How to help you avoid cowboy builders

It’s estimated that cowboy builders cost the British public £1.5 billion annually, this is a very serious problem and is having a negative impact on peoples lives and on the property they live in. Cowboy builders come in all shapes and sizes some appear to be from legitimate companies, others will just knock at your door, and pressure you into work you do not need. With tactics ranging from charging over inflated prices for appalling work, to asking for a deposit and never starting a job.

In our experience we have had to go and redo many jobs that cowboy builders have done, from the small to the large. Many jobs that we have rectified have endangered the lives of customers, in some instances we have seen buildings have been condemned by the Council. Such an example was a loft conversion that was done in under two weeks, a loft conversion can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks on average with three men, depending on the size and specification. The cowboy builders had cut all the strength out of the roof and it was slowly collapsing into the house. We have also seen carports collapsed on vehicles due to them poorly been attached to the house, luckily in all instances no one was hurt.

Taking the cheapest price for any job you want doing on your house is a sure sign that you will not get a quality job, in most cases the problems are found weeks, or months after the job is done this is particularly most common with work done out of easy access i.e. anything which is at guttering level or above.
The unfortunate reality is that people who say they will do you a discount for cash is a telling sign that the job will be done as quick as possible meaning it will not be properly. So here is some advice on how to spot and hopefully avoid cowboy builders:

  • They will knock on your door and only have a mobile number as point of contact with no landline, this is so they can easily change numbers with pay as you go sim cards, and obviously so you do not know their address.
     
  • Unmarked van or vehicle a tell tale sign probably the most important, a reputable business or company will have a sign written van only those who do not want to stand out or easily trace by annoyed customers will have an unmarked van. Though some cowboys have marked vans and change company names to avoid detection.
     
  • Will want cash up front without doing any work, they may even want the full amount. They will want all payments to be paid in cash, no matter how big the amount, this is so they do not have to declare the money to the government and pay tax, nor have to pay it into any bank account.
     
  • No written quotation or written contract, everything will be done verbally, that means if you ever have to go to court their is not written evidence making it difficult to prosecute in a court of law. 
     
  • You will have no reference to the quality of their work, such as a quality web site or locations of previous work they have done, it will just be their word.
     
  • If they do give you locations about previous work they have done do your homework, knock on the door of that house and check that the work was carried out by the same builder; it is common for cowboy builders to pretend that they carried out work which has actually been done by others, this is usually on larger projects such as extensions.

The problem is a real one and people need to be well educated to save themselves stress and money, a proper job will always cost more money, three quotes for a job and the cheapest one does not mean that those three people are going to carry the job out the same way. In our Blog I will be discusses some of the problems we see with poor workmanship and hopefully help educate you on how jobs should and should not be done.