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How to find a local plumber…

Need a local Plumber? The boiler needs replacing, you’d like radiators changed, you want a new shower installed and the en-suite could do with being tiled. Eek! Where do you turn? If you believe everything that you read (and lets face it most of us do!) it would seem that the world is filled with cowboys who can’t wait to rip us off. Is the honest trader really a thing of the past?

Last year The Daily Mail published a story that highlights a growing problem. An elderly couple hired a builder to pave their driveway, unbeknown to them he left a coded pattern in the paving, which the Police believe was to signal that the owners were an easy target. Consequently builders claiming that their home requires costly repairs have harassed the couple for the last five years.

 How do you avoid becoming the victim of a rogue trader?

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Ask around. Word of mouth is one of the best methods of finding your Tradesman. If your Mum or Best Friend has used a great plumber, then get the details and give them a call.

When Friends and family can’t recommend anyone it’s hard to know where to look, but the following would be a great start:

Local recommendations.

Trading standards operate a Builder’s Register, with lists of bathroom fitters, gas engineers, joiners and so on. The register isn’t open to just any one; all tradesmen have undergone a strict enrolment process.

Which? Is a not for profit charitable organization and are now the largest consumer body in the UK.  They offer members the opportunity to rate and recommend local trades. Currently it boasts 70,000 tradespeople, including plumbers, all recommended and rated by members.

Members can also leave negative feedback if the company they employed was disappointing. To access the information you have to subscribe to the service. A one-month trial is £1, followed by a monthly cost of £7.75. Visit www.which.co.uk

Approved trader schemes.

Trustmark is a not for profit organisation, licensed by Government and supported by consumer protection groups, trade bodies and local trading standards.

On the website you simply enter your postcode and say what sort of trade you need. The database is searched within a 50mile radius and returns a list of contacts in order of those closest to you.

Trademark has on average 300,000+ tradeperson’s details viewed on line every month.

Trustmark consumer helpline: 01344 630 804 or visit www.trustmark.org.uk

Which? Trusted Traders is an endorsement scheme available to reputable tradesmen who successfully pass a rigorous assessment process.

Which? work hard to check the technical skills, quality of work and financial status of each tradesperson. The applicant must also sign up to a code of conduct that includes adequate insurance, health and safety and excellent customer service.

Visit www.trustedtraders.which.co.uk

Commercial directories & review sites

Choose a plumber based on what others have said about them. That’s the theory behind sites such as RatedPeople and Trustatrader.  While useful for checking customer views of traders you may be considering, be aware that recommendation sites do not give the same assurances as those backed by the Government.

Commercial directories such as www.homeandgardenlistings.co.uk are an excellent source of local traders

What to do next

Be specific and set out a detailed brief when requesting quotations. If you can, get more than one, but make sure that they are like for like.

Request a detailed, written quote with an approximate start and finish time. Check that you are comfortable with the payment terms.

Seek references, speak to previous customers and where possible visit previous jobs.

Use an established plumbing company. Have they got an office address? Do they provide a Landline number? Be wary of a company only willing to give a mobile number or email address.

Never make advance payments and only pay for work that has been done. If materials need to be purchased in advance, it’s reasonable for the tradesperson to ask for a percentage of these costs as the job progresses.

Always use a written contract, preferably on paper and not on the back of a crisp packet! A written contract protects you should anything go wrong. Agree payment terms before any work gets under way.

Focus the mind. On large-scale jobs, set a penalty clause – say £500 per week should the work over run an agreed deadline.

So, in answer to our initial question – No, the honest Plumber is not a thing of the past, but you have to know where to look. Following the steps outlined above should make your job a little easier and reduce the chance of you becoming an easy target for Rogue Traders.