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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!

Catching the rogue traders

14 Sep

Rogue traders and cowboys are a big concern within many industries, not just the double glazing industry. We at FENSA are keen to catch rogue traders but in order to do so we are aware that we need to educate people on how to spot potential “cowboys”.  We work together with installers to reduce the number of companies that practice foul play.


Talk to us, let us know

Let’s face it, we could always do with help in catching rogue traders, so if you are an installer or a consumer and you believe that an installer is not quite what they claim to be, then please let us know. A good example of this in action is a company based in East London who were not registered as a FENSA installer, but were caught advertising the FENSA logo on their website. This was brought to FENSA’s attention by a homeowner and FENSA reported it to the Trading Standards agency.


Identifying and reporting rogue traders

To make this a quicker process, FENSA provides a quick service via its website that allows anyone, installer or consumer, to check that a company is actually registered with FENSA or find registered installers in your area. You can do this by entering the exact company name

In addition, FENSA has a dedicated website aimed at informing consumers on how to spot cowboys, and providing them (and installers) with a quick and simply way of bringing these rogue traders to the attention of FENSA. The dedicated website is

the impact of the window

FENSA role

FENSA’s role is enabling companies to self certify compliance with building regulations and disciplining those who are not complying with the regulations. FENSA uses independent inspectors to check on installation work. FENSA also reports companies that practise foul play and posts information on companies that have been prosecuted on its website

Local Authority Building Control departments regularly contact FENSA to consult on installations, or to deal with queries relating to Registered Businesses. With the current economic climate, there is a real worry that consumers will be more tempted to opt for installations that offer VAT free work, cash in hand deals and installations that aren’t backed by guarantees or insurance, all typical traits of cowboys. What’s worse, installations by cowboys may not comply with building regulations, putting consumers at risk and making life tough for them when it comes to selling their home. With this in mind, the role of installers, consumers and the website has never been more important in identifying, stopping and prosecuting rogue traders.

Cowboy Conundrums

11 Mar

We have been speaking with a lot of FENSA Fitters lately about cowboys, and their concerns, and we just wanted to clarify some information with you, and set the record straight. We have written quite a lot of blogs about cowboys recently, but it is important to our Fitters, and so is a real priority for us.

Basically, if you are an installer, you might be worried about cowboys giving the industry a bad reputation. Well first of all, we wanted to reassure you that there is not as much of a problem as  you might think with cowboys – a recent report by Consumer Direct found that found that double glazing and conservatory installers did not feature in the trades people complained about most of all, and this is obviously a very positive thing for the industry.

open window

Nevertheless, if you are a FENSA installer fitting energy-rated compliant windows, you may be worried about other installers that might not be fitting windows that are compliant with building regulations, and want to know how this could impact on the reputation of the industry overall. Well, there are 2 points to make here:

Misuse of the FENSA logo by companies that are not FENSA Registered. Although cowboys are in the minority, at FENSA we take any misuse of the FENSA logo or failure to certify compliance with building regulations very seriously, because the FENSA badge is recognised by consumers.  This is unfair for FENSA Fitters who have made the effort to comply with the eligibility criteria of FENSA registration, have been vetted and are regularly and independently assessed. This is why we have the cowboy stoppers website where cowboys should be reported so we can take action. If you suspect and have evidence that an installer is misusing the FENSA logo, not self certifying with a scheme like FENSA or obtaining approval from Building Control, you can submit this information online anonymously on We have taken action against cowboys a number of times, you can check out some of the installer prosecutions here. To further support our Fitters, we provide a Consumer Guide to Cowboys, containing hints and tips to recognise a cowboy.

Regular inspections for Compliance for FENSA Fitters: On the other hand if a company is registered with FENSA, they can self certify compliance, but are still subject to regular independent inspections for building regulations compliance, so we can maintain confidence in the industry. Inspections are normally carried out on 1% of each business’s installations, subject to a minimum of 2 per year and a maximum of 100. The majority of installations inspected do meet the compliance criteria, but again, in the rare event of a failed inspection, FENSA takes things very seriously. We will always insist on the rectification of any job that is sub-standard of building regulations. Failure to comply results in removal from the FENSA scheme with no exceptions. What is more, companies that are found to fail inspections will be assessed more often (this is in line with guidance from the Communities and Local Government Department).

So you can see that we are working hard  with the industry to deal with cowboys that misuse the FENSA logo, and to ensure FENSA Fitters are vetted regularly for compliance with building regulations.


If you want to talk more about cowboys, or have any further feedback or questions, you can share them in the comments box below, or you can attend our next FENSA focus group in Manchester on the 17th March (Contact for more details).

Can you spot a cowboy?

7 Feb

I know what you are thinking, you’re thinking “of course I can, the hat, the horse and the 6 shooter gives it away”, and you’re right. But can you just as easily spot a rogue tradesman type cowboy? Probably not, they don’t conform to a particular look in the same fashion as Billy the kid did. Here are two quick facts, which make for uncomfortable reading:

 • According to the Trading Standards, it is estimated that more than 106,000 complaints about rogue traders are logged every year!

 • Disreputable companies carrying out substandard work wastes £1.5billion each year

How to protect yourself from cowboys?

If you are just starting out on some improvements to your home and looking for a window installer, then why not check the FENSA website out for registered fitters in your area. All you need do is provide your post code and the website brings back a list of trusted FENSA registered installers.
The web page you want is .
The result list will provide you with a company name, address, contact details and wherever possible email options, we also show their FENSA registered number… Of course though, you may already have an installer in mind, or your builder is putting you in touch with one, so what can you do.
Well in this case look for the FENSA logo. If you don’t notice one, ask if they are a FENSA registered company. If a company is registered with FENSA (and some 9,000+ businesses are) then that means the installer is subject to regular assessments on adherence to Building Regulations standards.

Remember, you can contact FENSA to check if a company is FENSA registered. If you are told they are, then still check, as some cowboys stop at nothing to try and trick you. How can I spot a cowboy? There are a number of give-away signs with the cowboy. Just like the cowboys of the wild west, there are certain attributes you find all cowboys have. Here are some of the telling signs of a cowboy:

• References: A cowboy won’t want to provide you with details of previous jobs. Ask yourself why?

• Contract: Cowboys will inevitable try to avoid any written agreements and may even suggest that a contract is not needed

• Cheap Deals: Ahh, the cheap “for one day only” offers. Often cowboys try to overwhelm you with these type of offers to make you part with cash up front

• VAT: Often a cowboy will do you a VAT free deal for cash.

• Time frames: A cowboy often will not agree on firm time frames or completion dates. Watch out for this and statements such as “things may crop up”

• Competition: Cowboys are often underhand when talking about competition, often criticising competitors greatly

• Premises: Contact details are often just mobile numbers. A reputable company should provide business cards with full details, names, registered business addresses and contact numbers. Some will also have their own websites.

• Start straight away: A cowboy will often state he can start straight away. Good window fitters are often in constant demand, so starting straight away isn’t always something they can offer

 • Confidence: Cowboys may not understand the building regulations or keep themselves up to date with any changes to the law, building regulations or latest industry developments. If you don’t feel confidence in the installers knowledge, then you probably are correct and shouldn’t feel confident in their ability to do a good job

Is there any more information I can read?


FENSA are proactive in trying to help consumers spot the cowboys and report them. You can download / read the FENSA guide to spotting cowboys here . FENSA also has a website dedicated to stopping the cowboys Take your time and have a look through this website as it will help you spot a cowboy. In addition it will provide you with information on knowing your rights, and how to report a cowboy….

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

3 Nov

I don’t think it’s just me, but you got to admit it, we all love a spaghetti western don’t we? What about a John Wayne classic (the duke)? But, this is the big question, would you want John or Clint Eastwood fitting your windows? Well, it would be entertaining but once the work was finished, i don’t think I would be too happy, so no, I wouldn’t want them fitting my windows either…Yet so many cowboys are out there who do get to fit people’s windows – and they do a nasty job which unfortunately costs the consumer far too much money in the long run…

Pretty much every industry has it fair share of cowboys, the building trade in particular is well known for it. But window fitter cowboys are out there, don’t think they aren’t.

man and woman building

However at FENSA we are determined to help you the consumer spot them, and more importantly avoid them like the shoot out at the O.K Coral…Think of us as Wyatt Earp and his brothers (check out ).

Anyway, we at FENSA have helped with a dedicated website set up to help you beat the cowboys. Why not visit and find out more…Its a good place to start when hiring a contractor, trying to spot a cowboy and knowing your rights. We also let you report a cowboy too on the website. We even have a complete consumer guide you can download and read at your leisure (or if you prefer print it off), obviously for free. You can view it here  

Not only are we here to try and help you avoid the cowboys, but we also actively prosecute report them to and work with both trading standards and local authority building control where relevant to prosecute  them. We encourage anyone out there, if they have had experience of cowboys, or know of any, to report them to us.

So if you are getting new windows fitted, take a few moments to read our website, look through the cowboy stopper website and view the guide, in the long run it can save you a lot of heartache and your own western altercation…