WARNING! There are people out there who want to relieve you of your money! Continuing our consumer advice theme, we advise you what and who to watch out for, so you don’t get ripped off when purchasing home improvements and building work on your home and we offer some handy home improvements advice.
The UK has tens of thousands of very good, reliable and trustworthy tradesman and small companies, but equally our country has it’s fair share on scammers and con artists, all too willing to lie, con and dupe you out of your money.
How do you know, or how could you tell, that the man at your door is genuine?
And yes, it is ALWAYS a man! There are so many ways that these people can promise this, that and six others, but fail to deliver, and overcharge, or in some cases, steal from you?
Complaints to trading standards about shoddy work and con men builders total to about 70,000 every year so it’s not a new issue and it’s not an uncommon thing to hear about. Please don’t think all builders and home improvement companies are there to rip you off as nothing could be further from the truth but there are some scams you really do need to be told about!
It seems that the biggest culprits are driveways and roofers.
We have put together some handy info for you to educate and make you aware of what goes on “out there” and hopefully, someone will read this, and learn to spot that when someone comes to your door out of the blue offering something too good to be true, well, it usually IS too good to be true, so here’s what we found out.
Watch out, there’s con men about!
Many, or most home owners are susceptible to conmen because they know little about home improvements or building work, after all, it’s just a box with a roof to them, but they have spent money on it and its their home, and of course they at least know that from time to time, repairs and improvements are necessary.
As a basic rule-of-thumb, if someone approaches you out of the blue, maybe ringing your doorbell, they more than likely are NOT a genuine company and you should be very wary at the outset.
Some legitimate companies do sometimes do a little bit of door canvassing, I know that when we have done an exterior painting job in a certain street, from time to time, we may knock on the door and tell the neighbours about it, but are not selling, we are advertising, and we just tell them, give them a leaflet and ask them to view our website. Other wallcoating firms do this too and it is not an issue.
What I am talking about is people knocking your door and trying to get you to agree to have work done, there and then, on the spot, without you ever hearing about them before, and perhaps for something or some work, you didn’t even know existed. Roofing scams are a prime example so let’s look at them first.
Roofing scams and hustles.
The UK has some excellent roofing companies, but also some very bad ones too. The trouble with anything related to roofs is the fact that unless you know that you have a leak, hard to tell in the drier months, then if someone who appears to be a roofer, tells you there is a problem, you may be inclined to agree with them.
This is also the same for chimneys.
Quite often the culprits are so clever, they may take out adverts in your local papers, with a mobile number and no address, offering gutter cleaning, but when they get there, they tell you whilst they were up cleaning the gutters that the chimney is a poor state, and may even use scare tactics to tell you it is about to fall down!
They quote you for the work, usually expensive as it’s an “urgent job!” (?), and once they are paid in cash, and they go up there and basically do nothing. Once you pay them, you will NEVER seen them again. And there was nothing wrong with your chimney or your roof.
Arranging periodic inspections by a qualified and accredited roofing company can avoid situations like this.
Legitimate companies do not need to knock on doors and ask for work.
Any firm worth their salt will not have to beg for work, so bear that in mind.
Another classic scam is driveways and many people reading this would have had probably someone at some point, often with an Irish accent for some reason, (No offence, I’m half Irish myself), and they will offer to do your drive very cheaply, often that very day.
They may say they have materials left over from the last job, and they may tell you that they are doing you a massive favour. They aren’t.
They WILL do a very bad job I assure you and the price they quote will be so amazingly low, people often get the job done, only to be told in no uncertain terms that they price quoted was per square metre, not for the whole job, and you find all of a sudden a group of burly and aggressive men demanding money.
The best piece of advice is to go inside and close the door, and phone the police. Also phone trading standards and make a note of the registration number of the van.
If they start to get very aggressive, dial 999.
Tarmac gangs like this poor soul employed (left), are often very hard to trace, and even harder to bring to justice. They will not prepare the ground, nor bother with drainage, and often will lay the surface directly over drains, manhole covers, the whole lot.
This is a prime example of why you should NOT accept or agree to any home improvement work when someone knocks at your door out of the blue.
How to avoid being ripped off.
Firstly, take the advice above as being of sound knowledge to you! Then sit down, with no one pressuring you, and write down exactly what you think needs to be done to the house, like a new path at the side of the house, or a new garage roof, or maybe a nice paint job on the exterior walls?
Then phone up a few companies and see if they can give you a rough estimate over the phone for the work. Sometimes the contractor will have to come out and take a look, but if you have a note of their address, landlines number, website etc, at least you know WHO they are!
Don’t agree on-the=spot to have the work done, get a written quote from the company or tradesman, and ask for references. Check the references out to see if they are genuine too, and don’t allow yourself to be rushed into a decision.
Ask neighbours and family if they can recommend someone they know, who is good, and value for money, but don’t ever choose the cheapest quote or estimate for home improvement work.
If it is too good to be true, it IS.
To reiterate a point: DO NOT BUY HOME IMPROVEMENTS FROM A STRANGER AT YOUR DOOR.