Lots of proverbs attest to the idea that little actions can make a difference, for good or for bad. The reason this matters when dealing with tradespeople is that one of the main techniques rogue tradespeople use is to draw victims in bit by bit until they feel they have no option but to keep paying. Here are some tips as to how to avoid this trap.
Preparation is key
You need to know exactly what is required before the job starts. Once you are clear on what you want, you can start by getting quotations from tradespeople. As a minimum, you should speak to at least three different tradespeople. What you want to know is: are your requirements feasible; how long will the job take and how much will it cost? Ask for a detailed breakdown of these last two points.
Get Everything In Writing
Once you have your quotes, you need to draw agree a contract. Beware of any builder who works cash in hand without a contract. If the Inland Revenue can’t find them then you’re probably not going to have much chance of locating them if anything goes wrong. With this in mind, look for companies which are happy to give a landline telephone number. Be very suspicious if they only have mobiles or e-mail.
Agree A Payment Schedule
As a rule of thumb, it is reasonable for a tradesperson to ask for a down-payment towards the cost of materials, depending on the nature of the contract, they may well ask for all materials to be paid for upfront, particularly if you want something special, which they would find hard to reuse or resell.
For everything else, payment is upon completion only. Additionally, there should be clear penalties attached to falling behind schedule, without a compelling reason. You will need to be aware that outdoor projects in particular are often dependant on the weather and builders will be reluctant to agree to penalty clauses unless this is taken into account.
Also be aware that the tradesperson may request you agree to penalty clauses for late payment. It’s worth remembering that while stories of rogue traders make the news, plenty of tradespeople have their own horror stories about non-paying customers.
On that note, you will need to agree payment methods in advance as the schedule may need to account for them. Even reputable tradespeople may ask for cash to buy materials and many prefer it for payment due to its simplicity. If payment is being made in arrears and you have a contract, this is likely to be a perfectly reasonable arrangement. If you want to use another payment method, then you may have to accept that the builders will wait for it to clear before proceeding with next steps. If your bank supports it, a banker’s draft can be a good compromise.
Keep In Touch With The Tradesperson
The fact of doing your preparation and drawing up a contract will deter many rogue traders, so keep up the good work by keeping tabs on the proceedings. Ask lots of questions, reputable traders will be happy to answer them. You may even feel inspired to learn a trade yourself, in which case book your training today!
The author is a full-time freelance writer and translator, who is on a mission to renovate her house and garden. She’s lucky in that her other half used to be a builder. When not working she enjoys taking her dog for walks and photography, usually combining the two. She also enjoys playing poker.