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Avoiding the 'rogue traders'...

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(Lifted from my bathrooms website)

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You may be worried about accidentally employing 'cowboy' tradespeople. After all, you will probably only find out when it is too late; when the job is well under way. Here, I offer you my own thinking about this. It is from my perspective as a tradesman, but also from my perspective as a homeowner and purchaser of home improvement services (kitchen, new roof, decorating, carpets, damp-proofing etc etc) for my own house.

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I don't think you can ever be totally sure about your chosen tradespeople until the work is successfully finished, unless you have used them before. When I have people work in my own house I try to 'stack the odds' in my favour by taking the following steps, and I think you should consider doing the same…

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Ask friends and associates to recommend someone. Not a surefire guarantee but at least you'll know that they have at least one satisfied customer!

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Ask about their qualifications. You may not be told the truth if the person is unqualified, but you will have the chance to assess their response to your question! Gas Safe Registered gas installers will be able to show you a credit card sized identity card bearing their photograph. You can also check the membership of anyone claiming to be Gas Safe Registered by visiting the website www.gassaferegister.co.uk and using the 'search' box on the right hand side of the home page. Once you find the entry for the Gas Safe Registrant you are checking out, you can use the "View our engineers" facility to see a photograph of the claimed Gas Safe Register member. Very handy. 

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Registered Plumbers also have a membership card, and can be checked at the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering website www.ciphe.org.uk/ 

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There is a growing problem in the industry with plumbers claiming to be Gas Safe registered when they are not. Failure to produce a Gas Safe Register identity card when requested, complete with photograph of the member, is a really bad sign. You can also use the two links at the bottom of every page here to find local Registered Plumbers and Gas Safe Registered gas installers.

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Check they belong to a professional trade organisation. This generally combines with the above. To qualify for trade organisation membership, qualifications have to be produced. Make sure the organisation is for a specific trade. The more generalised organisations (with names like, for example, the Federation of Master Tradesmen) are getting a reputation for having commission-paid recruiting agents (salesmen) who allow admission to anyone who pays the substantial membership fee.

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Ask for references - and take them up. Any competent tradesperson should be able to produce some satisfied customers. Previous customers will be pleased to tell you if being a customer was a good experience! Beware of those who consistently fail to put you in touch with satisfied customers, however credible the reason for not doing so.

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Do they advertise in Yellow Pages? It is not widely known that Yellow Pages advertisers have to to meet certain qualifications to have their adverts published. Advertisers must have a premises which will be visited by a Yellow Pages representative. This means there is a known address should any legal action become necessary. They also have to have remained in business for the time between placing an advertising order and publication of the next year's directory. This disqualifies the worst of the 'cowboy' element from having a Yellow Pages advertisement.

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Check they have public liability insurance. Insurance pays if the tradesperson causes you loss due to their negligence. Many tradespeople are not wealthy and would find it difficult to meet a large claim if they were not insured. Many are not insured, and you may be the loser if your tradesman does not have it.

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Pay in part or in full by credit card. Doing this means two things. Firstly, the fact that the tradesperson takes credit cards shows that their bank considers the tradesperson to be a low risk, and secondly, the credit card company becomes jointly liable with the tradesperson for the contract. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, both the supplier of the credit and the supplier of the goods or services are jointly liable to the customer - a point the credit card companies are not keen to publicise.

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