Householders be wary: a reminder from the Office of Fair Trading
The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading has issued a timely reminder to householders to be wary of using builders who call at their homes without an appointment offering to do work. The OFT is aware of builders who are currently operating on this basis in the Island. Past experience of such builders indicates that the quality of their work is of a poor standard. Despite numerous warnings issued by the OFT consumers are still falling victim.
Consumers approached by these builders are often persuaded to accept their offer because they are cheaper than local builders and they can begin straightaway. Good local building firms are very busy and may not be able to start straightaway but waiting for them is a much better option. Even if problems do occur with their work the firms are still here to sort things out.
Many ‘cowboy’ builders who cold-call will operate on a cash only basis, will not be declaring their earnings; will not be VAT-registered even though they may earn many thousands on each job; will not have a properly registered business name; will provide worthless verbal or written guarantees; will provide bogus or accommodation addresses; will use pay as you go throwaway mobile telephone numbers; will not be paying for employer’s liability insurance; will not have the requisite work permits; will use substandard materials and will not follow safe working practices. They will often pester householders into having unnecessary work done and have even been known to take their victims to the bank to secure payment. The likelihood of them returning to put work right is minimal unless they think that they can con more money out of their victims. It is often the elderly or the vulnerable who are targeted.
Chairman of the OFT Bill Henderson MHK offers these tips to avoid being the victim of a ‘cowboy builder’:
- “Be wary of builders who call at your house without an appointment offering to do work
- Take time to make sure that the business name is properly registered. You can check registration at www.gov.im/ded/pvi/pvi_fr.html
- Do NOT be pressurised into having unnecessary work done
- If a builder is pestering you, call the police or Trading Standards for advice
- Ask for time to think about it before you decide to go ahead with any work – many householders change their minds on reflection when the builder has gone away
- Do NOT fall for patter such as “We’ve got some tarmac left over from a big job”
- Take the time to obtain at least two further quotes – be wary if the quote from the cold-caller is significantly cheaper than the others
- Do NOT part with a significant amount of cash up front
- Seek the advice of friends, neighbours and relatives before you agree to the work being done
- Ask for a written breakdown of the work to be carried out – don’t settle for vague written statements, e.g. “Coat roof”
The Office produces a leaflet “Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home” which can be obtained from the Office in Lord Street, Douglas, telephone 686500 or from its website www.gov.im/oft.
If a householder is concerned that they may have fallen foul of these problem builders they should contact the Office’s Trading Standards staff on 686520.