HOW TO SELECT TRADERS FOR HOME IMPROVEMENTS
Pressure through cold-calling from unscrupulous home improvement contractors should soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) introducing the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act 2016, which comes into force on 1st June 2016.
But how do you find a reliable tradesman to undertake vital repairs and home improvements?
Consumers often ask the OFT to recommend a tradesman to carry out home improvements. The OFT can’t provide a recommendation, but makes people aware of the existence of the Manx Accredited Construction Contractors Scheme (MACCS).
MACCS is managed by the Isle of Man Construction Federation and can help householders find a contractor to carry out construction work on their homes. A full list of MACCS listed contractors can be found on their website at https://www.iomcf.im/.
There are obviously many genuine tradesmen on the Island who meet the same criteria and have an excellent reputation, but who choose not to be a member of MACCS. Consumers who decide to employ a tradesman who is not a member of MACCS should make sensible checks that the trader concerned has the necessary insurance, complies with any health and safety requirements and is qualified to do the work through experience or by having attained a relevant qualification. Traders are often happy to give the details of other satisfied customers.
David Quirk MHK, Chairman of the OFT, said:
‘When it comes to home improvements, it is obvious that a lot of problems would not arise if consumers took steps to check out any traders they are thinking of employing. Those with the biggest or glossiest adverts, the smartest vehicles or the most persuasive attitude may not necessarily be the answer. Issues such as workmanship, insurance and health and safety are more important considerations. More reliance should be made on the recommendations of friends, neighbours and relatives than on slick marketing.’
‘At least with members of MACCS, you can draw comfort from the fact that the trader concerned has been required to jump through some significant hoops before membership has been granted.’
Doug Skinner, President of the IOM Construction Federation added:
‘The Federation has worked hard over recent years to develop MACCS, and make the public aware of its strengths. The construction industry has not always enjoyed the best of reputations in terms of customer care, but MACCS approved contractors do have to meet a range of criteria including competency, qualification, insurance, and safety.’
‘The Federation also operates a formal complaints procedure regarding contractors’ performance, and will provide direct assistance to all clients where a MACCS contractor is considered to have failed to meet MACCS performance standards.’
The OFT’s Consumer Advice team had more complaints about ‘home maintenance, repairs and improvements’ than any other category in 2015/16, accounting for 11% of the complaints and enquiries recorded by the OFT. This category is perennially in the top two consumer concerns.
The OFT has therefore produced a leaflet, ‘Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home’, which can be obtained from the OFT in Lord Street, Douglas, telephone 686500 or from its website www.gov.im/oft.
The OFT also offers the following advice to householders on how to avoid becoming a victim of rogue traders:-
- DON’T employ traders who call at your home without a prior appointment – consider reporting this to the OFT.
- DON’T be pressurised into having work done.
- DON’T fall for patter such as ‘I’m working on the roof next door and have noticed that your roof is in a terrible state’ or ‘We’ve got some materials left over from a cancelled contract’.
- DON’T part with a significant amount of cash up front.
- DON’T settle for vague written statements, e.g. ‘replace tiles’ or ‘tarmac drive’.
- DO call the police or the OFT for advice if a trader is pestering you.
- DO ask for time to think about it before you agree to having any work done – you may change your mind on reflection when the trader has gone away.
- DO ask yourself whether the work to be carried out actually needs doing – if necessary seek a second opinion.
- DO seek the advice of your friends, neighbours or relatives before you agree to have work done.
- DO obtain at least two further quotes if you believe that the work is necessary – be wary if the quote from one trader is significantly cheaper than the others.
- DO ask for quotes rather than estimates – remember that an estimate is just that and can be exceeded, but a quote should not be exceeded.
- DO ask for a written breakdown of the work to be carried out.
- DO validate any claims made by the trader in an advert, for example in a newspaper, in a directory, on a business card or on a van – make sure that a trader claiming to be a member of any organisation or association actually is a member – make sure that a trader claiming to have a relevant qualification and the requisite insurance can provide evidence of this by showing you the certificates.
- DO keep an eye on how the trader goes about his work, for example, alarm bells should ring if the trader has said that a hoist or scaffolding will be used when the ridge tiles on your house are being replaced but then sends someone up a ladder to do the job.
- DON’T be pressurised into paying for the work if you’re not happy with it – unscrupulous traders can intimidate consumers, for example, by demanding payment in cash, by hanging around outside consumers’ homes until they are paid, by threatening to undo the job and even by taking their victims to the bank.
The OFT is also looking at the possibility of legally defining common terms used in adverts by traders in the building sector, for example ‘registered’ and ‘insured’.
Members of MACCS are entitled to use the logo below in their advertising:
Further information on MACCS can be found on the Federation website or by contacting the office:
Isle of Man Construction Federation
23A Village Walk
Tel: (01624) 660188