Tips to protect yourself from poor trade people

When choosing someone to undertake work, an enormous amount of trust is put in the trade person.  For those without knowledge of the industry it is easy to be taken advantage of. Here are a few tips to protect you from poor trademen.

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When I got together with my soon wife-to-be (post-coronavirus), she had already commissioned major building work on her house. This was the construction of a double garage and conversion of the existing garage to a bedroom, creation of new porch and hallway.  She had got two quotes, both from companies that she had used before and trusted.  One of the companies was a large company.  The other was a recently founded company whose owner she considered at the time to be a friend.  As a single female she felt more comfortable with the friend. She had only used them for little jobs before, but believed would go the extra mile for her.  How wrong could she be?

She commissioned the work in June 2018, the work was started in October 2018 and as I write this blog in April 2020, it is still not finished and the quality is, in my view, far from satisfactory. So what lessons has she learnt?

Gaining additional references may not have helped her. The likelihood would be that, well known in the area and for smaller jobs, the references would have been relatively good.  These were tradesmen she had used previously.  She didn’t pay up front, which gave her false confidence. However had no idea of what she was looking at or the cost of the work completed, when presented with a bill.  She felt intimidated by the two large males and was unwilling to call them out on their many excuses because of her lack of knowledge in the field.

Tips to protect yourself

 So what could she have done better as a customer to protect herself?  Some of these points would have helped:

  1.  Don’t trust someone because you know them – it is a business transaction so treat it as such.  If they are going to be fair with you, they will put the information in writing to you as initially promised.
  2. Ensure that the initial specification is detailed and in writing.  There should be clear costs against each parts of the job.
  3. Ensure that there is a latest start date agreed and a latest finish date agreed in writing.
  4. Look on the internet.  Once they have provided a framework for their costings then a google search may arm you with information on materials being suggested, the average cost of undertaking such work.  If you have any doubts, then either get them clarified or walk away. Also look to see if they have sites which allow customers to leave reviews properly. Photographs taken at a distance don’t necessarily show the up close quality of workmanship.
  5. Once the work is done compare the work against similar structures.  My partner is not visual.  She cannot see designs or faults in the way that I can.  However when I would show her another part of her house or someone else’s house that had been built to higher standards, then she understood. 
  6. Put your concerns in writing if they are not being resolved.  Her builders didn’t like it when concerns were written to them and complained that she should “talk to them”.  However, this is probably because they did not want the paper trail.
  7. Take photographs and keep a log.
  8. Prior to taking legal action, pay for a proper surveyor to come out and assess the work and pay for proper legal advice. The law is not always fair.

Good Luck!!

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