When a tradesperson promises you a high standard of work at a low price, you start thinking its too good to be true, and in the case of cowboy builders, it sounds too good to be true, because it is.
A run in with a cowboy builder can leave you out of pocket with an unfinished project, and this can be especially troubling if you’ve hired someone to renovate your home. There are many ways to catch out a cowboy builder before they sell you the dream, here are just a few.
As previously mentioned, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, especially when it comes to how much a builder claims he needs to complete the project. If you’ve looked around for other builders and noticed that this one’s prices are significantly lower than others you have met with, chances are you haven’t found the best new deal. You will in fact end up getting what you pay for, and for extremely low prices, this usually means unfinished. This can also mean that if you are quoted an extremely low price, they will give you endless reasons as to why you end up with a hefty bill at the end of the project. Similarly, if a builder refuse to sign any time or cost estimates in writing, this could be another sign that they will up and leave half way through a project.
Another common trick used in the world of cowboy builders, is asking for payment upfront. This is a guaranteed way for them to get exactly what they want, sometimes without doing any work at all. It is particularly suspect if these builders ask to be paid in cash, which is a clear-cut sign of not only trade malpractice, but financial malpractice as well.
Often builders will ask for a deposit, either for security of the job or materials, this is a more common practice, however, it is suggested to purchase the materials yourself, because then at least you own them if something did happen to go wrong.
The most professional way to handle costs with a builder is to pay them via an invoice, and for ultimate security, do not pay any money until the work is completed and to the standard and specifications you asked for.
Another way you can quickly spot a cowboy builder from a reputable one, is their willingness or refusal to show their credentials and accreditations. Many accreditations come with an ID card specifically for this purpose, including CSCS and GasSafe. If a builder refuses to prove they have these credentials, chances are they don’t have them and therefore will not have the experience needed to carry out the job to even a satisfactory standard. If all they can give you is verbal reassurance, this should not be enough to earn your trust.
What is just as important as accreditations, is what is known as public liability insurance. This insurance covers a tradesperson for any accidental damaged caused to a person or property whilst they are undertaking work. Although not seen as a necessity, it will help you rest easier knowing your builder has considered all forms of protection and that you will be covered should anything happen.
If the absurdly low quote price and lack of accreditations isn’t enough to convince you that you’re dealing with a cowboy builder, maybe other peoples experiences will be. Any review platform will give you an idea of the validity of the person or people you’re dealing with very quickly. As well as this, a company that shows up no reviews is a cause for concern. This could mean a number of questionable practices could be at play here, the most likely being that the company these builders are working for frequently change their name to avoid the bad reviews left under the previous name leading them to getting caught out. It is highly unlikely that you’ve stumbled across a first-time tradesman in your search, so any qualified builder should have a decent backlog of references.
For extra peace of mind, you can ask a builder to see examples of previous work, if it’s a qualified builder with nothing to hide, they should have no problem doing this, but if this request brings about hostility and refusal, this could be an issue and proof of low-quality work before your project has even started.
And finally, the signature trick of cowboy builders is not going through to proper procedures, they will just knock on your door instead. You want your builder to view you as a valued and respected customer, not a target. The usual script that follows is that they have noticed something catastrophically wrong with your property and it should be fixed immediately. If you are concerned about the supposed problem the builder has pointed out, go about it the safe way and research and get quotes from multiple companies you are more familiar with.
Even though the prospect of having a run in with a cowboy builder makes it seem as though they’re lurking around every corner, in reality they are a few among many high quality and reliable tradespeople that will provide you with an excellent service every time. Now you know what to look out for next time you’re looking to hire someone for your next project that can live up to their promises.