Finding a tradesperson
When choosing a contractor to carry out work to their property, many people look for a tradesperson who is has a reliable reputation. It is important to feel able to trust not only their standard of work but also their integrity. Most contractors are honest, skilled professionals who will give you good advice. The following information is a guide to dealing with contractors, enabling you to make informed decisions about what you want to do. There is also advice about what to do if you find yourself dealing with a disreputable firm.
Are you thinking of having some work done?
If you have decided to have alterations done on your property it is a good idea to discuss your plans with a relative or friend. It is always helpful to get a second opinion and you will have the peace of mind that somebody else is aware of your plans.
Who are you going to employ to do the job?
One way to find a contractor is to ask your family, friends or neighbours whether they can recommend anyone who may have recently done work for them and did a good job for a reasonable price. Make sure that the tradesperson you decide to contract to do the job is adequately insured with Public Liability Insurance and is willing to give you a written quote for how much the job may cost and how long the job is likely to take to complete. Ask to be invoiced at the end of the job, or if you are having particularly large alterations made to your property ask to be invoiced at each stage of the process where you are required to release funds. The invoices should also show any V.A.T. that maybe due.
Local home improvement agencies
Help & Care Handiwork Plus (available to residents of Bournemouth, Poole, East Dorset, Christchurch and Purbeck)
Handiworks Plus is available to anyone over the age of 18 living in the Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, East Dorset and Purbeck areas. Members of Handiworks Plus can call one number 0300 111 3303 and report any repairs or household maintenance issues and we will arrange for an appropriate police checked tradesperson who is skilled in their trade to carry out the work required. The Handiworks Team provide experienced, competitively priced trades people and will arrange all works on your behalf. The contractual relationship for each job is between you (the Handiworks Plus member) and the tradesperson. Handiworks Plus is a social enterprise, this means that 100% of any profits from the service provided by Handiworks Plus will fund Help and Care’s charitable work. Membership of Handiworks Plus costs £30 a year. The services available include:
• General Handyman – small building works and maintenance, build flat pack furniture, fit draught proofing, put up curtain rails/blinds, moving furniture within the home, hanging mirrors and pictures, clearing gutters.
• Electrical – rectifying loss of light or power, installing and repairing sockets and lights, fixing/replacing doorbells, installing outside security lights, installing power to new areas.
• Carpentry – Door and window repairs, door furniture fitting and repairs, shelves fitted, skirting and architrave installation, repairs to sheds, fence and gate installation or repair.
• Plumbing - Tap repairs and replacement, bath and sink traps unblocked, internal leaks fixed, WC flushing faults rectified, radiators bled, baths and sinks sealed, washing machines and dishwashers plumbed in.
• Security and Safety – Window and door locks, spy holes and door chains fitted, smoke detectors, supply and fit key safes, grab rails.
• Gardening – Weeding, mowing lawns, planting flowers and shrubs, trimming hedges, pruning.
• Gas and central heating – rectifying loss of heating, rectifying loss of hot water, repair faulty radiator valves, installation of boilers, gas cookers and fires, servicing boilers and gas fires.
• Painting and decorating – internal and external painting, wallpapering, woodwork painting/staining, tiling, small areas of plastering.
• Flooring – carpet and vinyl fitted, laminate and ceramic floor tiles laid.
Local authority help and advice about small home repairs and other adaptations
Information about organisations able to help with small home repairs, or details about eligibility for grants or loans for larger adaptations is available from your local authority. For further information contact:
Dorset County Council: Dorset Accessible Homes Service: - tel 0333 00 30010
Information is also available from:
Dorset Home Improvement Agency
2A Sunrise Business Park
Tel: 0333 777 3693
Millbrook are contracted to offer advice on and carryout adaptation work throughout the county of Dorset.
Points to consider before having work done
Is the work really necessary, will I be paying too much?
A good way to find out is to get at least three quotes from different companies. This way you should pick up on very high prices and negotiate the best deal. Do not judge on price alone. Consider the service that they are providing and how they have responded to your call. Although it is important to ensure that you are not paying over the odds, remember that the cheapest option is not always the best.
Are you expecting a visit from a contractor or workman?
• Make a list of all the questions that you want to ask and the areas you want to cover. By doing this you can be sure that you won’t forget anything. Write down the points that you want to remember from the meeting. Take your time making notes and do not hurry your decision, if you are feeling under pressure you are more likely to forget important details.
• Make sure that you know the name of the person who is coming to see you so that you can check when they arrive. Be sure to ask for their name before you open the door. Some companies operate a code name system. When you call to make an appointment you agree upon a word or name that only you and the company know. This ensures that when the person arrives at your door you can be positive about who you are letting in.
• If you are dealing with a larger company they may well carry identification. Check this carefully before letting the person in. If you are not sure, take the card inside and telephone the company to check. Do not telephone the number on the card that the caller has given you, but check to see if you can find the company number in Yellow Pages or the Telephone Directory and call that number. This is because bogus callers may well have an accomplice waiting on the number they have given you to deceive you when you call to check. Calling the number in the phonebook you know you are getting through to the company concerned. A legitimate caller will not mind waiting on the doorstep for a few minutes.
• If you need extra support, ask a relative or friend to be with you.
• If you are unsure about anything, ask the contractor to explain and remember that you do not have to decide there and then. Agree with the contractor a time to call back if you want to consider your decision.
Before agreeing to any work
Ask for a full written quote listing all work to be carried out. The quote should include V.A.T. so that you know the final cost. A quote should also include the following points:
• Delivery times and a completion date.
• All costs – installation charges, full details of parts, materials and labour.
• Guarantees – these should be in writing. A guarantee is in addition to, not instead of, your legal rights.
Make sure you have obtained quotes from at least three different companies so that you can choose the most reasonable offer. You can also get the benefit of three different opinions.
Estimates and quotes – difference
Sometimes due to the way some building materials are supplied the contractor may only be able to make an informed guess as to how much the job will cost, this is an estimate. Estimates are no guarantee of a final price so specify in writing that you want to be warned in advance of any extra expense.
As indicated above a quote will be an itemised list of the tasks needed to do the job, including materials, labour, and where possible the time span of how long it will take to complete the job. This will be the price this contractor will do the work for should you decide to ask them to do so.
Research company details
Make a note of the details of the company:
• Name, address and telephone number of firm/contractor
• Is the company a member of a professional body?
• Does the company have adequate insurance in case something goes wrong?
• How long have they been in business?
Paying money in advance
You may have to pay some money in advance to purchase materials in which case you should pay by cheque or credit card. Do not pay cash as there will be no proof that the money has been paid. If you pay by cheque there will be a record of the transaction and some credit companies will offer protection if the company fails to deliver the service. Always get a full written receipt for any transaction. Do not pay the full amount until the job is completed and you are satisfied with the work done.
Before signing the contract
Before signing any contract documents, give yourself plenty of time to read all the small print. If necessary, take a copy of the contract home to read thoroughly. Ensure that it covers the areas that you feel are important. If you are not sure, ask for the opinion of a family member or friend. Keep a photocopy of all documents, especially those you have signed. Do not be afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion.
It is a good idea to discuss your plans with your family or friends. They may have some helpful suggestions. Make sure they are aware of what you are having done, when, how much it will cost and who is doing the work. You could also let the contractor know that your family or friends are aware of the situation.
While work is being carried out
Keep yourself informed of progress. Ask questions about what is being done. If the contractor tells you that the job is more extensive than expected, remember that you do not have to agree with what you are told and have the right to ask for a second opinion. If further work is needed get another, or revised, written quote for the extra work.
When the work is finished
Are you happy with the job?
In most cases you will be pleased with the work carried out. If this is the case, try to keep hold of the company’s details. You may want to use them again or recommend them to friends and relatives. Only pay for completed works after you have inspected them. Get a detailed bill and receipt with the company’s name and address.
But what if I am not happy with the job?
The first thing to do in this case is to contact the company that carried out the work. In most cases any problems can be sorted by maintaining good communication with all parties involved. Explain why you are not satisfied and ask them to rectify the situation. If they are members of a trade association contact the association as most of them have free complaints and arbitration procedures. If you are planning to withhold payment or even to sue for damages it is vital that you get professional advice from a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau immediately.
Who can I complain to?
Once again your first port of call should be the company who did the work. Make your complaint in writing explaining all the reasons why you are not happy. Remember to keep a copy of all correspondence with the company and your solicitor.
If you feel that the company have broken the law, contact your local Trading Standards Office. They will investigate the complaint and will act if they feel that an offence has been committed. Local Trading Standards Office details are:
Dorset County Council
Tel: 01305 (01202) 224012
Fax: 01305 (01202) 224297
Line open: Monday – Thursday 8.40am – 5.20pm.
Friday: 8.40am – 4pm.
Do you need help with the process of making a complaint?
If you are over 65 and a resident of Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole, or East Dorset the Help and Care Advocacy Service can offer you practical support to present your views. The service is available to people who live alone or have no one to speak on their behalf. For further information contact the Information Gateway at Help & Care on 0300 111 3303. The Help & Care fact sheet
"How to make a complaint", may also be useful to you.
National trade associations
Federation of Master Builders (Southern counties office)
51 St Mary’s Road
Kent, TN9 2LE
Tel: 01732 771553
Fax: 01732 363658
Builders must meet specific criteria to become members.
Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF)
54 Ayres Street
Tel: 020 7939 9101
Fax: 0870 042 4266
The Federation deals with companies trading in the glass and glazing industry including double glazing and conservatories. All their members have been vetted to ensure a quality service.
Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE)
64 Station Lane
Tel: 01708 472791
Fax: 01708 448987
Painting and Decorating Association
32 Coton Road
Tel: 024 7635 3776
Fax: 024 7635 4513
Their members are qualified and fully insured. They will act as an arbitrator in the event of a complaint about a members work.
Other useful information
Buy with Confidence - ://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk is a government sponsored website giving details of local tradespeople in your area. Details have been checked by local authority trading standards offices.
Wessex Energy Advice Centre
8 Park Place
6 North Road
Tel: 01202 209410
For advice about energy efficiency, insulation and heating grants.