How to avoid Rogue Traders
Saving energy and insulating property is a hot topic at the moment. Sadly rogue traders are capitalising in this and offering cavity wall insulation services. The actual scam can vary, but often a bogus trader will claim to be part of an energy-saving scheme offering discounted rates, they may state that the home-owner can claim back the cost of the work under an energy conservation scheme, or they sometimes over exaggerate the potential reduction in heating bills. In any case, high prices will often be charged for shoddy or non-existent work.
Most installers are honest trades people making a living, and doing things by the book. Don’t let the fear of encountering one of the few bad apples put you off from improving your home’s energy efficiency. Here are a series of tips to help you find a reliable tradesperson or installer, wherever you are in the UK.
1. Get a personal recommendation
Ask friends or neighbours whether they can recommend anyone to help with your home improvements. Local internet forums are also a great source of information and advice.
2. Check whether the trader is a member of any accreditation schemes or trade associations
Many traders are members of trade associations and accreditation schemes, which aim to improve standards across their industry. Some will have very stringent membership regulations, others will do little more than ask for a fee to allow traders to join. However, most schemes and associations can offer additional support, should you have a problem with your installer or trader.
Some trades must register their level of qualification. Anyone working with gas, should have Gas Safe registration. You can find a registered electrician through the Electrical Safety First site.
Reputable renewables installers should be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
There are a large number of accreditation schemes, which display reviews and ratings from previous customers. In an age of fake news, these aren’t always totally reliable but some to look out for include Which? Trusted Traders, Trading Standards Approved Buy with Confidence and Trustmark.
3. Get several quotes for any work
Try to obtain at least three detailed quotes for any work that you want done on your home. A range of quotes should help you find a fair rate for the work, as well as giving you the opportunity to meet the trades people in question and ask them plenty of questions. You can always ask to see examples of recent work they’ve done, as well as asking for references and testimonials.
4. Be aware of your consumer rights
Remember you are allowed to cancel any order made online, over the phone or in person, within 14 days under Consumer Contract Regulations.
If you are unhappy with an installation or home improvement job, and you can demonstrate that it was done without reasonable care or skill, then you are entitled to ask for the work to be redone under the Consumer Rights Act. Any reputable trader will want to ensure you’re happy with the work they’ve done and will take your complaint seriously.
It’s quite standard for there to be niggles (or worse) with building work in particular and resolving issues is part of the process, so you shouldn’t feel anxious about approaching your trader. Citizens Advice have more information about resolving problems with building work, decorating or home improvements.
5. Protect yourself against rogue traders
Don’t accept business from people who approach you in the street or on the doorstep.
Check that anyone you’re working with has a landline number and a business address rather than just a mobile.
Check that your trader has appropriate insurance – they should have public liability insurance to cover any damage to your property.
Agree a fixed price where possible for any work. Don’t pay all the money upfront – only make the final payment when you’re happy with the job.
Get an agreement of the scope of work and payment schedule in writing – an email is fine, as it will count as proof if you have problems later. If there are any changes to the initial agreement, get those in writing too.
If you come up against someone who is uncomfortable about giving references, writing down any agreements or is difficult to contact – it’s probably best to walk away. They might do a great job but if they don’t, it’s going to be hard to resolve the problem.