How to avoid the cowboy builder

15 Feb

The issue of cowboy builders is an important one and can never be understated.
Although the majority of tradespeople offer a great, professional service, you need to be aware of a small minority who are unskilled and can act in a criminal manner.

If unwittingly, you become involved with a cowboy builder, you could find yourself left with a very poor job. You could also find yourself out of pocket or even threatened in extreme circumstances. This is why it is prudent to take precautions to ensure you are dealing with a bona fide tradesperson.

Schemes such as FENSA, where registered companies are vetted and regularly inspected, ensure when you use them, you can be confident you will receive a competent, professional job.

43866361 window with snow

FENSA proactively protects consumers from the cowboys – not only by withholding the scheme from those unable to pass FENSA’s independent assessments; but also by reporting to Local Authorities and Trading Standards companies who erroneously claim FENSA registration, to enable prosecution. A Builder was recently fined for displaying misleading information on his van. You can read more about this case here

So, let’s see how to avoid a cowboy builder.

Here is a useful check list:

Is his van unmarked?
Wrong: Most reputable builders will have their accreditations registered on their van. They would want to advertise their credentials. For example, a FENSA fitter will have the FENSA logo on his van with his registration number, which you can use to check he is legitimate.

Has he asked for full cash payment up front?
Wrong: A reputable builder will discuss payment with you and get it down in writing so you know exactly where you stand.

Do you know anything about the builder and his previous work?
Wrong: It is far better to get a recommendation from friends or family who have been happy with the service they have received from their builder. Or you could ask to speak to their previous customers and take a look at the work they did for them.

Does he want to get started straightaway?
Wrong: This could be a sign he will start many jobs around your area then just disappear with your money and the work unfinished. Make sure you have the business address and landline number. Although, if he is a cowboy builder, it will more than likely be impossible to track him down.


So, try to follow these tips and you can help put an end to the cowboy builder. Take a step back and analyse exactly what you want. Do some research, take advice from friends and colleagues. Don’t rush in to decisions. If possible, get 2 or 3 quotes from recommended builders. Make an informed decision!


2 Responses to “How to avoid the cowboy builder”

  1. Robert Davidson April 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Thou it is legal for any tradesman (other than gas services) to carry out his or her work without any qualifications.If they say they are qualified but are not, then this is fraud !!
    Avoiding cowboy builders is very easy ! just ask them to show you their qualifications. An NVQ level 3 certificate with 3 years training with an employer is an industry accepted standard.
    But you must verify these qualifications or BEWARE !!!!!!
    Also BEWARE of word of mouth or friend recommendations !!!!
    But also remember a trade certificate NVQ 3 ,only indicates that they are competent ,which means they do need supervised by someone better qualified.
    Yes it is a minefield !
    Good luck !

    Robert Davidson,, Spot On QS on LinkedIn

  2. Marcus @ May 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Another great strategy is simply to ask for a list of names of people whom they have done work with. Checking with previous customers is recommended not only for “cowboy builders”, but for any company you have do work on your home. Use the internet as well, such sites as Facebook, the BBB, and even Angies list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: