BBC 1’s Rogue Traders show has, quite rightly, made many wary of being cheated or having their property damaged by dishonest or unqualified tradespeople. Whilst such ‘cowboys’ are the exception rather than the rule, we thought we’d offer you a few tips to help you tell the professed plumber from the professional one.
Beware Uninvited Callers
Plumbers are always in demand, so it’s unlikely that one will call at your door touting for business. If they do, however, ask to see their credentials and make sure that their business card gives a home address and a landline number which you can call and verify. Fraudsters can be extremely plausible, so be cautious and never invite them into your home without first checking them out. Far better to get recommendations from family or friends, or use a well-established local firm with professional accreditation and insurance.
Don’t Accept Telephone Quotes
In the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn, a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on! No plumber can give you a realistic quote on a job he hasn’t seen, and to accept one is to lay yourself open to sharp practice: either to a temptingly low estimate that can be revised upwards as the job progresses, or to being overcharged from the off. Get a fixed price for the job – as seen – before work commences. And get it in writing.
Don’t Pay For Unnecessary Work
Some unscrupulous types have been known to pad out estimates by adding in unnecessary parts and labour charges. They’re counting on the fact that you’re not an expert and won’t know the difference between a fill valve and a flange grommet. But there’s a simple way to protect yourself against this ploy. Get several competing estimates from different suppliers. Any anomalies will immediately become apparent.
Beware Bait and Switch Tactics
If you ordered a BMW and took delivery of a Skoda you’d spot the difference right away. But would you know the difference between a top of the range heat pump and a budget priced one? Thought not. So when you get quotes, ensure that the make and model of the parts or equipment you’re buying are specified. That way you know that what you see is what you get and not a cheap substitute that lets the trader pocket the difference.
Don’t Pay Until the Job is Done
It is standard trade practice to for a contractor to ask for a down payment to cover parts. Beware, however, if you’re asked for payment in full before the job is completed. You might find that your work slips down the trader’s priority list, and you’ll have no comeback if you’re dissatisfied with the finished job. Another dodge is the offer of a discount for cash, a sign that the trader is cheating on his income tax. Whether you go along with this is up to you, but someone who is dishonest in one thing will be dishonest in others, often to your cost.