The stereotypical traits of 10 teas a day with copious amounts of sugar is a common cliché, so is tradesmen turning up late or blasting out their paint splattered radio across the neighbourhood… but in the grand scheme of things these are minor woes and we can all sympathise with most of them.
Considering their busy schedules, the need for caffeine to pull them through the day and how music can take a little bit of flack off the work in hand; we can let off dusty boots marching through the home if the end result satisfies.
Yet we all know by now that sometimes life doesn’t go to plan and things can go pear shaped. Whether it’s to do with bodged jobs, unaware extra payments, damn right laziness, criminal behaviour or unfinished work – there’s a few pointers to consider to help avoid these issues and ultimately allow you to spot a dodgy tradesman.
The majority of the time tradesmen are qualified, polite and get the job done, however just like any profession you’ll get pre-madonnas, cowboys and people looking to pull a fast one. Below contains eight tips on how to spot a dodgy tradesmen. Hopefully it’ll help at least one poor soul who might be about to make a decision they’ll later regret.
1) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Association / Certification
Many professionals not just tradesmen belong to an association group or trade body. This means that the tradesman in question is fully certified to offer a trade service and usually belongs to one or several established industry bodies. Having this association can give you proof that they are qualified, reliable and are indeed fit to do the work they advertise. There are some exceptions for this such as small scale businesses and part time tradesmen, but on a whole associated groups and being part of a trade body displays all the right signs of a fully fledged worker. Doing some background research on the company or individual by using customer review websites can also be a valuable method of distinguishing the good from the bad
You should find out whether the builder/contractor you are ready to employ belongs to a trade body and if they don’t, why not? It may sound intrusive but you are completely within your rights to ask to see certificates for the qualifications they own, as well as any other reference or form of professional documentation. If the tradesman is unwilling to fulfil your request or they claim that such paperwork does not exist then you’ve probably found your answer right there.
2) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Logos / Firm Vans
Although some cowboy builders and dodgy tradesmen may use false marketing as a ploy to attract business or plant the seed in your head that they are in fact the real deal, the majority that do have firm vans and company logos are certified. You can sometimes tell whether a company is successful, and in turn trustworthy, by their appearance, their vehicle and equipment they use. However this observation is by no means a valid way to scale up whether they are reliable or not.
Some of the scruffiest looking workers can provide a better service than those dressed head to toe in smart firm clothes. But on a whole, appearance can be a good first base indicator. If they’re part of a firm that uses sharp logos and polished advertisements then perhaps they are more profitable, having more to lose and their reputation being more at stake in comparison to those that don’t use branding. It’s not a must do but it’s something you can subconsciously take note of.
3) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Never Agree To Pay Cash In Advance
With most transactions you’d never expect to pay money in advance before a product is in your hands or a service is complete (or partially). You may think that builders and tradesmen need the money to source materials beforehand but this really shouldn’t be your calling. A flourishing trade service would never ask for money upfront to source materials, especially for a job that hasn’t even started yet. If they do ask then alarm bells should start ringing – it simply isn’t a business model you can trust.
4) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Quotations
Before most purchases and specifically those carried out online it’s advised to have a shop around to compare prices before you buy anything. Yet because every job is different and there may not be a set rate on the services you require it’s best off to ask for a quotation. Receiving a quotation is a great way to break down labouring costs and prospective material sourcing. It will also demonstrate how much the entire work may cost and possibly detail any extra labour that may run over the drafted finishing date.
Try to be as specific as you can whilst asking for a quote and include the exact things you are expecting to receive. Quotes are also a nifty way to suss out how experienced a particular tradesman is. If you acquire quotations from around 5 businesses, with the majority asking for the same amount of money but one comes back much cheaper then you should question this figure. Stay vigilant to inexperience or even sinister hidden expenses that they’ve failed to include.
5) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Door To Door / Cold Calls
We don’t know official numbers but it must be around the 10% mark of people that actually engage in a business off the back of a cold call or door to door visit. And there’s usually good reasons for its pitiful successful rate. It’s understandable that new starters or businesses looking for extra leads will go to further lengths to get their services heard but cold calling or door to door sales should flag up dubious doubts, especially in the trade industry.
The sense that something is too good to be true usually comes to fruition, and if a salesman is trying to sell you trade or building services at great discounted rates then you’re right to be sceptical. Following your instincts and gut feeling is always a good way gauge whether something is plausible and in fact the right choice for you. Besides, 90% of a tradesman’s work is sought on the basis that people come to them, probably because they are too busy doing good work to be seen on the streets or in a call centre actively attracting sales.
6) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Contracts & Paying
A written contract laying out prices and any other work specifications is very important. This is not only vital for you (as a client) but also important for the people carrying out the work. Without signed documentations you’ll have nothing legally binding to fall back on should things get sticky. It’s also a great way to keep both parties steering towards the same goal without diverting off track. In a nutshell – get your agreements down on paper.
Paying in cash should only be done if they are a small scale or start up business, depending on how much work they do throughout the year will determine whether they need pay VAT or register. In most cases tradesmen will have to pay VAT, so if they want to be paid cash in hand be aware that this could be because they are trying to avoid paying VAT.
7) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – They Are Able To Start ASAP
Most builders and tradesmen juggle a few jobs at once, meaning if they are taking on a new project it will usually have to fit in and around existing work or a future start date will be set. If they are able to start right away then you may be thinking ‘brilliant’ but on closer inspection their current absence of work could be down to their lack of skills or more concerning, they are actually con artists.
It has been known for cowboy builders to carry out a lot of work in one small area before moving out of the entire location for good. This can often mean that they leave your home or garden in a poor state or even worse unfinished. Once they are out of the area it can sometimes be nearly impossible to track them down again. So it’s a fine line to tread between being busy and available. Sometimes you might hit the jackpot in the sense that a tradesman has literally just finished a job and yours is next in line… but stay alert because these scams exist!
8) How To Spot Dodgy Tradesmen – Secrecy / Inconsistency
Touching on it earlier if a tradesman refuses to disclose their qualifications or even the branch they are associated with then you are right to be suspicious. Another thing is references or portfolios of previous work, you needn’t worry about asking them to produce work examples if you believe they’re legit in the first place but if you did have concerns it may be worth asking just to put your mind at rest.
Most of us would like to think we are a good judge of character but looks can sometimes be deceiving. You can potentially spot a bad apple by how consistent they are in the information they give you. If you have various chats with a tradesman regarding prices, times or materials and an inconsistency of facts occur then pull them up on this and ask why such and such was different before. You might have a liar in your midst and if they are willing to lie about the little things then can you trust them doing a decent job on your property?
If You Are A Victim Of Bad Tradework?
Finally if you are unable to contact the tradesman or firm in question then you should report your experience to the relevant people. The Citizens Advice Bureau will often work in conjunction with Trading Standards to offer you the best solutions going forward. They may even try to track down the perpetrators themselves and keep you updated on any progress. If your tradesman is part of a trade association then contacting the Trade Association direct is another suitable option because you’re more than likely covered by their code of conduct.
Going online and contacting relevant forums or review centres is another well practised follow up to poor trade work. This can mark the tradesman with a bad name and hopefully stop others becoming victims. Tradecheck and TrustMark are good start points because they are always welcome to new stories about poor trade work, cowboy builders and dodgy tradesmen.
Check out our blog that provides some funny and unusual examples of bad/dangerous trade work!