Incompetent tradespeople costing homeowners £1.9bn a year


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The Independent Online

Fixing the mess-ups left by incompetent tradespeople is costing us £1.9bn a year. Almost one in five of the 18m homeowners who called in an expert last year had to get some or all of the work redone.

And the cost of repairing the damage left by Britain’s army of rogue roofers, renderers, plumbers and patio contractors – among others – cost each affected household an average £600.

The frightening findings are published today by TrustMark, a government-backed find-a-tradesman scheme for home repair and improvement work.

Problems arise when people don’t do any homework before hiring a tradesperson, with one in 20 simply choosing the cheapest quote.

Consumer Minister, Jenny Willott said: “We want to put rogue or unscrupulous tradesmen out of business. One of the best ways to do this is to pick out the best businesses, so people know where to turn first for their home improvements, maintenance and repairs.”

She is encouraging tradespeople to sign up to the TrustMark scheme, although they will only be included after they passed a competence test.

The best way to get a decent tradesperson to carry out work at your house is through word of mouth.  But if none of your friends or family has used anyone recently, that can prove difficult.

In fact according to the research, only a quarter of people who used a tradesperson last year got them through a personal recommendation.

A further quarter of people said they had no idea where to find a decent tradesperson, and it is this knowledge gap that the scheme hopes to fill.

Liz Male, Chairman of TrustMark said: “We are setting the bar at the highest level for tradesmen, and to empower homeowners to expect the very best from the tradesmen who work in their homes.”

Case study

Practically everyone you talk to has a tale of woe about dodgy people employed to do work in their home.

When we returned home to discover our boiler had packed up on Boxing Day it – understandably - proved almost impossible to find anyone who prepared to come out.

Eventually one local plumber agreed to come round, but only after I’d agreed to pay a £75 call-out fee. In cash, of course. But that seemed fair enough given the timing.

But when he arrived his attitude seemed less than helpful. He took a cursory glance at our boiler and stated: “It's gone. You need a new boiler.”

He said it would cost £2,000 to replace it but said he would have to return two days later to sort it out. Before leaving he demanded his call out fee, which I handed over. That was £75 in crisp notes for a visit that lasted little more than five minutes and during which he didn’t even touch the boiler.

A friend that night recommended another local plumber. He came round next morning, replaced one small part and charged us just a tenner, refusing to accept any more.

Oddly enough the first plumber never did show up again.