Teams target cowboy builders

£16 million worth of fraud discovered


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Good news folks. It has been announced that new teams targeting cowboy contractors are being set up within the industry.

Which? target cowboy builders

‘Which?' have announced that specialist teams of trading standards officers will work with police and - unlike their council counterparts - will be able to conduct investigations on cowboy contractors across local authority borders saving UK residents an estimated £3.5 billion a year.

Anti cowboy contractors pilot

The new teams targeting cowboy contractors have been operating on a pilot basis in the North East and Midlands, as well as a combined team in the South East, East of England and London, since September 2006 however, they now look set to be rolled out all over the UK.

Cowboy contractors getting hit hard

To date, the teams targeting cowboy contractors have uncovered around £16 million worth of fraud, seized criminal assets worth £2 million, closed down 44 e-mail addresses and 24 phone numbers linked to national mailing scams and shut down 165 websites of suspected rogue traders.

Among their successes are an eight-month jail sentence for a damp proofing specialist who misdiagnosed damp in households in order to sell unnecessary damp proofing work and a criminal Asbo for a kitchen salesman from the North East following more than 100 complaints that he had charged for work he did not complete.

‘The Rotter' on cowboy contractors

The Rotter, aka Les Meikle of Wise Property Care and PCA Deputy Chairman of the damp proofing industry commented: “These fraudsters who prey on the elderly and vulnerable bring fear to our communities and damage to the reputation of good contractors. I am really glad to see that there are more initiatives coming out to target these cowboys".

Avoid cowboy contractors - Wise guide to hiring

Unsure as to what to do when hiring a contractor? Check out our Wise guide below:

  • Get as many quotes as possible - three should be the minimum.
  • Always get a quote in writing. An estimate is just that and can change, but a quote is a final agreement.
  • The quote should include materials, cost and labour as well as VAT.
  • Ask for the quote to detail the work - then there should be no misunderstandings later.
  • Ask for references and speak to past customers. Check out all customer testimonials.
  • Do not pay more than 35% upfront. If someone displays a logo, like the PCA, check they are really registered.
  • Be wary of accepting discounts for cash. Without a receipt, you won't be protected if something goes wrong.

Wise warning signs of a cowboy contractor

To help you avoid any cowboy contractors, watch out for the following signs.

  • Quotes are handwritten and do not give much detail.
  • No contract is offered - or the trader will not sign one that you give to them.
  • Your contractor only provides a mobile number and offers no other address or contact number.
  • A discount is offered for cash, and money is requested upfront.
  • Trust your instincts. If you have any initial doubts, it's best to look elsewhere.

More information about Wise Property Care

For more information on what you should look out for with the damp and timber industry, visit our approved property care contractor web page.

Alternatively for more information on Wise Property Care, visit our about Wise Property Care web page or call us on 0800 65 22 678.