By James Mooney on 10/11/2015

Halloween may have passed, but don’t let choosing a tradesperson feel like trick or treat.

As the colder months draw in and you spend more time at home, you start to notice things that need to be done. Electrical wiring here, light fittings there. The more time you spend at home, the more things you notice need to be done.

So how do you avoid becoming another horror story? One of those where tradespeople disappear half-way through a job, leaving homeowners with incomplete work done in cold weather.

The need to get things done quickly leaves it easy for homeowners to make rush decisions, giving cowboy traders the chance to take advantage.

So how do you avoid getting caught out?

Below you can find out why just a little research goes a long way to choosing the right tradesperson.

Do Ask Friends and Family

Ask friends and family when choosing a tradesperson.The first port of call when you need a tradesperson is to ask your friends, family, neighbours, or colleagues. A tradesperson who has provided a good experience for someone you know will likely be more reliable. You might even get a discounted rate if you let the tradesperson know who recommended you.

If your friends and family can’t recommend anyone, it can be difficult to know where to turn.

How do you know the first person you call from a Google search is actually any good?

Do Look at Trade Memberships

A tradesperson who wants to build a good reputation will have recognised trade memberships.

Look at the website of your trader, see what, if any, memberships are advertised.

Good ones to look out for are:

Which? Trusted Trader members go through a testing process, where the quality of work is checked by an independent assessor before a tradesperson can use Which? Trusted Trader logo on the websites or any marketing material.

Trade body accreditations give validation that any tradesperson has achieved a certain level of training and experience. This will give you assurance that any trader you choose to use will be of a good standard.

Below you can see some of the main accreditations to look out for:

Electricians – NICEIC

Heating engineers – Gas Safe

Plumbers – CIPHE

Decorators – Painting and Decorating Association

Builders – Federation of Master Builders

Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to know any other accreditations to look for.

Do Look at Review Sites

Review sites give honest feedback for tradespeople around the UK.

Read reviews from other homeowners sharing experiences of how tradespeople have carried out jobs, how they have presented themselves and how clean homes have been left.

Some of the most popular review sites in the UK are:

Checkatrade, a directory of recommended and trusted tradespeople who have been vetted, monitored and meet a set standard for trading.

Trust Pilot, one of the UK’s largest consumer review websites, where you can see honest feedback about the tradesperson you’re researching.

Things Not to Do

Don’t Use Tradespeople Who Cold Call

Don't use cold callers.Established and respected tradespeople don’t need to go door-to-door or make cold phone calls touting for business.

Although some doorstep callers may be legitimate, you should never buy anything on the spot. Take a business card, then research.

Cold calling is commonplace with rogue traders, who will regularly turn up on your doorstep uninvited claiming there are structural problems with your home, that they have excess building materials, or claiming they are from the council. Rogue traders will put pressure on you to give the go ahead for a job, or will even complete the job and then expect payment.

Don’t Be Sucked Into Cheap Offers

Rogue traders will tempt you with cheap rates that seem too good to be true.

Guess what… They usually are.

Traders who offer cheap rates will likely either sting you with added work at the end of the bill, walk off a job once they realise it’s no longer profitable or this could be the sign of an amateur. Do you really want an amateur working on your home?

If you’re unsure what the price of a job should be, contact at least three different tradespersons for quotes. This way you can judge which quote and which tradesperson is the most appropriate.

Don’t go with a Tradesperson Who’s Unwilling to Provide a Written Quote

Legitimate traders are happy to provide written quotes for work.

Rogue traders don’t put anything in writing because it’s very rare that they want to commit to anything. Usually because they do not intend to do what has been promised to you.

This is different to an estimate. An estimate is a tradesperson’s best guess at how much a job will cost, whereas a quote is an offer to do a set amount of work for an agreed price. Some rogue traders will use this to their advantage, and only offer estimates. If an estimate seems unrealistic the safest thing for you to do is to get an actual quote in writing before you commit to have any work completed.

Don’t Go with Anyone Who Can’t Provide References

Always ask your tradesman for references.Most reputable traders will be able to give you good references that they would be happy to share.

You wouldn’t apply for a job without references to support your application, so why would you accept this from a tradesperson? If a trader can’t provide you with a single positive reference this should be a major cause for concern.

Don’t Choose Someone Who is Overly Keen to Start the Job

Rogue traders are often over-eager to start a new job quickly as they’re already planning moving to a new location. This is most often because of worry about authorities catching up with them. Reputable traders will work to your timescales to find a time that’s convenient for both of you. If a tradesperson tries to pressure you to agree to work ASAP be very cautious.

Don’t Choose a Tradesperson Who Won’t Provide Contact or Business Information

A registered trade business will be able to provide you with a landline telephone number and address. You’ll probably be able to find more information about the tradesperson on the internet through either their website or through review sites. If none of this is available it could because they’re not a legitimate tradesperson or because of a poor reputation. For either reason, it’s important to get as much detail about the trader as you possibly can.

If you’re still in doubt, ask to visit premises and request proof of credentials and qualifications.

Don’t Use a Tradesperson Who Lies About Their Credentials

Credentials are there to make sure a tradesperson has certain qualifications or experience to complete a job correctly. They give homeowners peace of mind, whilst some credentials, such as members of the Gas Safe Register, are compulsory for any tradesperson who works with boilers or other gas appliances.

Many homeowners assume just because the accreditation logo is on a van or on a business card the tradesperson is automatically a part of the association. Membership is easy to forge but also easy to check. Most trade associations give you the chance to search for and check members, whilst you’re within your rights to ask your tradesperson for proof of membership. If this can’t be provided, they’re most probably a rogue trader.

Don’t Use a Tradesperson Who Doesn’t Charge VAT

Whilst some smaller traders may not pay VAT, many rogue traders will not charge VAT because they’re operating illegally. It’s against the law to charge VAT and not pay it.

Don’t Use a Tradesperson Who Only Accepts Cash or Demands Full Payment Upfront

Cash in hand tradesmen.If a tradesperson only accepts cash, they could be trying to evade tax. Many rogue traders will ask for a full payment upfront, making it easy for them to leave without finishing the job and leaving you with little negotiating power if the work is poor. Avoid this by ensuring your contract with the tradesperson states payment is only required when the job, or at least a set amount of work, has been completed.

Don’t Trust a Tradesperson Who Uses Abusive Behaviour

No reputable tradesperson would bully a homeowner into having work done. This is a tactic used mainly by rogue traders, who resort to harassing and abusing homeowners in an attempt to get money. Many rogue traders may refuse to leave your property, or continue to call on you when you’ve already declined to have work done.

Remember that you have a right to call the police if you think this is happening. Watch out for elderly friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable to bullying tactics.

Rogue traders thrive on creating a climate of fear. Fear of what could happen if you don’t have work done and in some cases fear of what the tradesperson might do to you if you refuse. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The law is on your side and you’re in control.

If you’d like to speak with a respectable and trusted electrician you can find your local Mr. Electric here.