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7 Ways To Spot A Rogue Builder

Your home is precious to you: a cozy evening retreat, a buzzing hive of family life, a welcome respite from an arduous day’s work! To enhance our home, many of us choose to renovate, redesign or rebuild. So when a ‘professional’ storms into your house, hacks away at it, and leaves a steep bill in the wake of their destruction, you’re going to feel understandably devastated.

So, what is a rogue (or 'cowboy') builder?

Unscrupulous and deceiving in nature, rogue builders are often unqualified tradespeople keen to take advantage of homeowners who don’t manage to see through their facade. And, unfortunately, a rapidly increasing number of people are falling victim to them. But fear not - if you are considering getting any renovation work done to your property, there are some telltale signs to look out for in order to safeguard your home…

1. They can’t give any concrete examples of work they've previously completed.

Past clients are the best way to ascertain whether this tradesperson is reputable. Simply ask them for references, or try searching for them online. Assess the first hand experiences of these past clients and the bottom line is, if you can’t find any positive information about the tradesperson, avoid using them altogether - chances are, they're trading under false names because they're a rogue builder.

2. They are reluctant- or simply refuse - to sign a contract.

Cowboy builders are renowned for hiking up the price once they begin the work. By refusing to provide a written quotation which is documented in legal paperwork, they leave things ‘Open to negotiation’, whereby they can start to add in unreasonable and unexpected extra charges. Always agree a set price within the contract before any work commences: there are even free contract templates that you can use for this!

3. They request money up front. 

Whether they complete the job to a poor standard, or they abandon the building project altogether before disappearing, rogue builders are out to scam you. Deposit the agreed payment amount in a holding account, where it should remain until the work is completed to the agreed standard.

4. They aren’t registered with a professional building association.

A builder may tell you that they are a member of the Federation of Master Builders or the National House Builders Council, but be sure to check this out for yourself. If they are not, there is generally a reason for this deception - so be wary.

5. They propose payment in cash.

Making an easy and unwarranted profit is the name of a cowboy builder’s game. If the tradesperson proposes that you pay them in cash, it is most likely because they want to escape paying out for VAT: this highlights the dishonest nature of their character. Likewise, paying the tradesperson in cash means that there is no traceable record of them having completed, or received payment for, the work. Cover yourself by paying via cheque, and always insist on an official receipt when this is handed over.

6. They seem to be untraceable.

Given the shady, deceiving nature of what they do, rogue builders do not want to be tracked down by disgruntled clients once they have made a quick exit with the payment. If a tradesperson cannot give you a valid landline (always try to contact them on the number if they do provide you with one), be suspicious. Similarly, always check the address that the builder provides you with: cowboy builders often give false addresses so that you cannot pay them a visit post-deception.

7. They dodge questions relating to what the job will entail.

As highlighted, rogue builders are often under qualified - or even completely unqualified. They often gamble their way through a job, with their eyes on the payment and nothing else. Do some background research into what the specific work that you require will entail, then be sure to question the builder on this before any work begins. Ask for in-depth explanations: if they become suddenly uncomfortable, are unable to answer your questions adequately, or they proceed to steer the conversation elsewhere with a patronizing, ‘Don’t you worry about that’, show them the door!

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