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How to Spot Bad Cowboy Builders


Building work needs you to put a huge level of faith and trust into your builder, and if that trust is misplaced, it can cost thousands in time and money. Here are some surefire ways to help you vet builders for your project.

1. No References

A reliable professional will always be more than willing to show off their best work and give references. If they brush off your request then this may be a sign they have no good references. With that being said, new builders especially may struggle to provide this, but even if newly employed, they should be happy to provide the experience of projects they have been a part of.

2. Cold Calling & Door Knocking

If a builder approaches to enquire about any work you have available, they may not be as legitimate as those running their own business correctly. Builder’s tend to find work through recommendations and advertising rather than spontaneous visits. Beware of their motive.

3. Very Cheap Quote, Quick time scale?

If something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Quotes will vary from firm to firm, but always get at least 3 quotes. Sometimes a very cheap quote could mean they are not experienced enough to give accurate figures, or worse still, they may not have the intention of finishing the work at all, at the very least to a high standard. Good building work does take time and money after all.

4. No Contract?

Always, always get a contract when you choose your builder. Paper is a solid foundation when it comes to building work. You want estimates of how much the work will cost, how long it will take, and a legally binding written contact, and make sure they sign it! Without a contact they could end up charging you more, spinning out a job, or denying that they ever agreed to do such things.

5. Payment Upfront?

It’s a huge red flag if a building firm asks for payment upfront for their building work. In your written contract you should both agree when payment will be made. A reliable builder will be happy to receive payment on completion or at stages throughout the project and not expect money before even beginning.

6. Company Details

Always check out the company details, ring the phone number, google the address, check out the website/facebook etc. If there are no details of the company online, then does the company exist? 

Here at CK Architectural, we have built up a network of trusted and reliable trades people over the years. We will always offer to send your Building Regulations Drawings to 2 of our trusted Builders for quotes and recommend you to find at least 1 of your own builders to get a quote from.

CK Architectural

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What to do if... You've fallen victim to a rogue trader

If you suspect you have hired a builder who isn’t meeting the agreed terms and conditions, whose work isn’t of high enough standard, or if they fail to show up on site, then the first thing to do is to try and speak to the builder. Keeping communication going is key to ensuring any queries or concerns are addressed.

If the builder isn’t communicating or if you are still not satisfied, the next step to take will be getting into contact with a third party, such as a regulatory body, Trading Standards or the Consumer Ombudsman.

Reporting a problem to Trading Standards

Trading Standards deal with complex consumer problems and potentially criminal activities. firstly call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline and tell them you want to report a trader to Trading Standards. The consumer helpline will assess your problem and pass it on to Trading Standards. 

Still have a few questions?

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