A number of websites have been launched in recent years which the public can use to find tradespeople and check their credentials. Tradespeople or companies have profiles on the sites describing their services and often featuring customer reviews. You will often find the recommendation site’s logo on the tradesperson’s van, business card, leaflet and letterhead/invoice. Not unlike a directory, results are filtered by type of service and location, but inclusion on these sites constitutes or implies a professional recommendation.
Don't automatically take anything you read on a trades recommendation website as being true.
Do your own checks and get recommendations from friends and family before engaging tradespeople.
Many trades recommendation websites are genuine and carry out due diligence before making a listing. On some sites, however, little or no proof of experience, expertise or qualifications is required from the tradesperson/company. Instead, all that is needed is payment of a fee. Sometimes, the customer reviews have also been fabricated. Believing that you are engaging an expert, this could result in:
- Work that is substandard.
- Work that is dangerous.
- Work that is not guaranteed, or the guarantee is worthless, potentially reducing the value of your property.
- Tradespeople with no public liability insurance, all-risk cover or employer’s liability insurance (where appropriate).
- Paying in excess of commercially acceptable market rates for the work.
- Fraudulent tradespeople who request payment up-front – often ‘for materials’ – only to abscond with your money.
Protecting yourself – and your property
- Before engaging a tradesperson, search online for positive and negative reviews (not just trades recommendation websites).
- Meet in person to discuss the job, at your home or other place where it is to be carried out.
- Ensure that the tradesperson is willing to provide the address and phone number of their business premises, and check that these are authentic.
- Ensure that the tradesperson/company you engage is qualified and experienced in carrying out the type of work you want, to the quality you need.
- Get a written estimate for the work in advance of instructing the tradesperson to proceed.
- If you make any upfront or stage payments, make sure you get a typed or written receipt, specifying the amount paid and what it is for.
- Also, ensure you receive a receipt for the final payment, or the whole payment if this is made on completion.
- Some fraudsters drive their victims to the bank to withdraw large sums of money for what they believe are upfront payments. If this happens to you, alert a neighbour, or make it clear to a bank employee that you are there under duress.