Knowing your rights
According to Consumer Direct, substandard home improvements are one of the top gripes for UK residents. With many of us spending nearly £1,200 a year on our properties, it’s no wonder we get annoyed when our home improvements don’t go according to plan, and most of us don’t know our consumer rights.
Unfortunately, there are a great many cowboy tradesmen out there eager to have a share of the sizeable investment in home improvements.
Home improvements can be an expensive business but attempting to keep costs down by employing less reputable builders who cut corners is a hugely risky solution. By doing so not only are you putting your family at risk by paving the way for unsafe building work but you might well end up forking out a lot more money to rectify the damage caused.
What to do if there’s a problem caused by a trader
Whatever the problem is, you’ll need to talk to the trader and come to an agreement.
You should take up the problem with the trader who arranged the work, even if they ‘sub-contracted’ (passed on) all or some of it to another business.
You should also know your rights. Which? lay down the law on this here.
Before you contact the trader, it’s a good idea to:
- Gather any paperwork and receipts
- Take photos to use as evidence of the problem
- Make notes about what’s happened, including dates and times
What you should do next depends on the type of problem:
- They haven’t done a good enough job: You’re entitled to stop the work and ask for a refund.
- They haven’t done what was agreed: You can ask the trader to do whatever’s necessary to get the work done properly. They should cover all the costs, including any extra materials.
- They haven’t done the work on time: if you didn’t specify a date to finish, you have to give them a second chance- this time with a finish date. If you did, you’re entitled to tell them to stop the work and ask for a refund on any deposit given if they’ve done next to no work.
- They’ve charged more than you expected: Builders can’t charge more than they quoted you unless you agreed to raise the price. Tell them you will only pay what was agreed upon.
- The work they completed is dangerous or unsafe: It’s really important you report the trader to Trading Standards. You usually have to do this through Citizen’s Advice. If it’s a building or structure, report the danger to your local council immediately. You can do this online here.
If you can’t come to an agreement with the trader, you should take the following steps:
- Send them a complaint letter. Which? Consumer Rights have a great template you can use here.
- Check if the trader is a member of a trade association (usually found on their website). If they are, contact the association and explain the situation.
- Ask the trader if they’re a member of an ADR scheme. If they don’t respond or won’t use an ADR scheme, keep a record of the fact you asked them.
- Choose an ADR Scheme yourself to try to solve the problem outside court. It’ll help if you go to court later.
- Claim compensation if you have to get someone else to do or re-do the work. This could mean simply asking the trader for compensation or taking them to court.
Which? Gives some advice on how to go to small claims court if it comes to that.
You should keep in mind throughout the process that you DO have rights and you shouldn’t let yourself become intimidated by your trader.
Finally, you may be able to get a refund through your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Under Section 75, your credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract by the company.
If you do need repair work or a new contractor to do the work your previous one didn’t check out the companies that have the Which? Trusted Trader stamp of approval, as well as the companies reviews.
Ploughcroft is proud to have been awarded the title Which? Trusted Trader of the month in December 2016 and we pride ourselves on always completing the job to a high standard. You can contact us here.
Published on 8th March 2017