Complaints against cowboy builders on the rise

Analysis by Citizens Advice Bureau for SGS Engineering found more than 100,000 people in England have been scammed by rogue traders since 2019.
The south east has been the hardest hit area with 20,219 complaints made between 2019 and May 2022. In the west Midlands, the figure is 14,193.
Between 2020 and 2021 there was a 31% increase in the number of grievances raised about cowboy builders.
Across the country in 2022, roofing, roof sealing, and chimney repairs were the most common issues, with 2,298 instances flagged up to the Citizens Advice Bureau since the start of the year.
Those working on window frames and doors (2,229), major renovations (1,827), fitted kitchens (1,253), and general building work (1,038) are also frequent problem areas.
Between January and May this year in the west Midlands issues with windows and doors received the most complaints (224).
Sheldon Bosley Knight’s associate director Andrew James said: “Sadly rogue traders are never far away so it pays to be vigilant if you need work doing to your house, no matter what the size of the job.
“When dealing with any builder or other tradesperson, doing your research before you part with any cash can save you potentially thousands of pounds in the long run.
“It is always better to go with individuals or companies who have been personally recommended to you. However, our advice is still to check them out thoroughly. Search for them on Companies House and speak to previous clients if possible and check out the work they have had done.
“Always avoid overpaying before work has been completed and make sure you have a watertight contract showing a breakdown of payment schedules.”


So, what are the warning signs you should be looking out for?


The quoted price is suspiciously cheap:

It makes sense to secure quotes from numerous tradespeople before starting a job, but price shouldn’t be the only consideration. If the cheapest quote looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It could mean they are a cowboy builder or could not be experienced enough to give accurate figures.


They won’t put anything in writing:

If a tradesperson is unwilling to commit to putting a quote in writing, or to write up a contract, then alarm bells should be ringing.


They say they are in a trade association when they are not:

Check if the builder does belong to the trade association. If they don’t, it may mean they’re untrustworthy and might even be committing a criminal offence.


Asks for money up front:

This is perhaps the most common issue. A trustworthy builder won’t ask you to do this and should have enough money as a business to cover materials. Money should only be released according to an agreed schedule written into a contract. Do not pay large sums before work has been completed.


Not willing to offer references:

Tradespeople should be open and honest about their previous work.


Too keen to start the job straight away:

A common tactic of cowboy builders is to work extensively in one area before leaving without a trace.