How to Avoid Rogue Tradesmen and Cowboy Builders

How to Avoid Rogue Tradesmen and Cowboy Builders

Ah, the infamous rogue tradesmen, or as some call them, cowboy builders – lurking out there with a singular mission: to get their hands on your hard-earned money. We've all heard the cautionary tales, and you'd think by now we'd have mastered the art of steering clear of these scammers. Yet, spotting them isn't always a walk in the park, for cowboy builders have a knack for being charmingly persuasive.

Picture this scenario: a friendly "professional builder" knocks on your door, claiming to be working in the neighborhood. With a dash of fancy slang and jargon, he points out an urgent issue with your property, leaving you feeling warm and grateful for this apparent act of kindness. To top it off, he generously offers a fantastic quote, sweetening the deal by mentioning that you won't even have to pay for materials – he's got leftovers from another job!

How thoughtful, right?

It's a clever ploy, making it challenging to spot a cowboy builder because, well, they come off as polite and caring. In other words, it's tough not to trust them.

But fear not, we've been around the block in the trade, and when it comes to cowboy builders, we can spot a red flag from a mile away. So, let us share our seasoned wisdom on recognizing the signs when those cowboy boots start tappin'.

Red Flag # 1: They Call on You

Be suspicious of anyone who comes to the door offering manual labour. The PropertyHeads Tradesmen Blacklist has hundreds of examples of “door steppers” preying on the elderly and sometimes even returning time and again until life savings have been taken. Do not fall victim to anyone offering to carry out any work that you haven’t asked for - no matter how genuine or attractive the proposition may seem.

Always remember two things:

1: Genuine, reputable builders do not need to knock on doors to find customers – they already have them.

2: Good-standing tradesmen do not go around offering to carry out work at cheap prices out of the kindness of their hearts. Good businesses run on fairness, honesty and top-quality work, not favours.

Red Flag # 2: They Ask for Money in Advance

The alarm bells should start ringing if a builder asks for payments upfront – even if the arrangement seems acceptable. Only pay for materials when you have seen that they have arrived on site and always arrange a detailed payment schedule with your builder/ tradesman.

Red Flag # 3: They Won’t Provide Written Records

Always ask for copies of contracts, invoices and receipts, and be suspicious of any builder who refuses to provide them. It’s also a good idea to obtain a record of insurance, too as well as checking whether the builder has a landline number and is registered with Companies House. A builder who has nothing to hide they will have no problem in giving you copies of the paperwork and company information.  

Can they provide all the paperwork?

Red Flag # 4: You Have a Bad “Feeling”

If something doesn’t “feel” quite right, then it probably isn’t. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. (You get where we’re going with this!) Trust your instincts. If you feel something is “off” with your tradesman or they’re not acting in such a way as you would expect them, your gut is probably trying to tell you something. 

Red Flag # 5: They Don’t Have the Answers

Cowboy builders talk a lot of jargon which can make them appear as if they know their trade inside out. But can they give you straight answers to simple questions? One of the biggest characteristics of a rogue trader is an inability to give direct answers, such as being unsure of how long a job will take or not having the right tools for the job. If you’re left baffled by long words and fancy terminology, yet your simple questions are left unanswered, you are probably dealing with a scammer.

Remember that the reason so many cowboy builders still exist is that they’re incredibly good at fooling innocent people. They’re persuasive; they’re convincing, and they’re darn good actors. But now that you know the warning signs, you can get the upper hand and protect yourself, your property and your finances.

Before you even consider hiring a tradesman, make sure you check at least two credible references and ask to inspect previous work/ speak to former customers  if possible. Do the basic checks like making sure the builder has a landline phone, an address and is registered with Companies House.  And of course, always, always get a trusted word of mouth recommendation. The easiest and most reliable way to do this through PropertyHeads Professional Search using our vast database of UK tradesmen, where we can provide you with credible traders known by your trusted contacts.

Added: February 4, 2019 12:48:45