All Which? Trusted traders work to the Which? Trusted Traders Code of Conduct, which covers areas around clear contracts and working to fair trading principles. However, there is no corresponding code of conduct for consumers. This can make it more difficult for you to know what you should be doing when it comes to working with your trader.
Contracting traders and opening up your property to them can feel quite intimidating. You want to make sure you’re making the right choice. But where do you start? What should you ask, and when? With plenty of clear communication and a professional attitude from both parties, this should be a smooth process.
Which? Trusted Traders is here to help you make a more informed decision about who to employ, but you should still take some basic steps before going ahead with any work. Find out more about Which? Trusted Traders, and read on for more about how to work with your trader.
Quotes are not just about comparing prices. You are also comparing each trader’s approach to a particular job, how long they estimate it will take them, and what materials they propose to use.
Here are four things you should consider when getting a quote:
Check your trader is properly insured before you hire them. Ask to see their insurance certificate, and make sure it doesn’t expire during your project. Your trader should have:
If your trader is going to employ sub-contractors, make sure they hold proper insurance too, so you aren’t liable for any accidents. You may also need to notify your own buildings insurer that work is being carried out.
Traders carrying out work in domestic properties must now by law do a health and safety risk assessment before the work starts. This is called a construction phase plan, and it applies to all work - no matter how small or large the project is. Ask if they are doing this, as their insurance may not be valid without it.
Once you’ve decided which trader’s quote meets your requirements most fully, and checked that they are sufficiently insured, then you can move to the contracting stage before work starts.
A proper contract, agreed before the work starts, is the key to avoiding and resolving disputes with builders and other tradesmen.
Generally, small-scale home improvements need only a letter of agreement to set out a contract, which both parties must sign. For larger projects you may require more detail, to cover all the areas that you agreed at the initial quotation stage. Consider consulting a qualified building surveyor for larger jobs.
If you agree the contract and sign it in your own home, you will have a 14-day cooling-off period in which to change your mind. You should be given a cancellation-rights form so you can cancel without charge. If you agree to start works within the 14-day cooling-off period, you will have to authorise the works in writing. If you later cancel after that, you will have to pay for any work that’s been carried out.
All contracts should include:
If there are other elements that are particularly important to you, such as ensuring that the work is completed by a certain date, or specific arrangements to deal with any waste, you can ask the trader to include these in the contract.
There is no need for panic if everything is not perfect at the end of a big job. There are often issues that need resolving after a substantial home improvement, and traders are familiar with this. You need to contact the trader in writing, listing the problems and asking for them to be clear when they can return to resolve them.
The size and nature of the work will determine whether you need to pay a deposit – you should have agreed the way you will pay for the project before work commences, so by the end of the job, it is clear how much you owe.
Your trader will send you an invoice for the final payment.
Traders will vary in how they prefer to be paid. If you’re paying in cash, it’s good practice to count it together, to avoid any subsequent dispute about how much money has changed hands. Mistakes can happen – even banks have been known to hand over incorrect amounts.
BACS transfers are another popular payment method. Ensure you have up-to-date bank details for your trader. But beware fake invoices coming from scammers via email. It’s always worth confirming bank details with your trader directly.