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On Saturday 24th June, co-founder and surveyor at RTC, Andrew Bradshaw, was asked to appear on GB News to offer advice and guidance on how to avoid getting ripped off by tradesmen after a single mum was charged thousands by ‘cowboy builders’ and was left with a huge hole in her wall.

Below, Andrew, who was the former national chairman of the PCA (The Property Care Association), and was on the board of the PCA for 12 years, highlights 10 important factors you must look into when acquiring the services of tradesmen.

1) Are they a member of a trade association?

It is important to use a company who is a member of a reputable trade association. Using members of a trade association can provide peace of mind to the consumer.
Membership criteria may include:
• Industry Qualifications
• Financial Stability
• Initial Vetting process
• On-going regular Audits
• Signing up to a code of ethics
• Access to on-going training
• Access to arbitration and mediation services (very helpful in the event of a dispute)

As members of the Property Care Association (PCA) for example which is the only trade association for the building preservation and specialist property care industry, they require companies to meet and maintain robust membership criteria which cover aspects of their service including professional qualifications, service delivery and financial stability. All PCA members are audited regularly to ensure standards are being maintained.

Trade associations often have complaints procedures and can act as a mediator between the consumer and a member company in order to seek to resolve any dispute effectively. This means consumers have an avenue to turn to for advice in the first instance, should something go wrong.

2) Do they hold credible accreditations?

Finding tradesmen who are accredited shows that they are meeting the highest standards within their industry.
A list of accreditations may include:
• Trade Association Membership
• TrustMark (Government endorsed standards)
• Which Trusted Trader Status
• Membership of a Health & Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS/Acclaim)

3) Are they suitably qualified to undertake the task?

Industry qualifications prove to the customer that they have carried out the necessary training and have taken the time, effort and financial commitment to be as qualified as they can be to carry out the works in a safe and professional manner.

When acquiring the services of a tradesmen, asking about/being shown their qualifications will help put your mind at rest.

If an industry qualification is available and someone chooses not to gain this qualification then you have to assume that either they feel they do not have the ability to obtain the qualification or that they cannot be bothered, unfortunately neither of these reasons is acceptable.

4) Look at their reviews (make sure they’re genuine)

Look at reviews. Looking at reviews can be a big factor in the decision-making process of anything you do, especially something which will cost you a lot of money.
By seeing a number of positive reviews with good feedback, it will give you the confidence that you are in safe hands.

There are several platforms where you can check for reviews. For example, RTC have Google reviews, Which? Trusted Trader reviews, and reviews.co.uk.

5) Ask to contact previous clients

Don’t be afraid to ask to contact previous customers, this can give you first-hand experience of the service they have offered.

6) Get a few quotations.

• If you’re unsure meet with more than one contractor and get various quotes
• Be careful as cheapest is rarely the best option
• Some works can be expensive but having to have it done again is more expensive
• Never be pressured in to accepting anything unless you’re happy
• Even if you accept the work you have a 14 day cooling off period and can change your mind
• Please remember not all cowboys wear a mask

7) Are they suitably insured?

Relevant Insurance may include:
• Public & Employers Liability Insurance
• Professional Indemnity Insurance
• Product Guarantee Insurance
• Insurance is expensive and some contractors will not have it to save money
• Ask to see copies of the certificates and check they are in date

8) Are they offering guarantees? If so, are they genuine?

Are any guarantees being offered. Workmanship guarantees set out the contractor’s obligation to remedy any defects in installations they have fitted, however, this doesn’t mean they will always be around to carry out the amends for you. Companies can ‘cease to trade’ for many reasons, including retirement, illness or a new career choice.

The purpose of an insurance backed guarantee is to honour the terms of the installing contractor’s own guarantee, where unfortunately, the installing contractor has ceased to trade and is, therefore, unable to satisfy remedial claims made against their workmanship guarantee.

Quality Assured National Warranties (QANW) for example, specialises in IBGs for the home improvement and construction industries.
It is also important to remember that even without a guarantee, the work must be fit for purpose and your own statutory rights should protect you for 6 years.

9) Deposits

• Deposit payments are something that a lot of companies/tradesmen will ask for and this is quite normal
• Depending on the size of the job, anything from 10% to 50% could be asked for
• Never pay for anything in full before the work has been carried out as this is NOT a reasonable request
• Is your deposit protected

The PCA, for example, offers a ‘PCA Promise’, this is a warranty for work in progress and deposit payments which insures that should the unthinkable happen, and the company carrying out the work cease to exist, then another PCA contractor will complete the work to the original specification – at no extra cost. There is no cost for the ‘PCA Promise’ and it is offered to provide the customer further reassurance and peace of mind.

10) Do your research

Do your research in the best places to find contractors. For example, The PCA website is a great place to look for contractors who specialise in damp, waterproofing and timber treatment, Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom with the official list of gas engineers and NICEIC would be the best place to look for electricians as NICEIC is one of the several organisations which assesses the competence of businesses undertaking electrical work in the UK.

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