Poor building work can be stressful, particularly if the job is now causing more problems for your property. But we can help you if you need to complain. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Contact the person or company who did the work

“Speak to the contractor directly first, explain the issue in detail and tell them how you would like it resolved. It’s also a good idea to give them a realistic timescale to avoid delaying fixing the issue. You might want to consider keeping a record of all your communication with the tradesperson. This is so that you have an evidence log if you need to take your complaint further.

  1. Start a formal complaints procedure

“You may find that the contractor isn’t willing to resolve the situation amicably. If this happens, you might consider starting a formal complaint procedure. The company or tradesperson may have their own complaints procedure. If they don’t, you can find out if they’re a trade association member. If you do this, you must prove that you have already attempted to resolve the issue with the contractor. You could also try Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

  1. Attempt to claim your money back

“If you aren’t successful with a trade association or ADR, you can try to claim the money back yourself. If you used a credit card to pay your chosen contractor, you can try to claim the money back through Section 75. The credit card company is typically jointly liable if the job costs more than £100 and less than £30,000. Another option is to make a chargeback claim. You must do this within 120 days of noticing the issue. You can use this option if you paid by debit card or if the cost is outside the limit of Section 75.

  1. Contact Trading Standards

“If you think the contractor is acting unlawfully, contact Trading Standards. You can report issues directly to a few local Trading Standards offices. But in most cases, you need to report the problem to Citizens Advice. It’s important to note that your case may not be automatically followed up. This is because tradesperson disputes are analysed alongside other crimes. Your case may only be logged for reference if it isn’t severe or there aren’t enough resources.

  1. Go to the small claims court

“If the issue isn’t resolved, you can attempt to get your money back through the Small Claims Court. If you decide to take your tradesperson to court, your home insurance should cover your legal expenses if it’s part of your policy. Legal fees are included as standard on some home insurance policies. You can add it to your buildings and contents policy as an optional extra. You can find out if you have legal expenses cover and the amount it covers in your policy documents. You can also speak to your insurer directly.

“However, you should also be aware that your insurer is only likely to take your case if they think you have a reasonable chance of winning.

There are also some rules for going through the Small Claims Court. If you live in England or Wales, the total cost of the work must be less than £10,000. The total cost must be less than £5,000 for those living in Scotland or Northern Ireland. You don’t need a solicitor to go through the Small Claims Court.”

Property and construction expert at MyJobQuote, Thomas Goodman, offers his tips on spotting a cowboy builder:

“Finding a reliable builder is crucial to your home project running smoothly and achieving the desired result, whatever the project. Cowboy builders can make that pricier than planned or decimate the chances of achieving a polished build. Be wary of anyone who won’t provide or seems hesitant to discuss their qualifications. If they are an LTD company, you can check the company’s status on GOV.co.uk. If they’re a sole trader, check for an online presence, such as social media or a website.

“Many builders rely on local recommendations to get work, so if your tradesmen haven’t come from a referral, do your research. Use an online trade directory to check reviews, ask for references and inquire about examples of previous projects. Consider a different builder if there’s a pattern of negative feedback or resistance to discussing previous projects.

“Unrealistic quotes are one of the most significant indicators of a cowboy tradesperson. When paying a professional, you’re paying for the job done but also their expertise, previous experience and associated materials. A low quote that drastically undercuts any others you’ve gathered indicates that corners could be cut – and on occasion, cheap work can’t always be rectified. Also, if your builder is pressuring for payment upfront, you could be at risk of them taking the cash and not finishing the job. Paying in instalments is the best method for large jobs, such as extensions.

“Cowboy builders often don’t want to leave a written trace for any projects they’ve undertaken, meaning they’re often reluctant to share written estimates. This also applies to not wanting to provide a written contract for work undertaken – not being provided with these can be a big red flag. Being able to price and provide a timeline for the job accurately is a sign of a reliable builder.”

Article supplied by Matthew Harwood, home and lifestyle expert at Confused.com home insurance.

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