Trusted Trader

Top tips on how to spot a cowboy builder

Tuesday, 3rd March 2015

Top tips on how to spot a cowboy builder

When you employ a builder, it is sometimes very hard to tell at first if they are trustworthy and reliable. But there are some tell-tale signs which can help you spot the difference between a cowboy builder and the genuine thing.

Top tips

Be very careful about taking on a builder who:

  • Offers very cheap quotes or estimates - this could mean they are a cowboy, or could not be experienced enough to give accurate figures.
  • Is unwilling to put a quote or estimate in writing – this could mean they do not intend to stick to it.
  • Is unwilling to offer references.
  • Is too keen to start the job straight away - cowboy builders often do lots of work in one area before moving out of the area altogether. They often leave very poor or unfinished work behind and are impossible to track down.
  • Is unwilling to offer you details about their business – for example an address or landline number.
  • Claims to be in a trade association when they are not - you should always check if the builder does belong to the trade association. If they don’t, it means they’re dishonest and probably committing a criminal offence.
  • Claims to work for a company with a good reputation when they do not - check, they work for who they say they do. If they do not, this means they are dishonest and you would be better off not using them.
  • Doesn’t offer you a contract, or doesn’t sign the one you give them
  • Asks for money up front -a reliable builder will not ask you to do this, not even if they need materials. If they run a business, they should have enough money to cover these costs themselves and only ask for payment once they have completed the job, or done a reasonable amount of work.
  • Gives a detailed quote and schedule of work but then not follow it.
  • Does not charge VAT when they should - if they are a small or new trader, they may not need to register or pay VAT. It depends on how much work they do in a year. If they should be registered, they could be avoiding paying it, to save money and charge less than others. This is dishonest and against the law.