Every month, Citizens Advice answers your questions.
This month, the question is, “I’ve got loads of problems with my house that I’ve put off fixing – a faulty boiler, a window that doesn’t close properly, broken light fixtures.” The list is long ! I want to fix it, but I’ve had bad experiences with dodgy builders in the past. How can I find someone I can trust? »
And the answer is:
Renovating your home can be stressful, but there are a few steps you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly.
First, find an “approved trader” by Trading Standards. You can search for one in your area online or use the government approved TrustMark program.
It is also worth checking if they are currently members of a trade body. Trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve issues if things go wrong. Ask who they are registered with, then check the trade body’s website.
For all gas and electrical repairs only use certified tradesmen – it is dangerous to use someone who does not know what they are doing. You can check the Gas Safe Register for a list of dealers and hire a licensed electrician who can certify their own work.
It is always helpful to get referrals or recommendations when possible. Ask your friends, family or neighbors if they know anyone they would recommend. You can also ask the person you hire for examples of work they have done in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t provide references – it’s a sign they might be dishonest.
When you find someone, ask for a written quote – this is different from an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the craftsman cannot change it without a good reason – for example, if you ask for additional work to be done. It’s worth comparing quotes from multiple contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
Then get a written contract. This should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed to, including timelines, payments, who will pay for materials, and subcontractors if needed. Regarding payment, it is better to opt for payment in stages rather than in advance. Try to pay by card if you can – it may give you extra guarantees in case something goes wrong.
Finally, make sure your trader is fully insured. Keep copies of receipts and your written contract. These will be important as evidence if things go wrong. It’s also helpful to take pictures of any problems if they arise.
If you have a problem with a contractor and are unsure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133. If you would like more information about this, please call Adviceline (0808 278 7996 ). We’re here to help you find a way forward.