STOP! Don’t give work to Cowboy Builders!

publication date: Nov 25, 2010
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

STOP! Don’t give work to Cowboy Builders!

I’ve been trying to work out how cowboy builders carry on to stay in business during these tough times. Is it that they quote work ‘without VAT’ or that if you pay cash ‘we’ll all save on tax’? Well if it’s either of these, then this isn’t really a saving at all. If something goes wrong, the cowboy builders are not obliged to fix it or you will have to admit to the Office of Fair Trading you took on people and avoided paying taxes – that’s a pretty tricky situation to find yourself in.

But, what I’ve tended to find is that it’s not so much cowboy builders are likely to be chosen to save on paying VAT or tax, it’s that they are chosen because they can do the job ‘immediately’. It’s also because they say they can do whatever you want and seem to then come up with a price that in your mind is ‘reasonable’.

However, choosing someone this way can be a big mistake! It’s vital however (my husband has been trying to find someone to fit a door in Reading, Berkshire, with no joy, very fed up, so I’ve taken over!) to find someone that:-

  1. Will guarantee the work.
  2. Will put a quote in writing.
  3. Is known locally, for example by the local Howden’s, tile or floor shop that’s been around for a few years.

Doing this though might not help. My husband has asked local colleagues, friends and family and drawn a complete blank for a carpenter in Reading, so I thought I’d better take over to avoid the ‘cowboy builder’ route which he may be about to go down!

So where do you turn to when you’ve run out of people to network:-

  • Try visiting TrustMark. This is a not for profit organisation, licensed by Government and supported by consumer protection groups.
  • For larger jobs try visiting Federation of Master Builders. Although this doesn’t guarantee a good job, they do usually have insurance you can purchase and the Federation do do background checks on initial members.
  • If you are a member of Which? you can also join their Which? Local for free. Which? members vote for people that have carried out jobs for them and the good ones can be reviewed an posted on the site.


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