Avoiding cowboy builders

This article was written and distributed by the Federation of Master Builders, the building industry's largest trade organisation, representing over 13,000 small and medium-sized companies throughout the UK. If you'd like to know more about the FMB, or would like to find a reputable builder, try the Find a Builder web site at: https://www.findabuilder.co.uk.

Spotting and avoiding cowboy builders
Cowboy builders are very much in the minority, but they are out there, so how can you protect yourself? Treat them with suspicion if they:

  • EVADE giving you references or details of previous jobs

  • OFFER you a ‘cheap’ deal for cash-in-hand.

  • SUGGEST you can avoid paying VAT for cash

  • CONFUSE you with jargon and complicated explanations

  • INSIST that a written contract is not necessary

  • SAY they can start tomorrow (a good builder is usually busy)

  • CAN'T give you costings because 'things may change'

  • LAUGH when you suggest showing them plans

  • GIVE you a surprisingly low quote

  • CAN only be reached by mobile and don't have an address on their card

  • ASSURE you the details are their problem and you don't need to worry

  • KNOCK the opposition

One sure-fire way to avoid cowboys is to use the FMB’s Find A Builder service at www.findabuilder.co.uk or telephone 08000 152 522, or to look for the FMB logo – the sign of building quality – on builders’ vans, stationery or advertising.

Whatever you do, follow our simple guidelines for choosing and working with a builder,

  • Ask for references and talk to previous customers. A good builder will provide you with credentials and references, so try to visit previous jobs similar to your own.

  • If the builder is a member of a trade association, check the membership criteria – and make sure they really are a member, rogue builders have been known to falsely claim membership.

  • Get estimates from two or three different builders. Be clear about what you want done and ask for a written specification and quotation.

  • Avoid adding to the job or changing your mind halfway through – it will usually cost more and cause delays. Confirm any changes you do make in writing.

  • Use a contract – the FMB has a Plain English contract for small building work.

  • Agree any staged and final payments before work starts.

  • Avoid dealing in cash.

  • If any problems arise whilst work is in progress, or you are unhappy about anything, talk to your builder right away.
© 2003 Federation of Master Builders. You can find more useful articles like this at: https://www.buildingarticles.co.uk.