Finding A Builder You Can Trust

Posted on: 19 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

With builders going bust, we help you find one you can have confiidence in.

With so few homes selling, you may be thinking of improving or extending your property this year rather than moving.

Apart from finding the right tradesman, there is the added problem that soaring numbers of sole traders and smaller businesses are going bust.

Should that happen, you could be left with a half-finished job and be short of cash to employ someone else to complete it. So is there any way you can find out whether the firm is financially sound as well as trustworthy?

Where To Start?

Of course, a good way to start is to get a recommendation from friends and family. But one way is to check them out with Registry Trust, where all county court judgments (CCJs) against businesses and individuals are recorded. A CCJ is a judgment issued by a court when someone has failed to pay money they owe.

This can be done online at its new website - You can find out whether the tradesman has ever been sued by unhappy customers or has CCJs, High Court judgments, fines or court orders taken out against them. Records are kept for six years.

For limited companies, you need only the firm's name to search the list. But for individuals, sole traders and non-incorporated businesses you need the individual's name or the trading name, as well as their address, to track them.

The register covers court orders and judgments made in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire, Jersey and the Isle of Man. But each region is under a separate list - apart from England and Wales, which are held jointly. Searches cost £8 each, or £30 for five or more.

The results are returned instantly and backed up with an email. Anyone settling their debt in full within a month of the court order will have it removed. Those that repay after that will have it marked as 'satisfied' against their record, but the CCJ will remain on the register.

Making A Claim

Of course, this is still no guarantee that the tradesman is currently solvent, just that they haven't had trouble with debts in the past. Consumer Direct advises householders undertaking work on their home not to pay a large sum up front. You are likely to need to pay a deposit when work starts and stage payments after that.

If the firm does go bust, you can then make a claim against your credit card company for anything over £100 and under £30,000. You could also use your card to pay for materials rather than giving the builder money to buy them. You won't get a trade discount, but at least you have protection if the company providing the materials lets you down.

Checking A Tradesman's Statuis

There are two official schemes to help you check tradesmen's status for free; Buy With Confidence and Trustmark. The first is a local authority scheme where trading standards officers vet and approve local tradesmen. They check that the firms are trustworthy and that they comply with the law as well as monitor complaints against them.

You can find various approved trades people within a few miles of your postcode on the site - But not all councils take part in the scheme. Trustmark is a sign that tradesmen have had their technical skills, trading reputation and financial situation vetted.

How do you decide which builder to choose?

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