Rogue traders can be beaten with a plan

The seemingly never ending  economic recession is continuing to provided rogue traders with ample opportunities to make dubious money out of unaware consumers, these cowards have a tendency to prey older and more vulnerable members of society.  It seems like there is never a week that goes by without one regional police force or another issuing a public warning to local residents about all kinds of rogue traders operating in their area.

The Heating Helpline, the free consumer advice service operated by B&ES, the Building & Engineering Services Association, has issued a 10-Point Plan to help make sure you don’t get ripped-off by a rogue trader.  This checklist should prove useful even for relatively small home improvement projects.

Get estimates from at least three different traders.
Be clear about what you want and request written details and quotations.  If there is a large variation in the size of the quotes ask why.
Ask for references and inspect previous work whenever possible.
Use members of   Check membership details carefully, as rogue traders will often falsely claim membership of trade associations.
Ask about guarantees, particularly if the job is a big one.  Ask for work to be covered by an insurance-backed warranty.
Use a written contract that states the work to be carried out, start and finish dates, the total cost and how payments will be made.
Keep a record of the progress of the work, making a note of any instructions you give the builder and any payments made.
Discuss any problems that arise with the tradesperson so they have a chance to put it right, but if this doesn’t work put your complaint in writing.  Keep copies of any letters or e-mails sent and notes of any conversations.
Never pay for your work in full before it has been carried out.  Once you have handed over your money it will be difficult to put things right if things go wrong.  Only make the final payment when you are completely satisfied with the work.
Avoid dealing in cash only.  If this is unavoidable, make sure you get a receipt for every payment.

Blane Judd, Chief Executive of B&ES, comments, “The best way to ensure you don’t fall victim to the rip-off tactics of rogue traders is to use the services of a TrustMark registered company.  Although there are now lots of trade competence schemes operating in the UK, only TrustMark is officially endorsed and backed by the Government.

“By employing the services of TrustMark registered traders homeowners can be assured that they are using a firm that operates according to industry best practice, with a standard of workmanship that has been verified by their TrustMark Scheme operator.  All TrustMark companies have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care.  It also means your deposits are protected, should the business fail.”

For more information about the TrustMark scheme visit: http://www.trustmark.org.uk.  For advice on home heating and energy saving, including how to locate a qualified, registered heating engineer, visit http://www.heatinghelpline.org.uk.