Introduction to Choosing a Tradesperson
There are times when we all need a tradesperson, whether it’s a plumber, gas fitter, electrician or other. How can we choose someone professional, reliable, and honest? Personal recommendations can be very helpful. You can ask friends or family, or another tradesperson you trust. If you can’t get a recommendation, there are ways to minimise risk when choosing yourself. Here we describe 5 checks for choosing a tradesperson. Even if you get a recommendation, check these aspects because licences and insurance expire, staff change etc.
1. Check License and Insurance
The individual or firm you hire need to have both a license and insurance. The license (can also be certification or registration) is proof that they are qualified in their trade. It means they are a professional and therefore able to deal with complex tasks or unexpected problems. Different tradespeople are licensed to undertake different tasks. For example, if you’re having a central heating installed the pipes can be laid by a plumber, but the boiler will need to be fitted by a ‘gas safe’ registered engineer.
Similarly, the person or firm you hire should be insured for public liability. What if there’s an accident, e.g. a pipe bursts causing damage to yours or neighbours’ properties? You don’t want a huge bill for something that is the tradesperson’s fault.
2. Tradesperson Reviews
Research the tradesperson and/or the company. Do they have good reviews? Do the reviews seem genuine? Don’t just look at the company’s website, also check independent review sites. Examples of sites where tradespeople are verified include trustatrader, checkatrade and trustmark.
Aspects to look out for are the professionalism of the trader (see point 5), what type of work they completed (is it similar to what you need?) and how recently the feedback was posted.
Once you’ve found a reputable trader, the next step is to ask for quotes. Some traders give a full breakdown of costs including labour and materials etc. while others give a ‘whole job’ quote. It’s easier to compare quotes if you have a full breakdown. You can ask for more detail if you need it. It is easier to compare if a quote states which materials are needed and how many, how many hours the job is likely to take etc.
A quote should be in writing and give details including company name and registration number, VAT details, address and contact information. Make sure you are clear on what the quote covers so hidden or unexpected costs don’t crop up later. Traders should also say roughly when they can start and how long a job will take. It’s your choice which quote to go for but be wary of any which are vastly different (much cheaper or more expensive).
There are a variety of dodgy tactics which disreputable traders use to swindle customers. Two main ones are: pressurising the customer and upselling. Here we describe what they are and how to spot them.
A dodgy trader may try to pressurise a customer by telling them their ‘best price’ quote is only valid for that day. Quotes should be valid for several weeks to give customers time to compare firms. Often the validity (typically 30-90 days) is on the quote itself.
Upselling is where a trader will try to sell you more than you need. They may exaggerate the nature of the problem, recommend an expensive version of a product, or offer you a bundle to ‘save’ you money (the bundle includes things you don’t need). As an example: your toilet cistern isn’t filling properly. To fix this you may need a new part i.e. valve seal or flapper, it might be a blockage, problem with the chain, or the tank fill is set too low. A dodgy plumber will tell you that you need a new cistern. A cistern is much more expensive than a replacement part and will take much longer to fit. Detailed quotes enable you to compare, is one quote for a new cistern whilst the others suggest a replacement part? As you can see the checks for choosing a tradesperson complement each other.
It can pay to trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right. A good tradesperson will let you know when they’ll be coming to start work, keep you up to date on progress and put everything on paper. These are the hallmarks of a professional and the things to look out for. Larger jobs will have contracts, read them carefully and don’t sign blank forms. You should receive receipts for any payments you make, confirmation on paper for certain jobs (e.g. boiler service certificate) and warranties on certain types of job too.
Do you have any checks for choosing a tradesperson? Maybe you have tips on what to avoid? Let us know in the comments below.