Buying, Selling, and Decorating Your Dream Home

Home Improvements: How To Avoid Problems When Hiring Contractors


When you own property, there will be times when you have to pay someone else to work on it. You might need anything from emergency repairs or improvements.

Perhaps a new kitchen, double glazing, or rewiring – to work of a more structural nature that will increase your living space.

Hiring Professional Help

Depending on the scale of your project, you may well want to pay for some specialist input, whether it’s a one-off consultation with a structural engineer about a load-bearing wall, or the services of an architect to see through a full extension from start to finish.

You need to know what different professionals do, and what to expect if you manage the project yourself.

Finding a Contractor

Everyone has heard sensational stories about people who have been ripped off by bad contractors, but the majority of tradespeople are honest, reliable, and capable.

Some background research will help you find them, and some commonsense guidelines will ensure that you enjoy a good relationship with them. But give yourself plenty of time: good builders, for instance, are often booked up for months in advance, and you don’t want to be pressured into choosing someone just because they are available.

How To Avoid Problems When Hiring Contractors

Avoiding Problems

The more thorough you are when preparing your specification for any contractor, the less likely you are to end up in dispute. You should ideally agree in advance what procedures you’ll follow if a dispute does arise.

Play your part in maintaining a good working relationship by giving the contractor as much notice as possible, in writing, if you change the specification, or if there is a good reason why payments will be late or withheld, and by paying promptly if there are no problems.

Here are some common complaints about getting work done and how to avoid them.

1.Undue Pressure to Have Unnecessary Work Done

You should never agree to have work done that you don’t want, but that is sometimes easier said than done.

If you’re up against someone particularly pushy, buy yourself time by saying that you have a friend or relative with whom you’d like to discuss the proposals, or say you need to obtain a loan to pay for the work and you’ll have to submit three detailed quotations.

Unscrupulous builders and cold-call salespeople will not risk being put under such scrutiny.

2. Over-Charging

Confirm every verbal quotation in writing, even if you are only having minor work done and are paying on an hourly basis.

Your letter should confirm the hourly rate; whether it includes VAT; how materials will be costed; roughly how long the job should take.

3. Lost Deposits

Some firms won’t undertake work unless they receive a deposit.

If they insist on this, ask for bank and insurance references and follow them up before work starts.

4. Unnecessary Delays

In the absence of unforeseeable problems, you have a legal right to have the work completed within a ‘reasonable’ time frame.

Before you accept any quotation, ask how long the work should take, when it will start and when it will finish. Include a penalty clause in your agreement, to reduce the bill by a stated amount if the job overruns beyond a set number of days.

5. Unfinished Work

Before accepting a quotation, especially for a major contract, check the company’s insurance: it should protect you from financial loss although it can’t compensate you for the inconvenience of having to find another contractor.

For smaller jobs, make sure that, at all times, the money you owe the contractor more than covers the cost of finishing the job otherwise unscrupulous traders may feel they have nothing to lose by abandoning you.

6. Poor Workmanship

Following up references and checking on membership of trade associations is your best safeguard. While the job is on, inspect the work at the end of every day.

If you suspect the work is not up to standard, talk to the contractor immediately as it could jeopardize the quality of subsequent work. Hold back the final payment for three months in case problems arise once the contractor has left the scene.

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