In cash strapped Britain more and more homeowners are doing it themselves but are putting homes at risk from botched jobs.
The research asked 2,000 homeowners about their experiences with UK traders. The results suggest that many are laying themselves open to cowboy builders and being hit with unexpected bills as a result.
More than 1 in 3 home improvement jobs go over budget yet half of homeowners do not take the trouble to get a written quote, according to Checkatrade.com - the UK's most trusted website for monitoring the reputation of tradespeople.
Almost half of property owners settle for just a verbal agreement on price with tradespeople - such as builders, plumber and roofers. And, despite the escalating problem of rogue traders and cowboy builders, a fifth confessed they get just a single quote before commissioning work.
Homeowners in the North East and Scotland were the least rigorous but down south it’s different. The most savvy UK region was the South East, where over two-thirds insist on written quotes before employing a contractor.
The research also reveals that over a third of UK homeowners have experienced ‘botched jobs’ - poor workmanship which leaves people feeling cheated. With 4 in 10 homeowners doing more home improvements this year than last, the stakes are high for cash-strapped consumers.
Commenting on the findings, Kevin Byrne, founder of Checkatrade.com, said: "It’s no coincidence that the number of jobs that go over budget is roughly the same as the number of people who don’t get a written quote.
"Homeowners must take precautions to protect their homes and their wallets from cowboy builders. But the problem doesn’t just lie with cowboy builders - problems arise all too easily even with genuine traders. By following a few simple steps Britons can ensure they are not out of pocket."
Top Tips to avoid rogue traders
- Watch out for contractors who cold call or doorstep you – ask yourself why they need to.
- Make sure you have adequate contact details for your trader in case things go wrong. In addition to a mobile number you should be looking for a landline number, office address and trade association membership details.
- Reputation is everything. Try to use builders who have been recommended to you by people you trust. Take up references from other satisfied customers who have had similar work done and have a look online.
- Have a look at www.checkatrade.com for details of tradespeople who have been vetted to a high standard, and had their insurance, qualifications and professional memberships verified, with scores out of ten from customers.
- Take the time to properly brief tradesmen and put it in writing to avoid any confusion. Be as detailed as possible.
- Obtain quotes from at least three contractors and insist on a written quotation or estimate for the work. Keep them all on file in case of any disagreement.
- To avoid costs spiralling, try and get the job done on a fixed-price basis in case the work takes longer than expected.
- Delayed start dates or long drawn out works can have a major knock on effect on any other buildings works so agree a start date and estimated finish date. However, trades can be delayed by factors outside of their control.
- Avoid anyone who specifically asks for cash - it is illegal to ask for cash payments if the trader does not put it through the books and declare it as taxable income. Cash jobs may result in a receipt not being given, without a receipt you will have no come back if things go wrong.
- Be careful about requests for upfront payments - it may imply they have cashflow problems. In our experience traders who ask for upfront payments often do so because they cannot get credit at their local builders’ merchants, which may indicate they are not financially healthy.
- Once you agree terms and before work starts draw up a simple contract, including the work to be done, the price and the timeframe. Any reputable builder will be happy to sign it, you should sign it yourself and have it witnessed and signed by an independent third party.
- Once work has begun, regularly check that works are on schedule and keep talking your contractor to make sure things are on track.