In response to Which? survey findings suggesting 2.5 million people have had a dispute with a builder or decorator in the last three years, Which? Legal Service is opening up its service for two days to resolve consumers’ building issues.
On Thursday 4 and Friday 5 August 2011 experts at Which? Legal Service will be answering queries to help consumers understand where they stand if they’re unhappy with the work provided by a builder or decorator.
As many consumers opt for home improvements, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘Being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after a bad experience with a builder can be a huge blow for families already feeling the pinch’.
Which? found that the most common disagreement was over the quality of the work, while other major gripes included traders not turning up when agreed, delays over completion and properties being left untidy.
A quarter of people failed to receive a written quote from their builder or decorator before work started, and four per cent were even asked to pay the full amount for the job upfront.
Traders taken to court
While the majority of people talked to their builder or decorator to try and resolve the dispute, 15% had to seek the help of a professional body and 18% were forced to spend more money by taking the trader to court.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said: ‘To avoid problems, you should always have a written agreement between you and the trader.’ He added ‘It’s important to do your homework – make sure you get several quotes before deciding who to use, choose a recommended trader and check they’re a member of a professional body.’
Avoid cowboy builders
Which? Legal service has produced advice on avoiding cowboy builders and decorators:
1. Find a trader through word of mouth or personal recommendation or through Which? Local.
2. Try and obtain three detailed quotes before starting work, ask for references and don’t be afraid to verify them by asking to visit previous clients with the trader.
3. Get a signed contract that fully sets out the costs, the work to be completed and start/completion dates.
4. Don’t pay all of the money up front – payment should be made on satisfactory completion of the job. Request a written schedule of when payments are to be made.
5. Don’t go for the cheaper option of paying in cash, rather than a properly invoiced job that may include VAT. Paying by credit card where possible offers extra protection if things go wrong.
What Which? offers
If you need further information on dealing with a dodgy builder or decorator, have a look at our free advice guide providing sample letters to help you issue your complaint. Between Thursday 4 and Friday 5 August, Which? Legal Service will be offering legal advice specific to your situation, with an online Q&A.