I'm a builder – the five signs a cowboy trader could be ripping you off | The Sun

ROGUE traders might seem inconspicuous and hard to avoid but finding a trustworthy tradesman isn't all that difficult.

Whether you're having a new kitchen fitted, a major extension or a spot of decorating, it's vital to make sure you're choosing the right person for the job.

Most of us have heard horror stories of cowboy builders who have run off with the cash before doing any work or left homeowners with damage or shoddy work that costs thousands to put right.

But there are a few simple ways to avoid falling foul of rogue rip-off merchants.

We spoke to Emma Kemp, director of the bespoke building company i-Furb, who shared the five signs which could indicate a cowboy builder.

Emma also revealed her top tips on how to avoid these dodgy traders including a list of what to ask when you're on the hunt for a tradesperson.


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I’m a builder – 6 questions you should ask to sniff out rogue traders

And remember websites such as Checkatrade and Rated People can help you find reputable traders, but you should still do your own research too.

1. Being too available

Sometimes unverified trades will take advantage of busy periods or moments of crisis such as extreme weather.

Rogue traders have been known to capitalise on the fact that you're desperate for your roof to be retiled after a storm.

So make sure you read reviews of their past work, and ensure they are vetted and qualified to undertake the project.

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Emma said: "Consider builder availability and stay clear of builders that are available next week, especially for larger projects.

"Good builders are usually on a two to three-month lead time and it'll pay off to wait that bit longer."

2. No website or brand

Rogue traders are less likely to have an online presence so they are harder to find.

They often work by providing false details and addresses – in the knowledge that doing so makes them hard to catch and hold them accountable.

Always check to see if your trader has a website or at least has their details on websites like Checkatrade – where you can easily source reviews.

Emma said: "Do your homework and always look at whether builders even have a website or brand.

"Websites like Checkatrade vets tradespeople and helps potential customers visit any associated websites or a portfolio of their previous work."

3. Prices too good to be true

If the cost seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

The cheapest quote is normally only cheaper because it’s been rushed or corners have been cut.

And remember, cheap work can’t always be rectified.

Emma said: "Pay for what you expect and use a highly recommended tradesperson after getting multiple quotes – avoid going for the cheapest one."

4. Asking for payment upfront

If you're asked to make a full payment upfront, you could be at risk of being ripped off.

Never agree to make full payment in advance of work being undertaken.

And always make sure you receive a detailed written quote that includes terms and conditions, and states what will be covered by the quote – and what won’t.

When it comes to big builds, like extensions, Emma said: "Never pay a deposit or money upfront.

"Customers are always best to be at least two weeks behind the build when it comes to their payments."

Key things to ask your builder

Emma said the easiest way to ensure that you don't get ripped off by a cowboy builder is to make sure that you ask questions.

Asking to visit and speak to customers of current and recent jobs is always wise, according to Emma.

She also said that it's worth asking traders for proof of public liability and employer's liability coverage.

It's wise to also ask for a contract with an exact cost, as Emma said that you should never accept an approximate cost.

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Asking for a work schedule as well as a payment schedule can also reinforce the legitimacy of a trustworthy trader.

Builders should also guarantee their work and offer a minimum of 12 months of free maintenance – so check when you're getting quotes.

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