People in Staffordshire are being urged to be on their guard for cowboy builders targeting residents in the area.
Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards has issued the warning following an increase in the number of complaints from people about being ripped off for home improvement work.
Complaints range from being grossly overcharged, work being carried out that is unnecessary and paying out large deposits for work that is never carried out.
Officers are now reminding people to be wary of those offering convincing deals on various household jobs and repairs, particularly those calling door to door.
Prices charged are usually excessive and anyone accepting work will pay much more than intended. Work is also often very poor quality, can be dangerous and in some cases isn’t even done. Doorstep criminals in particular also rarely provide paperwork so they can’t be traced once they’ve left people’s homes. Names, addresses and business details are often false and telephone numbers don’t get answered.
Common services offered by cowboy builders and cold callers include general building work, extensions, roofing, repairs and maintenance and driveway resurfacing.
Victoria Wilson, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “Keeping communities safe is our priority and this includes protecting people from rogue traders and doorstep crime.
“Cowboy builders prey on the vulnerable and sadly are active at this time of the year, as people use the New Year as an opportunity to do some work on their home.
“Most reputable builders, roofers and gardeners do not cold call. Our advice to people would be to always use a reputable trader, preferably someone who has been recommended by a friend or relative, take your time before making a decision and get several written quotes before agreeing to have any work done.
“Never agree on the doorstep to have work carried out and don’t be tricked into thinking you’re getting a good deal in return for payment in cash or an immediate start to work. If you’re unsure about a cold caller you should ask them to make an appointment to come back when a friend or family member can be with you.”
Officers are offering the following advice:
- Beware of prices that sound too good to be true. If a builder gives you a quote that makes you think ‘wow, can it really be that cheap?’ then the answer is probably no.
- Don’t expect builders to be available immediately. Reputable builders generally shouldn’t be available on the day, or the day after you talk to them.
- Don’t put down large deposits up front. It’s not normal practice for builders to ask for large deposits up front. Established, reliable builders will be happy to buy the required materials and complete several aspects of the job, if not all of the job, before either being paid on completion or in stages as work progresses.
- Check out their previous projects. Start with a builder’s website and check out their completed projects. Are there lots of recent examples? Is the work high-quality?
- Vet your builder thoroughly. Do they have references/testimonials? Do they have a registered business address? Testimonials are important because you can see whether their previous customers have been satisfied with their work. And proof that their business is fully registered is vital, so you know they aren’t just completing all jobs out of the back of their van.
- Be cautious of doorstep builders. Following the advice that all good builders will likely be very busy, it’s better to be wary of builders who knock on your door and offer a quick fix for something they’ve spotted, such as problems with your roof tiles.
- Look out for unmarked vans. They may say they’ve been working nearby in your area and could quickly fit you in; incredibly having the required materials in their van! But even if you consider them for your job, you shouldn’t neglect to follow the tips above.
- Make sure you set up a contract. This contract should include estimates of how much the work will cost and how long it will take and key responsibilities for the builder to ensure a dispute-free build. You may also need to take out additional self-build insurance or renovation insurance.
Anyone who has concerns about doorstep callers is urged to call the police on 101, or the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.