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What to do if you have been caught out by cowboys

I need to hire a tradesman, what is my best approach?

Be prepared before you start be clear in your mind what you want doing. Top Tip: Clear communication in the early stages prevents misunderstandings later.


Write down your specifications, desired time frames and budget before calling.


Beware the VAT-free 'deal' A VAT-free deal means one of two things. Either the builder does not do more than £81,000 worth of business per annum, or alternatively he is avoiding his legal tax liabilities. You need to ask yourself - Is this builder large enough to be able to complete my work, Will he be around if any of the work requires repair?, How can I have a valid contract if there is no proof of payment?

Keep a record:Take a photo of the intended project before work commences. Top Tip: Most mobile phones have cameras now.

Always get more than one quote. Price should not always be the deciding factor, quality of materials, proven accreditations, experience and reputation should play a large part in your decision. Do they offer a skill as one of many or do they specialise? Top Tip CHEAPEST IS NOT ALWAYS BEST

Avoid hiring tradesmen from publications that clearly just take money for advertising and can unwittingly print false claims and memberships. Classified ads are almost certainly not a reliable resource.  Be cautious of employing trades who have no trading address in their advert and no landline number.

Get a Warranty Some  traders have deposit protection insurance or offer guarentees? What warranties does he have in place and who underwrites his guarantees. Guarentees that are not underwritten are essentially NOT guarantees. 

Check their accreditations: Do not be afraid to make sure their accreditations are up to date. If your trader is a member of a registered trade referral body, such as FMB, FENSA  (List of Approved Trade Schemes) etc  do not be afraid to contact the government Trustmark,  to make sure they have not lapsed. Top Tip: Trustmark is a Government body that oversees the UK’s recognized Guilds and Federations.

Use Checked and Vetted: Using Checked and Vetted is a good start where you know that every member has been met in person, all their critical documents scrutinized and witnessed and where you know all the feedback is genuine and authenticated. It is unusual in the UK to find a company like ours who actually make all their member go that extra mile. All our members are truly accountable and WANT to be vetted and monitored, we believe that we have the highest level of telephone verifed feedback in the UK.

Pay by credit card if you can, this gives you more protection. If they only take cash, get a receipt, if it is a door knocker – be wary, get advice!

Crucially, don't do business at the door.


Paying for a job up front is also not advisable. It is much better to pay in instalments as agreed between you and your tradesperson or use Escrow.

Help I am getting stressed by an unreliable tradesman / The works seems shoddy…what can I do? 

Keep your quote in a safe place… it is evidence and legally stands a contract.

Keep a diary of all events, be fair, keep a written record with photos if possible   

Allow the firm the opportunity to respond to your points and fix any faults. Inform them by a recorded post letter or email, carefully detailing your points of concern. If you send a letter keep the original copy. Tell them that you are aware of your consumer rights. If you are not sure of your rights either call us on 0191 65 111 65 for an information pack or contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06

If the work is going over budget and you hadn't an agreed modified quote, with a detailed explanation of increases then request one.If you have been told by that trader that s/he is a member of an approved scheme then contact that scheme in writing to air your concerns. Most decent Guilds will want to help.  

 Remember, clear communication with the trader can often clear up any misunderstandings. Be calm and clear.

If you are worried about a suspected scam or need to talk to someone about

1.       Worries you have about ongoing works

2.       Advice on the small claims process

3.       Report local intelligence on alleged rogue trades

4.       An elderly relative who you fear is vulnerable (A door chain is essential)


Please call Customer Services  0191 65 111 65

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