Avoid expensive builders

More than two million households ended up in dispute with a builder or decorator in the past three years. Our money expert outlines the golden rules when hiring builders
The housing market turmoil and lack of lending has seen thousands more Britons staying put and upgrading their homes. For most, that means calling in the builders. Given the industry’s reputation, it’s of little surprise that more than two million households ended up in dispute with a builder or decorator in the past three years, according to a survey by consumer group, Which?

The main problems were bad work, delays, claims of unreasonable fees and property damage. Many people received no written quote and often paid for work before it was done. They should have followed some simple golden rules when hiring builders...

The golden rules

* Ask for at least three detailed quotes before starting work.
* Be suspicious of anything far higher or lower than the other quotes.
* Always get references.
* Always view previous work with or without the trader.
* Always ask previous clients how the trader operated - the work might have been great but they could have been the messiest builder on earth.
* Always agree a signed contract that clearly states ALL work to be done in detail with costs of raw material and VAT.
* Always add to contract clear dates for when work is to be started and completed.
* Do not pay all of the money up front - final payment should only be made on satisfactory completion of the job.
* Request a written schedule of when payments are to be made.
* Do not go for tempting option of cash payments. Make sure all work is properly invoiced with VAT.
* Request payment by credit card - that way you will have extra protection if and when things go wrong.

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