records to prove they operate to a minimum Health & Safety standard.
Getting things in writing is essential to make sure you can complain if something goes wrong – or as a reminder of the agreement between you and the tradesperson.
Keep records of photos/video before during and after the work.
Never ever pay any cash upfront – you should only pay for work that's been completed or to an agreed payment schedule i.e. for materials 'on site' on larger jobs.


All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of
Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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