AVOIDING THE COWBOY TRADESMAN – Most of us are aware that rogue or cowboy tradesman never live up to their promises, often producing poor workmanship or causing more damage through their lack of skills and professionalism. Any homeowner who has been subjected and conned by a cowboy will testify that it cost 2 or 3 times the amount initially quoted to put the job right by a professional tradesman.
Cowboy tradesmen are everywhere and when the household budget is tight but you need to undertake essential repairs then it’s imperative that you hire a professional. Most people are under the impression that you can spot a cowboy tradesman by the low price they offer. This is in fact a myth and most are wily enough to understand that giving a cheap price will not allow them to get a foot in the door.
Most cowboy tradesmen operate in a few way, one by cold calling and the other is by pushing leaflets through the doors of homeowners with offers of high quality work at reasonable rates. While cold calling is not illegal the consumer does have a number of rights, including a ‘Cooling Off’ period on any contracts signed, for a period of 7days. Note that this period is for contracts with a value exceeding £35.00 and is regulated by the Consumer’s Home or Place of Work Regulations 2008. It is sometimes very easy for unscrupulous tradesman to coerce people into signing contracts which is why consumers are now protected under the law. The Office of Fair Trading also has advice under its ‘Your Doorstep, Your Decision’ scheme, which details are available online at the Office of Fair Trading
According to research, undertaken by the Office of Fair Trading, it estimates that over 3 million people each year lose money to cowboy tradesman with an average cost exceeding £600 and those over the age of 55 being hit further with an average cost of £1,100. For more information see the link above.
It is a concern that many people are vulnerable to cowboy tradesman and especially the elderly. However, there are measures you can take to help avoid falling foul and becoming a victim, and here are a few ideas:
- Don’t entertain those tradesman knocking at your door with offers that are generally too good to be true.
- Ask if they have professional membership, for instance are they CORGI registered – note that Gas and Electricity do require an accredited tradesman for any work that is undertaken. Remember be suspicious… Just because someone tells you they are accredited doesn’t necessarily mean they are. Take their business card and check out their credentials.
- Don’t sign anything until you have checked them out. Ask for references and follow these up.
- Don’t be pressured into feeling that there is an urgent need to get the work done there and then. This is a classic sign you are about to be ripped off. Most cowboys will try to convince you that the work needs doing immediately.
- If you do engage the services of a tradesman then make sure a proper survey of the work is done prior to signing a contract and ensure that the price is firm. There are many times when cowboy tradesmen will give you a cheap price and then inform you there are other problems (that don’t exist) to increase the amounts they charge.
Remember that cowboy tradesmen are very good at convincing people – it’s how they make a living. If the cost of the work is going to exceed £100 then insist you pay by credit card. Credit card companies have an obligation to protect consumers and you will find, if things go wrong, that the credit card company will refund your money. It is a good idea to insist on paperwork, such as a contract that details the work being undertaken and the cost. If you do run into any problems you can then report the matter to the Office of Fair Trading or in the worst case the police.
One of the easiest ways to avoid the cowboys is to use third party service providers, such as RatedPeople.com This particular company acts as a go-between for traders and consumer. The unique aspect of this is that they only list tradesman that other people recommend, that is other people have had work done by the tradesman and are happy to recommend them to others. This acts as a huge referral system and so significantly reduces the chances of being caught by a cowboy. Use the link above to check out the RatedPeople.com service. It is completely free and this is how it works:
- You detail the type of job you want done, for example, plumbing.
- You then detail your location.
- From this information you will receive 3 quotations from tradesman that other people have recommended and it’s completely free.
- You then decide if you want to engage the services of any of the tradesman that provided a quotation. You are under no obligation to do so and you can do this all from the comfort of your home online.
This idea behind this is a simple one and is specifically designed to provide homeowners with reasonable quotations from professional tradesman that have been recommended by other customers. This is a great way to help fight against the cowboy tradesman and put them where they belong… Out of business.
The next time someone comes knocking on your door or you have a glossy leaflet that falls on the doormat just be aware that the services they offer could end up costing you a lot more than you bargained for.