Citizens Advice Ipswich is warning residents to be on the lookout for rogue builders as the national charity reveals it has helped people with 40,000 problems related to home improvements in the last year.
As people make use of the summer to have work done on their homes, Citizens Advice Ipswich is revealing the top three most common building problems people report:
- Complaints about the quality of the work carried out, such as using the wrong fixings to secure a TV bracket to a wall so that it fell off the wall, breaking the TV and damaging the plaster
- Work being unsafe or faulty, for example a visit from a boiler company that resulted in no hot water, no central heating and two leaks that weren’t there before
- Worthless warranties, like that provided by a driveway paving business that came into the area, sold its services to local residents and then disappeared
People contacted Citizens Advice wanting to know how to resolve their home improvement problems and their rights around refunds and compensation.
Citizens Advice Ipswich is offering top tips on how to avoid problems when hiring someone to carry out work, and your rights if things do go wrong.
What to do when hiring a trader:
- Get references or recommendations – you can either get recommendations from people you know, or use a website that rates traders. If you can’t get a recommendation, you should ask the person you hire for examples of work they have carried out in the past.
- Find out if they are a member of a trade body – trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong.
- Get a written quote – not an estimate, and be clear about what the quote covers. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason. An estimate is just a guess at how much the work will cost, and so it could change. You can compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
- Get a written contract – this should cover timing, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors, and what exactly is being done. If you can, you should pay in stages rather than upfront.
- Keep copies of receipts and your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems which arise.
What to do when things go wrong:
- Ask the builders to fix the work if the work is not up to scratch or is unfinished.
- Ask for some money back. Suggest a figure and explain why it is reasonable – for example, you may have to pay to have the work fixed.
- Complain in writing to the trader or their company, and check to see if they are a member of a trade association to see if they can help.
- Look for an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme – this is an independent third party who can help you to reach a resolution. The trader should provide you with the name of a certified scheme.
- Consider taking the builders to county court. This is a last resort and you should be aware that you will need to pay fees.
Citizens Advice Ipswich Chief Executive Nicky Willshere said:
“Shoddy workmanship and unfinished home improvements are leaving people in Ipswich out of pocket and facing huge disruptions to their lives.”
“Many people have come to Citizens Advice Ipswich in the past year wanting to know how they how they can get refunds or compensation for dodgy building work.”
“If you’ve had a problem with building work, and you’re not sure about your rights or what to do next, visit Citizens Advice Ipswich or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.”