Are you looking to embark on a building project? Then make sure you check out these tips to help you avoid hiring a “COWBOY” builder!
When starting a house refurbishment or building project, the last thing you’d like to do is have a contractor who will cause you all sorts of problems. Today’s construction industry is flooded with cowboy builders. These contractors are giving homeowners in Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas sleepless nights.
These contractors will entice you to give them a job, only to leave behind unfinished jobs after fleecing your money. Also, a cowboy builder can ruin your house renovation or extension project. This shows the importance of hiring a reputable builder if you want your project to run smoothly. Besides, a reputable builder will deliver quality results.
Therefore, the best way to protect yourself from the menace of cowboy builders is by identifying them from the word go. Below we list 10 points that will help you avoid hiring a cowboy builder.
CHECK THEIR QUALIFICATIONS
Is the builder a member of any professional body? If so, which one? It’s important to check whether the contractor is a member of a professional trade organization. Hiring a person or company without the relevant professional qualifications can make it hard for you when insuring your home.
Today, there are both private and government bodies which check on the qualifications of contractors. But, if the builder isn’t a registered member of any professional body it doesn’t mean they are not qualified. On the other hand, a builder with the necessary qualifications does not guarantee you of getting the job done professionally. However, being a member of a professional body indicates that the builder has gone through some form of vetting to include insurance and qualifications checks.
ASK FOR PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
There are many professional builders in Oxford. One of the best ways of finding a professional one is asking for recommendations. So, it doesn’t do any harm to speak to their former clients or see the quality of their work. After all, you want to hire someone who will deliver quality results.
You should never accept any quote for your project without seeing previous work by the contractor. Any qualified builder should not have an issue with giving you a list of their previous clients. When you get the list, ask the clients whether they were satisfied by the builder’s quality of work. Moreover, you can ask them if they feel comfortable recommending the contractor to you.
Lastly, asking for recommendations from your family, friends, or architect can prevent you from hiring a cowboy builder.
DOES THE BUILDER HAVE A REGISTERED ADDRESS?
Be wary of builders without a registered and verified business address. Some builders have fake business addresses. So, the best thing to do is to confirm whether they’ve registered their business. Moreover, don’t believe any contractor who claims that they are a member of a professional body or trade organisation. Take your time, and check to see whether they do belong to this organization.Due diligence always pays off and can protect your hard-earned cash from poor tradespeople.
AVOID HIRING THE CONTRACTOR OFF-THE-BOOKS
How do you know whether the builder wants an off-the-books engagement? Here are the red flags to look for:
- Someone who is asking to be paid in cash for the entire contract
- A builder who seems to be evading VAT (although not all contractors are VAT registered)
- A builder who doesn’t want to give a written quote for the job
Contractors with such traits have questionable professionalism. If the builder is trying to swindle the taxman, why would they not swindle you?
If you pay using your credit card, you can file a claim to get a refund for your money in case the builder turns out to be a fraudster. On the other hand, if you pay cash, ask the builder to give you a signed receipt as proof of payment.
MAKE SURE THAT YOU SIGN A CONTRACT
Contracts are essential for any type of building work. So, it’s always a good thing to get things down on paper. Your contractor should give you estimates of the entire project. This, together with any other terms of your agreement should be part of the contract.
Never allow the builder to start their job until you sign the contract. Otherwise, your builder can escalate the cost of the project or fail to complete their job. Others deny that you had any form of agreement even when you’ve paid them a down payment.
DON’T HIRE SOMEONE WHO ACCEPTS CASH ONLY PAYMENTS
Cowboy builders have a tendency of insisting on cash payments. You should be cautious of such builders, as they make it hard to track the money trail. This, in turn, can leave you vulnerable. However, not every builder who accepts cash only is a cowboy.
It’s legal to pay cash for labour and can prevent you from paying some extra VAT. However, be wary of builders who cannot accept any other form of payment. There’s a possibility that the builder won’t declare the payment, thus putting you at a greater risk of losing your money should a dispute arise.
IS THE CONTRACTOR GIVING YOU A CHEAP QUOTE?
As the good old saying goes, if the deal is too sweet, think twice. Cowboy builders have a tendency of giving significantly cheaper quotes than reputable builders. First, a cowboy builder will entice you with a cheap quote.
When you hire them, they start adding extra costs that you didn’t anticipate. This is one way which cowboy builders use to rip people off. At the end of the day, you will realise that you paid more than the amount you’d have paid had you hired a professional builder.
DON’T HIRE SOMEONE WHO IS WILLING TO START IMMEDIATELY
Reputable builders like Lynch Brother Homes should have a reasonably full work schedule. Therefore, be cautious of a builder who claims they are ready to start work immediately. Doesn’t the builder have other clients in their schedule?
Anyone who’s available for immediate hire is an indication that they don’t have any clients. When scheduling your job with the contractor, take your time to review the time scheduled for your job. Are you suspicious of the contractor’s availability? Look for another builder if that’s the case.
However, there are some exceptions to this. Maybe the builder has had an upcoming contract cancelled or postponed. A reputable builder shouldn’t have a challenge in explaining such circumstances to you.
DON’T PAY ALL THE MONEY UPFRONT
It’s a common thing for cowboy builders to ask all the money upfront. Asking for a certain percentage is perfectly fine. But, you should be wary of a builder who asks for a down payment of more than 50% of the entire build cost.
A reputable builder shouldn’t have any challenge in buying materials and requesting for payments upon completion of the project. Others accept payments in stages, depending on the progress of the work. However, you should be satisfied with the quality of the work before paying your contractor fully.
DOES THE BUILDER OFFER A GUARANTEE FOR THE JOB?
Reliable builders shouldn’t have a problem offering a materials and workmanship guarantee after completing a project. At times, something can happen after the builder has finished their work, thus demanding their attention. Most contractors will be willing to rectify these things within a certain period of time. If the builder doesn’t offer a guarantee for their job, look for a builder who can.
Finding the right contractor in Oxfordshire requires a lot of effort, determination, and careful deliberation. At the end of the day, this is your house. Thus, it’s your responsibility to keep it in good condition.
If you follow the guidelines in this article, you stand a better chance of finding a reliable builder or contractor for your project. Carry out the due diligence which includes checking out references and membership of professional associations.