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Don’t Fall Victim to Home Improvement Scams

Bogus contractors ripping off customers are nothing new, but many are still being stung by cowboy builders. In search of the cheapest deal, people still choose contractors without references or the right paperwork. As well as the financial implications, being caught out can be highly embarrassing, so what are the best ways to avoid this?

Be wary of ‘free audits’

It’s not just local traders who are ripping people off, many big names are getting in on the act. A major internet service provider was found to have been sending sales reps door to door, poorly disguised as BT workers. Pretending to be checking the line to make sure they are receiving maximum bandwidth, they fooled many homeowners into switching their internet provider. If you get a similar call at the door, ask what company they are from and check their ID.

Don’t pay up front

You should only have to pay a small deposit to secure a trader’s services, don’t pay the full amount until you are satisfied that the work is completed. Although cash is acceptable for a share of the bill, make sure you pay some by cheque or bank account transfer. You want a clear paper trail on your money, and a trader demanding cash only is a sign that he is not registered for tax.

Take your time

Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making a decision. Do your homework, check if anyone else has used this contractor. Know the value of the job, if necessary get two more quotes and compare them.

Watch out for extras

A common scam is to offer a low quote for a job, then charges extras claiming that complications have arisen. Get your bid in writing, and make sure it includes a full breakdown of costs and a schedule of work. If the unexpected does happen, get a second opinion before paying out.

Look for professional memberships

Look for the government’s Trustmark logo. By displaying this logo a trader is declaring that they adhere to a code of practice that helps protect consumers. The government, however, does not enforce this code, that is left to professional member bodies such as FENSA, who regulate traders within the window and conservatory industry.

Further questions

How long have you been trading?

Can I see your recent work?

Do you have liability insurance?

When can you start?

Remember, if an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.

Author Bio: Joe is a blogger for Force8 doors and windows who writes about property, home improvement, interior design and green living.

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