How to avoid cowboy builders


Follow these top tips for working with your builder to make your dream project run as smooth as possible:

  1. a) Preparation is key so start your search for a good builder – by getting a referral from family, friends or colleagues who have recently had some work done. Ask the builder how long they have been trading and what experience they have in the work you need completing.
  1. b) Do not be fooled by the badge – Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 it states that it is an offence for a company or individual to falsely claim affiliations or connections, including those to trade associations.  There have been a substantial number of cases of bogus builders fraudulently claiming membership of official trade associations, so call and make sure they are a ‘ bona fide member’.
  1. c) Get references – then check them out. Contact the people who provided the references and find out how happy they were with the quality of the workmanship and the builder’s conduct. For additional peace of mind, go that one step further and even ask to visit the properties to see the completed work.
  1. d) Once you have a shortlist of builders, obtain quotations – get full details in writing of what is covered and what is not. This should include a detailed schedule of the work to be carried out, site maintenance, clearance, material supplies etc.
  1. e) All things planning – Whether you intend to extend up, out or down, it is always best to check to see if you require permission. Many builders will be able to offer advice on planning permission and building regulations so always ask your contractor to confirm as to whether planning permission is required and if you will need to apply for Building Regulations approval. Better still; don’t take anyone else’s word for it.  If you live in England or Wales you can find out if you require planning permission by logging onto the Government’s ‘Planning Portal’ website  This handy portal contains extensive information about the planning application process along with a form to apply for planning permission online.
  1. f) Get a Contract – Congratulations! You’ve chosen your builder now make sure you put the details of the job down in writing, the more thorough the content, the better. Your contract should outline what work is to be done, start/completion dates, security, safety, the cost of the work and materials, lavatory arrangements, hours of work, snagging and ‘making good’ after the work is completed and finally, the cleaning up and disposal of waste materials.
  1. g) Cash deals – are to be avoided at all costs. You will not have a valid contract if there is no proof of payment.
  1. h) Be straight about money – with your builder and agree payment terms clearly in writing.
  1. i) Guarantees – is the contractor offering a guarantee on a large-scale job? If it is a new build you will definitely need a guarantee on the property.
  1. j) Ask if the builder is insured – they should have cover to protect themselves against property damage and personal and public liability to protect you and the general public in the event of accident or injury.
  1. k) Let your neighbours know – building work can be very disruptive to your neighbours so make sure you let them know exactly what will be going on, how long you think the builders will be in site and if the builders might need to gain access to their property. Don’t forget, not everyone is accommodating, so if your neighbours don’t want your builder on their property make sure you let the contractor know in plenty of time before the commencement of the project so that they can make alternative access arrangements.
  1. l) Keep Talking – most problems occur when there is a communication breakdown. Keep taking to your builder so that you are fully aware of what is going on. If you are not happy with something then bring it to the attention of your builder that way, as issues arise they can be dealt with swiftly.  Everyone is entitled to change his or her minds about certain aspects but always make sure you discuss these changes with your builder as soon as you can.  This way, your builder can amend their quote before you go ahead with the additional work or revisions.

The building firm you choose to carry out your project will be spending a number of weeks or even several months, working in your home.  You need to be confident in their ability to carry out the work so always follow try to follow these simple guidelines set out by the Federation Of Master Builders:

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