DIY used to be all the rage. In the 90s, everyone was propping up their own shelves and fitting their own bath. But now, things are different. Britain’s DIY obsession is long gone, replaced by a call to the handyman, jack-of-all-trades, the local tradesmen.
However, with our reliance on tradesmen also comes a sense of trepidation. TV shows like BBC’s Watchdog have opened our eyes to the dangers of rogue traders; unscrupulous con-artists that drain your bank account and leave you with nothing to show for it.
The last thing anyone wants is to get caught out by one of these swindlers, but how can you make sure it doesn’t happen to you?
*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post*
10 Tips for Spotting a Rogue Trader
1. They Ask For Payment in Advance
A genuine tradesmen won’t ask for payment in advance. You are paid for the work you do, not what you say you’ll do, right? After all, you get paid at the end of the month, not the beginning.
A tradesman asking for payment in advance is much more likely to either not complete the work they’ve signed up for, or just not do it at all.
2. They Don’t Have Any Branding
A tradesmen is a business owner. It might be a very, very small business, but it is still a business. As such, they want to advertise their business, make it memorable — brand themselves. Most tradesmen worth their money will have their name, logo and phone number plastered across their van and usually across their shirt, too.
If a tradesman turns up without any noticeable branding, it is a red flag. Of course, some genuine traders won’t have their number of their van, and some rogue traders will create fake graphics. However, it is still a warning signal that should make you take a step back.
3. They Have No Evidence of Genuine Certification
Real, honest tradesmen deal with the stigma created by their dodgy counterparts everyday and do everything they can to avoid losing work because of it. As a result, most tradesmen will be signed up to organisations and governing bodies that prove their authenticity and demonstrate that their work is being regulated. So if a tradesman offers up evidence of belonging to governing body, they are bound to be legitimate, right?
If you ask a tradesman for these details, they’ll be more than happy to give them to you — even if they are dodgy. While their governing organisation may seem above board, you cannot be sure just by reading a lanyard. Plenty of dodgy tradesmen create fake authorities just to make themselves appear genuine.
What it is important to do is get the details of these supposed authorities and check them. Find out both if they are real and if your tradesmen belongs to them.
4. They Don’t Have a Business Website
It is 2017. We are living in the digital age. Everyone is on the internet now! So, if we want to find tradesmen, where do we look? Sure, flyers and ads in the local paper still have their place, but nothing beats a Google search. A tradesman that has their own website is almost certainly on the level, providing it doesn’t look like the same sort of bodge job a rogue trader would give you.
If a tradesman doesn’t have a website, it could be another red flag. However, it shouldn’t be the sole argument in your decision-making process. 50% of small business owners still don’t have a website; so half of all the genuine traders you meet probably won’t have their own domain. Therefore, you don’t want it to be mandatory criteria, but it’s another help point that helps stack the deck for or against tradesmen.
5. They Insist on Cash in Hand
Tradesmen that insist on cash in hand payments should immediately be treated with suspicion. No paper trail means that you cannot claim your money back if they don’t complete the work properly. An unwillingness to take card payments or bank transfers is also indicative of somebody trying to dodge tax.
Always outline how payment is going to be made at the start of the job. If they outright refuse anything that isn’t cash, stay away.
6. They Offer No Type Contract
A small job — trimming the hedges, fixing a window, etc. — isn’t going to need a contract, but for anything bigger that will take a day’s work or more, it’s important you get some signatures. They’ve agreed to do you a service and if you don’t get evidence of exactly what service they are offering, you might find yourself struggling to defend your case if things ever get so far as being reported to the police or even end up in court.
Honest tradesmen will be happy to arrange a contract and will probably even offer you one themselves, as it is part of their best practices — they need protection, too. However, a dodgy tradesman isn’t going to want to get wrangled in the legal implications of a contract and will likely refuse to sign anything of the sort. A contract doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is signed on the dotted line. A contract can simply be proof that the work has been agreed to — a letter, an email, etc. Avoid a tradesman who isn’t a fan of any type of contracted work.
7. They Won’t Provide a Quote
A rogue trader is out to get as much money from you as quickly as possible, whereas an honest trader is simply trying to do a good job for a fair price. You’ll find that a genuine tradesmen will offer quotes on how much the work will be. This is because they aren’t looking to shock you when it comes time to foot the bill. A local, trusted tradesmen wants repeat business and is careful to avoid a bad reputation. They provide a quote so you can decide if you want the work done for that amount of money. If you don’t, fine. If you do, great!
A dodgy tradesmen isn’t bothered about bad reviews or upset customers. What they are bothered about is not raking in the cash. Providing a quote gives them two limitations: a near maximum price and a chance you might be deterred and say no.
8. They Come Knocking at Your Door
Imagine you are a dodgy tradesmen. You’ve swung into a new town, hoping to rip a few people off then turn tail and run before anyone figured out who you are or where you are from. You aren’t a genuine business owner. You’ve got no ads, no contacts, no idea who lives in the area and nowhere to start. So what do you do? You start knocking on doors offering to do odd jobs.
Real tradesmen will rarely ever knock on your door looking for work, with the exception of window cleaners and tree surgeons, who often canvas the local area when they are on the street doing a job. If somebody comes by asking if you’d like your bathroom touching up for a really cheap price, be very careful with how you proceed. In this circumstance, it is also important to note if the tradesmen follows door-to-door sales regulations. If they don’t follow proper practice, such as providing appropriate business details, information about cancellation, predicted costs, etc, then you know this is not somebody you want working on your property.
9. They Won’t Provide References
A tradesmen is more likely coming in to do an important job that will have an impact on some part of your work or personal life. As such, you want to know they’ll do a good job. It isn’t usual to ask a tradesman for references and any honest worker will be able to provide a list of recent jobs that you can refer to.
As you’ve probably guessed, a dodgy trader isn’t going to be thrilled about the idea of being reference checked. They only people they work with are people they’ve swindled; not exactly a glowing review.
10. They Are Very Keen to Start
A tradesmen is basically a freelancer; a freelancer that often juggles multiple jobs — just one isn’t going to pay all their bills or keep them stable for the year. Sometimes, you get lucky and find a tradesmen that’s not busy, however, always be cautious when you meet somebody who is ready to go immediately.
One of the marks of a rogue trader is that they are willing to start work right away. This is because they aren’t a real small business owner, so don’t have multiple projects going and instead are looking to quickly get some cash and scarper.