How many times have you had to pay a workman to sort out mistakes made by the previous workman? Yes, I’ve been there too, with wonkily laid floors and electrics that cut out every two weeks.
If it’s any consolation, we are not the only ones. According to Sainsbury’s Finance, more than six million people in Britain have suffered over the past six years from the attentions of cowboy builders, and have collectively spent an astonishing £3.7 billion putting things right.
Plumbers are the worst serial offenders, with almost one and a half million people having botched work in their bathrooms.
Number one rule: get quotes – in writing
However, the survey does indicate that some of us have only ourselves to blame. Of people who used tradesmen in the past five years, only 36 per cent asked for a number of quotes and just 31 per cent requested a formal written quote for the work.
Plumbers are the worst serial offenders, with almost one and a half million people having botched work in their bathrooms
A mere five per cent checked if the tradesmen were accredited by TrustMark, the Government-endorsed standards agency.
Men, it seems, are more thorough in their checking, but only slightly: 15 per cent said they asked for references, compared with nine per cent of women.
Those who made the mistake of employing cowboy builders paid an average of £2,077 for the original work, and then had to cough up around £600 to either repair the resulting damage or finish the job.
Worst of all, 150,000 people shelled out over £5,000 to restore their home to normal.
Ben Tyte, head of Sainsbury’s Home Insurance, says: “It is completely unacceptable that these remedial costs are exceeding £700 million a year.
“The burden isn’t just financial. There can be a great deal of personal stress attached to these difficult situations including the clean-up and often confrontation.”
He adds: “In these challenging economic times, it is understandable that people want to cut back on costs. But where work to the home is concerned it is just not worth the risk.
“It is simply a false economy, especially if you have invalidated your home insurance by not taking due care. It is imperative that you hire a quality tradesman, and make sure that the work is done properly.”
How to find a tradesman you can trust
Finding a quality tradesman, of course, can be easier said than done. If you are thinking of letting someone loose on your home, here’s the advice from TrustMark.
1 Request at least three quotes and be specific, setting out a clear, detailed brief.
2 Ask friends and family for recommendations and check the TrustMark website to ensure the tradesman is registered for all the work you want carried out.
3 Use a firm that has a landline number. If they are only willing to give you a mobile number, be very wary.
4 Get references, speak to previous customers and, if it’s a large project, visit previous jobs.
5 Don’t just go with the cheapest. Consider your ability to communicate with the firm and the quality of their work.
6 Do not give advance payments. Only pay for work that has been done.
7 Always use a written contract as it gives you protection if things go wrong. The contract, says TrustMark, should contain a description of the work being done, the price you have agreed (with the tradesman’s written quote attached), start and finish dates, and details of any guarantees.
If you have followed these guidelines and things still go wrong, there is a step-by-step complaints procedure, which is laid out on the Trustmark website.
It is also worth finding your home insurance policy and checking it is up to scratch. Check that you are covered for the full value of your possessions and remember that valuable items, usually those worth over £1,000 or £1,500, have to be insured separately.
If you are letting strangers in to work on your home, it might also be worth extending your cover. According to Confused.com, www.confused.com the most popular extras are:
1 Accidental damage cover. This in addition to your contents cover and will pay out if there is a spill on a new carpet or a precious vase is knocked over.
2 Home emergency cover. This gives you access to a 24-hour helpline and qualified workmen if your boiler breaks down or a pipe bursts.
3 Legal expenses cover. This will fund your legal action if all else fails and you decide to take that dodgy plumber to court.