Before signing on the dotted line or handing any money over, make sure you’re clear on the following:
What needs to be done
Write down a description the work you want done in as much detail as possible. The clearer you are on your requirements, the easier it will be to describe it to your chosen tradesman.
Always check your legal requirements, such as planning permission and building regulations. To search for your local planning office and for a host of useful information, please visit the local authority building control website at www.labc.uk.com
If you’re considering replacement windows and/or doors, please note that all installations need to be passed by a building inspector, or self-certified by an authorised installer who is a member of a Competent Person Scheme such as Certass or FENSA.
You can verify membership of a Competent Person Scheme by visiting the Competent Person Register website at www.competentperson.co.uk. Once the work has been completed, the installer is required to register the work with your local authority’s building control department and you will be supplied with a Building Regulation Compliance Certificate showing that your installation was compliant to the current building regulations.
Most electrical works falls under Part ‘P’ of building regulations and must be passed by a Building Inspector, or self-certified by an authorised company. A registered company will give you a certificate showing that the work which was carried out was compliant to the law. You can verify membership of a Competent Person Scheme by visiting the Competent Person Register website at www.competentperson.co.uk or by speaking to organisations such as Elecsa or NICEIC who operate Part P Competent Person Schemes.
If the work you’re planning may affect neighbouring properties, it can pay dividends to speak to them about what you’re doing before any work starts, especially if the work planned affects a party wall. Full details of the Party Wall Act can be found on the Communities and Local Government website at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/partywall.
How much will it cost?
Get at least two, preferably three, written quotations from different companies for the work required. An estimate is different and is simply often a rough guess on how much something will cost whereas a quotation will give you a fixed price which you have in writing. Make sure the specification and any drawings for the work are the same across all quotes so that you can be sure you’re comparing on a like for like basis.
Ask whether VAT is included in the price. Having to find an additional 20% can be a nasty shock if you haven’t planned for it.
It’s always worth budgeting an extra 10-20% above the quoted price. You may find that unforeseen problems are encountered, or you may want to change the specification to incorporate new ideas as the job progresses, and by having the extra money available, you’ll be able to get the job done exactly the way you want it.
If you do ask your tradesman to do any additional work, confirm the changes in the specification in writing and make sure you receive a quotation to cover the additional work before it starts.
Make sure you know the start and end dates for the job and, if it’s a big job, make sure you get these in writing.
Finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If the quotation from your chosen tradesman seem high, ask them if there is any way the price could be reduced, and always ask for any revised price and specification in writing.
Choosing the right tradesman
Does your chosen tradesman have an address and landline telephone or simply a mobile number? You should be very careful of employing a workman of any sort who is unable to provide an address and a landline telephone number.
If your contractor displays a logo from a trade association, such as the UK Trades Confederation, always contact the association to confirm valid, current membership. The UK Trades Confederation provides a free checking service for customers to validate a tradesman's claim to membership at www.uktc.org and using a UK Trades Confederation member gives you access to a free conciliation service if problems arise.
Never take a tradesman’s letters of reference as proof of a good company – they may not be genuine, and make sure you check the tradesman’s qualifications and experience of carrying out similar work. Always seek independent references from their trade association or ask to contact or visit at least two previous customers or jobs. The UK Trades Confederation has references for all members as part of its membership vetting procedures. Information on these can be gained by calling 0151 258 6397.
Also think about how a company responds to your enquiry - did they turn up on time, how well did they listen to find out what you want to have done, how carefully did they survey and measure? Ask when you can expect the quotation and check whether it arrives on time. If you still have any doubts about the tradesman you are considering employing, please contact the UK Trades Confederation who offer a free service to customers and will be able to verify membership as well as telling you what previous customers have said about the tradesman.
Finally, before work starts, ask to see the tradesman’s Public Liability insurance certificate and always check the expiry date.
Guarantees offered by contractors are fine as long as the company is around to honour it when you need it – and if the company is credible enough to honour its commitment. For peace of mind always insist on an Insurance Backed Guarantee. This means that, should the contractor become insolvent or is unable to complete the works, your project (and your deposit – if deposit protection is included) may still be covered.
If your tradesman doesn’t offer an Insurance Backed Guarantee, advise them to contact The UK Trades Confederation, who can arrange the purchase of these.
Most tradesmen and contractors should have a contract. It should be easy to understand. If you are in any doubt, then use your own contract, which will help in the unlikely event of a dispute.
Never pay the whole amount up front - always keep a percentage of the cost back until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Always pay the company doing the work and never the individual person UNLESS the company is owned and run by a single individual. This is often the case with the many smaller companies that exist in the UK but check first before parting with your money.
Always get a receipt for every payment you make – this is fundamental for, without a receipt, you have no proof of payment.
Get an invoice that includes the VAT element itemised separately, and make sure you double check it.
If you encounter changes or alterations to the work you are having done then make sure you only deal with the owner of the business you are using as agreeing changes with the employees or sub-contractors can lead to unspecified extra cost and confusion.
Also make sure that any changes are detailed in writing, including any additional costs, and are signed by both you and the tradesman.
WHEN YOU ACCEPT THE QUOTATION
Make sure the work to be carried out, including the price, is fully detailed in writing
Confirm the length of time the job will take and make sure you know what time they will arrive and leave each day.
Confirm that they will come every day until the job is complete.
If the work is internal, agree what needs to be removed, ie. curtains, carpets, furniture, etc, in order for the work to be carried out, and make sure you discuss what safeguards the tradesman will take to protect your home.
Make sure you’ve agreed what deposit, if any, is required, and when the final payment is due. You should always hold back some money until the job has been completed.
Consider using Bondpay, a payment scheme designed to protect you, the homeowner, from rogue traders and ensures you have no risk of losing your money. The tradesman won’t receive a penny until you are fully satisfied, and you get a free warranty on all work carried out.
Make sure you obtain written receipts for all payments.