How to dodge dodgy tradesmen

Published by Nathalie Bonney on 12 May 2011.
Last updated on 23 May 2013

Builder on a roof

A new deposit protection scheme, Bondpay, has been launched in a bid to protect consumers from cowboy builders. It allows homeowners to put their payments for home repair and renovation work into a third-party deposit account, which tradesmen won't be able to access until they have completed the work to a satisfactory level.

In the case of any disputes, Bondpay will offer a mediation service, as well as a 12-month warranty. This means the scheme will pay out for any work needed in the event a builder fails to finish a job (depending on the circumstances).

Consumers don't have to pay anything in fees but will be required to pay the whole cost of the job in one go. However, builders signing up to the scheme have to pay a 2.5% fee of the total cost of any registered jobs they perform.

But if you don't want to use Bondpay, there are still various other measures you can take to protect yourself against dodgy tradesmen.

1 Never deal with cold-calling tradesmen


An estimated 89,000 households last year were doorstepped by people purporting to be tradesmen, according to the Trading Standards Institute. Even if someone shows you an ID, don't trust them.

2 Use organisations to find a reputable trader


The Federation of Master Builders' website (fmb.org.uk/fab) helps you search for suitable tradesmen by specialism and location. You can also find approved contractors through government-endorsed Trustmark (trustmark.org.uk). It lists approximately 12,600 traders.

As well as undergoing independent checks and on-site visits by a Trading Standards officer, all members must offer an insurance-backed warranty. Deposit-backed insurance, a bit like Bondpay, is also available.

3 Get a few quotes before accepting a deal

This will give you an idea of the cost of the work you want done and expose anyone who is trying to rip you off.

4 Ask for a written contract

You may be reluctant to ask for something in writing, but asking the builder for a breakdown of the job and his charges on paper or by email will clarify what you're paying for.

5 Double check who you are dealing with 


If the tradesman gives you a mobile phone number or address, check you can reach them on it. Will they answer the phone? What does the address bring up on a google search? It's likely a disreputable company will be exposed in any internet forums the search may lead you to.

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