The OFT has recently been made aware of a trader offering home improvement work by delivering a flyer through the door.
The flyer has a mobile telephone number on it, but no address. The business name on the flyer is not registered and the trader’s personal name does not appear on it anywhere.
Although the flyer looks very professional, the OFT says to be very cautious before engaging traders operating in this way. Traders who are not prepared to clearly identify themselves are more likely to carry out shoddy work, pressurise vulnerable householders into having unnecessary work carried out, demand payment in cash, intimidate consumers into paying for work they are not happy with and to have disappeared when householders need them to return to put work right.
Here are our top 12 tips to avoid becoming a victim of rogue traders:-
• DON’T employ traders who call at your home without a prior appointment – consider reporting this to the OFT or the police, as it is illegal.
• DON’T be pressurised into having work done – call the police or the OFT for advice if a trader is pestering you.
• DON’T fall for patter such as ‘I’m working on the roof next door and have noticed that your roof is in a terrible state’, or ‘We’ve got some materials left over from another job’.
• DON’T part with a significant amount of cash up front.
• DO obtain a detailed written breakdown of the work to be carried out – vague written statements, e.g. ‘replace tiles’ or ‘tarmac drive’, should not be accepted.
• DO ask for time to think about it before you agree to having any work done – you may change your mind on reflection when the trader has gone away.
• DO ask yourself whether the work to be carried out actually needs doing – if you have any doubts, seek a second opinion from another trader or discuss it with friends, neighbours or relatives before you agree to have work done.
• DO be wary of apparently marvellous reviews and recommendations that can’t be validated.
• DO obtain at least two further quotes if you believe that the work is necessary – be wary if the quote from one trader is significantly cheaper than the others – ask for quotes rather than estimates – remember that an estimate is just that and can be exceeded, but a quote should not be exceeded.
• DO check any claims made by the trader in an advert, on a business card or on a van – make sure that a trader claiming to be a member of any association actually is a member – make sure that a trader claiming to have relevant qualifications and insurance can provide evidence of this by showing you the certificates.
• DO keep an eye on how the trader goes about his work – alarm bells should ring if the trader has said that a hoist or scaffolding will be used when the ridge tiles on your house are being replaced but then sends someone up a ladder to do the job.
• DON’T be pressurised into paying for the work if you’re not happy with it – unscrupulous traders can intimidate consumers, for example, by demanding payment in cash, by hanging around outside consumers’ homes until they are paid, by threatening to undo the job and even by taking their victims to the bank.
Martyn Perkins MHK, Chairman of the OFT, said:
“The OFT is very concerned about the possibility of householders giving home improvement work to traders who can’t be easily identified from flyers stuck through the letterbox. Householders should be very cautious before doing this and should always take the time to check out the trader’s credentials.
“Issues such as workmanship, insurance and health and safety are much more important considerations than a professional flyer.”
The OFT has produced a leaflet, ‘Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home’, which can be obtained from the OFT, Thie Slieau Whallian, Foxdale Road, St Johns or from its website www.gov.im/oft.