How to watch out for cowboy builders



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Consumer watchdogs in the island have issued a warning about cowboy builders.

In a press statement, the Office of Fair Trading says: ‘Despite numerous warnings, householders are still falling prey to unscrupulous itinerant builders.

‘Typically, these builders will make unsolicited visits to homes, pester householders into having work done (whether or not it actually needs to be done), and then carry out work to a very poor standard.’

The OFT says that some may only visit the island for a few days before moving on, leaving their victims having to put right shoddy workmanship, often at considerable expense.

It advises: ‘Friends, neighbours and relatives of the elderly should make them aware of the advice offered below as there is no doubt that the most unscrupulous itinerant builders target the elderly as potential victims.’ John Peet, chief inspector of Trading Standards at the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), offers the following advice to householders on how to avoid becoming a victim:-

Do NOT part with a significant amount of cash up front

Do NOT be pressurised into having work done

If the builder is pestering you, call the police or the OFT for advice

Ask for time to think about it before you agree to having any work done – many householders change their minds on reflection when the builder has gone away

Seek the advice of your friends, neighbours and relatives before you agree to having work done

Ask yourself whether the work to be carried out actually needs doing – if necessary seek a second opinion

Make sure that the business name is properly registered – you can check this on the Isle of Man Companies Registry website here or by contacting the Companies Registry on 689389

If the business doesn’t appear to be registered on the Island, ask to see the workers’ work permits – be very wary if they cannot, or will not, show you their work permits – if they have given you any names notify the Work Permit Office on 682393

If the builder has a VAT registration number (it will have nine digits), for example on his quotation or advertising literature, you can check whether it is a valid number on this site (selecting GB-United Kingdom as the Member State) – alternatively you can contact the Isle of Man Customs and Excise Advice Centre on 648130 – they cannot tell you whether the builder is VAT registered or not but they can confirm whether the VAT Registration number you have been given by the builder is a valid one or not

Do NOT fall for patter such as ‘We’ve got some tarmac left over from a big job’ or ‘We’re working on a roof down the road and spotted some damaged tiles on your roof’

If you believe that the work is necessary, obtain at least two further quotes – be wary if the quote from the builder who called on you is significantly cheaper than the others

Ask for quotes rather than estimates – remember that an estimate is just that and can be exceeded, but a quote should not be exceeded

Ask for a written breakdown of the work to be carried out – don’t settle for vague written statements, e.g. ‘Tarmac drive’ or ‘Replace tiles’

In most circumstances, you have the right to cancel a contract that you have entered into with a builder who has called at your home without a prior appointment – contact the OFT for advice if the builder does not give you a notice in writing indicating that you have the right to cancel the contract within the period of seven days

TThe OFT produces leaflets on ‘Scams’ and also ‘Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home’ which can be obtained from the OFT in Lord Street, Douglas, telephone 686500 or from its website

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