We’ve all heard stories of unscrupulous traders knocking on old people’s doors and claiming that their roof needs repairing, then making off with hundreds of pounds without having done any work.
Sadly, while researching common dodgy practices for an article for Which?, these stories seem more prevalent than I had originally thought.
Local councils and Trading Standards run different schemes to try to publicise known problems, so being part of local social media groups could help alert you to any issues in your area. But, whatever you do, don’t agree to work offered by someone who phones out of the blue or turns up unannounced.
This is the more extreme end of the rouge-trader scale. But there are a lot of less ‘shocking’ practices that can be just as costly and infuriating for the average homeowner.
Having spoken to traders, government organisations and our Which? Legal team – which often gets calls from consumers who have found themselves battling a trader – similar problems keep coming up.
Delays is one of them – either in starting the job or not finishing it on time – and work not being up to what was expected or promised. I’ve also heard of work not being completed, traders leaving jobs in unsafe situations and workers not being qualified to do what’s required in the first place.
What to do if you’ve been stung
First and foremost, talk to the trader and try to resolve the issue amicably. Make sure you get something in writing – our page on dealing with builders details how to compile your letter to them.
Citizens Advice is then a good port of call for advice on where to go next as it works with other agencies to find a resolution. Our legal team is also here to help if you need guidance on what your rights are.
Going forward, get at least three quotes and opinions, and an agreement of the work that will be carried out, including the timings and cost, in writing.
Check references by speaking to previous customers and take a look at work completed, rather than just reading online reviews. If the trader needs certain qualifications for the work, verify them rather than taking their word for it.
We want to hear your experiences in order to shine a light on these shady dealings, and make sure consumers are armed with the information they need to avoid employing a rotten trader, as well as what to do if they’ve been affected.
Have you been caught out by a misleading trader working on your home? Have one of these scenarios happened to you or a loved one? Are there other home improvement scams that we haven’t heard about?