How to find a good tradesman by chenmeixiu


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April 17, 2008                                                                                                MOST READ         MOST COMMENTED        MOST CURIOUS

How to find a good tradesman                                                                                   TODAY
                                                                                                                   Harry Potter storylines are gibberish, judge...
How to secure someone reliable - and what to do if it all goes wrong
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Mark Bridge
                                                                            EXPLORE CONSUMER                       Why the great British breakfast is a killer
My last plumber arrived in a Mercedes, invoiced me for £500 more
than his quote and dumped the steel tank he removed on the                   PROPERTY & MORTGAGES
street. Not a happy experience, but not unusual. Problems with               SAVINGS
home maintenance tradesmen, including plumbers, electricians,                BORROWING
builders and decorators, were the main source of complaints to                                                     FOCUS ZONE
Consumer Direct, the government helpline, last year, generating
more than 70,000 calls.                                                      FUNDS                                   Alternative Investments:
                                                                             INSURANCE                               Have you ever dreamed of owning
But most cases, including mine, go unreported and experts believe                                                    your own racehorse or a beautiful
                                                                             CONSUMER AFFAIRS
that this figure represents a fraction of all botched jobs. So how                                                   painting?
can homeowners find a reliable tradesman, ensure that the job is             TAX
done well and seek redress if things go wrong?                               PENSIONS
Steve Playle, of Trading Standards, says that recommendations
from friends and neighbours remain the best starting point, but he
                                                                                                                    Alternative Investments      Property Guides
adds: “Always get at least three quotes and chase up references.                                                    Places & Spaces              Wine & Dine
If someone says that Mary down the road loved his work, don't                                                       Totally California           Business Travel
take his word for it, ask Mary.”                                                                                    Young Photographer           Best Green Companies
                                                                                                                    Surprise Yourself            Love Nature
Alternatively, Mr Playle suggests that you contact your local
                                                                                                                    Wealth Management            Green Money
council to ask whether an assured trader scheme is in place.
These list tradesmen approved by the local trading standards                Survive the downturn
service. The largest is the Buy With Confidence scheme in the               Ten quick tips to beat a house
                                                                            price crash                            QUICKLINKS
South of England, which vets applicants for “high standards” and
“value” and steps in to help to resolve customer complaints.                                                       SU DOKU

                            If a tradesman claims to be a
                                                                                                                                  Now Interactive
                                                                            CREDIT ADVICE                                         Love Sudoku? Play our brand new
RELATED LINKS               member of a trade association,
                            check it out. Mr Playle says:                                                                         interactive game: with added functionality
 Builders feel the pain as                                                                                                        and daily prizes
                            “Contact the organisation to check
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                            whether the trader is registered,
 Learn to drive a harder
                            and ask how members are vetted                                                         Su Doku               Driving            Career & Jobs
                            and what extra protection                                                              Travel                Podcasts           Photo Galleries
                            customers have - some                           Ask James
                            associations give membership to                 Experian's credit expert
                                                                            answers your questions                 COMPARE & BUY
anyone who sends a cheque. The best bodies are members of the
Government's TrustMark scheme.”                                                                                      Money Shop                      Credit Cards
                                                                                                                     Gas & Electricity               Savings Accounts
Note also that gas installers must be Corgi-registered by law.                                                       Mortgages                       Loans
                                                                            READERS TO THE RESCUE
Cold-calling tradesmen should be rejected out of hand. One elderly
man whose case was investigated by trading standards last year                                                     Credit Clinic
lost £82,000 after a rogue trader offered to fix a few loose roof tiles                                            Worried about credit card
for £400. In a standard confidence trick, the trader then told the                                                 scams? Visit our Credit
client that the roof and much of the building were unsound and                                                     Clinic for help and advice
needed to be replaced immediately.
                                                                            A helping hand
                                                                            Solve a reader's problem to            SERVICES
Once you have located a handful of candidates, ask for written              win John Lewis vouchers
quotes based on a fixed timescale or deadline. But Mr Playle says                                                    Free Credit Report              Utility Switching
that a tradesman's readiness to start work straight away may be a           GUIDES                                   Business Finance                Business Insurance
bad sign because “a good builder is a busy builder”. Each quote
should be based on an on-site assessment of the job and the price                                        CLASSIFIEDS
must include VAT unless the document states otherwise.
                                                                                                         CARS          JOBS
Before choosing between options, you will need to consider
                                                                                                         PROPERTY      TRAVEL
insurance. A tradesman should have his own specialist cover, but        How to complain
home insurance is an important back-up.                                 Make your voice heard with
                                                                        our guide to getting redress
You should also agree a payment schedule. Frank Shepherd, of
                                                                                                         Remote Kenyan barefoot
Consumer Direct, says that payment by instalments is best,                                               luxury
keeping back at least 30 per cent until completion. He adds that        MORTGAGES
                                                                                                         SAVE £1200 per person
credit cards are the safest method, providing free basic insurance                                       £2250 per person
for all purchases between £100 and £30,000.

Once you have selected a tradesman, it is important to ask for a
written contract. This should be jargon-free and spell out what he                                       Ramblers worldwide
                                                                        House prices                     holidays
will do and when. It should also give a fixed price. The Federation
                                                                        For the latest news and in-      Over 200 totally amazing
of Master Builders (FMB) offers free templates at                                                        worldwide guided walking
                                                                        depth analysis If a job is expensive - £10,000-plus, say - it                                       holidays
may be worth asking a solicitor to check the document.                                                   Small groups, singles
After the work has started, it is important to monitor progress -
looking over small jobs immediately after completion and checking       THE GUIDES
bigger projects daily, if possible.
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Mr Playle also suggests hiring a surveyor to make occasional                                             Toronto City Breaks
checks on big projects. He can advise on a builder's claims that                                         from £539 per person!
unforeseen extra work is necessary. Such incidental costs are a
hazard of maintenance work, too, but should not affect small jobs       Improve your credit
where the tradesman could be expected to assess the situation in        How to get a better score from   Travel insurance
advance. “The price you are quoted should be the price you pay,”        the reference agencies           Great travel insurance
he says.                                                                                                 deals online
Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 a tradesman
must act with “reasonable care and skill”, in a “reasonable time”
and at a “reasonable cost ”. If the terms of your contract are broken                                     Search for more
or the tradesman fails to meet the Act's requirements, it is crucial                                      holidays
to move fast.
                                                                        Credit Clinic
Mr Playle says: “Give him seven days to fix it, then phone              Worried about credit card
Consumer Direct [on 0845 4040506]. An adviser will go through           fraud? Visit the Credit Clinic   Search Ad Reference:
your options and, as a last resort, explain the civil court process.”   for advice

When a tradesman causes an emergency problem - a leak, for
example - there is no need to give him a week to fix it. “Call in
anyone and ask the original tradesman to reimburse you,” Mr
Playle says. “If he won't, call Consumer Direct.”

If the tradesman is a member of an assured trader scheme or
trade body, remember to contact this, too, as it may have
procedures to help. If you are advised to go to court, claims up to
£5,000 are handled on the “small claims track”. These can be
registered at and handled without a solicitor.
Most claimants must pay a fee of up to £120, which should be
refunded if you win. Successful claimants are also awarded the
money to make things right, plus limited compensation in some
cases. However, there is a small risk that you will not be paid if
the other party is bankrupt or “unable to pay”.

Consumer Direct redirects the most serious complaints to trading
standards, which will investigate and may prosecute on your
behalf. Mr Shepherd says: “Trading standards also monitors our
records to spot patterns of bad behaviour. That is why it is worth
reporting all bad practice, even if you do not intend to take legal

A helping hand at your fingertips

A number of websites can help consumers to find local tradesmen,
but the usual homework - comparing quotes, checking references
and so on - still applies.

Anyone can send their requirements to, for
example, to receive up to five free quotes from the site's “vetted”
tradesmen. But note in the small print: “Although the Quotatis UK
database has been compiled in good faith, all data appearing
thereon has been provided by third parties and the contractors
themselves and Quotatis UK can accept no liability for the
inaccuracy of any such data”.

Further, users cannot tell before completing a request form
whether it lists traders in their area.

An alternative,, which makes no claims to “vet”
listed tradesmen, provides up to three quotes after the initial
request. To help others, users are asked to rate any contractors
they take on.

Listings sites, such as, are more likely to produce
numerous matches in your area. Again, be aware that advertisers
are not vetted.

The Federation of Master Builders' website, at,
lists its members and is packed with advice on finding a reliable
operator. It has links to useful sites such as, which explains building regulations -
something to look into before commissioning building work.

Case Study: Once bitten, twice shy

Georgie Upton, of West London, was stung last year when she
and her husband failed to take basic precautions before hiring a
local builder to fit a new kitchen. “Someone told us he was good,
but we didn't check references. Our big mistake was to not ask for
a written contract. We ended up paying about £500 more than the
verbal quote because of extras he had not warned us about. Also,
the job dragged on for three months.”

When the 31-year-old marketing manager wanted a plumber to
connect a new bathroom suite this year, she took no chances.
She obtained five quotes - one from a plumber recommended by
friends, one from a local plumbing shop and three from
advertisements on “I checked references, got a
written contract and paid £200 for a good, quick job,” she says.

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