The Trades’ Coach and bestselling author Alison Warner has revealed her top 10 hacks to beat home improvement scams after Trading Standards reported a rise organised gangs targeting home owners. *
Alison has worked with trades and builders for 10 years and knows how to spot the signs of a trader you can trust. Whether a disreputable roofer, a pushy boiler company or doorstep caller offering to clean your gutters, here’s what to do before hiring a tradesperson this winter.
- Make sure they have a landline
It is very important that you deal with a company that has a fixed landline and office address. Anyone operating with just a mobile phone can simply disappear into the night and can’t be traced if something goes wrong.
- Be observant
Does the company have a clearly branded van, branded clothing and well-presented staff who are clean and tidy? This is often the sign of a professional and courteous service.
- Pick someone with good administrative support
A business with a good back office function will save you a lot of stress. They should deal with your queries quickly and efficiently and come back to you when they say they will – this is a key sign of how well any operation is run.
- Trust your instinct
How a company makes you feel is important. Do you feel rushed into making a decision or unsure that a company has really taken the time to understand your needs? Listen to your gut and walk away.
- Do background checks
Make sure you carry out a thorough check on a trades company, particularly if you’re spending a large amount of money. Alongside review sites like CheckATrade, check they have insurance, read their Companies House entry to check experience and solvency, and refer to a wide range of online tools that highlight any legal or financial disputes. You may also want to select a company whose staff are DBS checked.
- Speak to previous customers
For larger jobs such as house extensions, you may be required to pay a proportion of the cost up front. Always contact at least 3 customers for a reference and speak to them in person rather than over the phone or email. You will find it well worth your time.
- Check the quote carefully
Read through the quote carefully and ask if there are any other items that have not been included which you need to be aware of. Quotes should specify labour, materials, hours of work, scaffolding costs where relevant, tidying up and disposing of any waste. They must also be clear where VAT is applicable.
- Know who you are dealing with
Get the names of those carrying out the work and familiarise yourself with everyone involved on the job, including any subcontractors. Unfortunately, there have been cases where people have been able to gain access to homes while posing as contractors.
- Protect your security
Do not post your address or details online when looking for a tradesperson, or advertise that you will be away from your property while works are taking place. Keep your valuables hidden and secure and always change your locks after giving someone unsupervised access to your property.
- Don’t accept unsolicited offers
Never hire a tradesperson on the basis of an unsolicited telephone or doorstep enquiry. Check your Council website for updates on local scams and suspicious activity to look out for.