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Consumer - Practical Advice When Hiring Tradesmen

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Houses are not selling at the moment, so most people are looking to improve on the home they're in, rather than moving.

Spring is in the air and it may be that you are thinking of finally getting around to building that fence or paving the patio. Of course, it may be that a pipe has sprung a leak, or a roof tile has come loose, so you have to get work done. But how do you know what company to choose and how can you be sure you're getting a good deal?


Beware tradesmen calling to your door They're not all scoundrels of course but you do have to be careful when people call to your door randomly offering a service or even saying they have noticed a leaky gutter and can fix it. They may be chancers and not a registered business at all. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to this, as they tend to rely more on an "expert" opinion and may not be able to undertake small jobs themselves. Many people have been 'conned' this way by unscrupulous workmen charging huge amounts for shoddy work or for carrying out so called "repairs" where none were in fact required.

Key dos and don'ts

. Whether the person has called at your door or you've seen their advert in the local newspaper do ask them if they are representing a company? Ask for company contact details, including a postal address. Never ever deal with someone who has only given you a mobile phone contact. It is important that you are dealing with a registered business / company rather than an individual, as if something goes wrong your consumer rights only cover you if you have bought from a business. Also, if you don't have a postal address for the service provider how can you contact them with a written complaint if something goes wrong?

. Do ask for a detailed written quote on company headed notepaper. This should include itemised costs for materials and labour. This is important so that you know exactly how much you will pay and what it's for. Also, it will help you to compare with other quotes.

. Do get three quotes if possible so that you can compare value. Ask around neighbours, friends and families for businesses they have used as recommendations always give you more comfort in whom you choose.

. Don't rush to choose. Don't make your decision there and then once someone has provided a quote and don't let someone pressure you into doing so. Instead always say you will think about it and be in touch.

. If you are getting big work done do be clear about what you want from the start so that you can get accurate quotes and compare them. For large projects it may be worthwhile employing an architect or surveyor to manage the project for you and make sure they or you find out about any planning regulations as planning permission may be needed for structural changes.

. Do ask for references if you are getting a big job done, or the contact details of referees who will vouch for their work; or the name of the trade association they are a member of.

. Do haggle. In this climate it's a consumers market. So once you have your three quotes you have your bargaining tools. Decide which company you like best, ask them if they can lower the price or throw in something extra.

Your rights

Consumers are protected by law under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980. It states that services provided should be carried out with necessary skill, due care and diligence and that any parts used should be of merchantable quality. If not, the consumer is entitled to a repair, replacement or refund depending on the situation.

The complaint should first be directed verbally at the company and the trade association of which they are a member, and then in writing. If the complaint is still not resolved a case could be taken to the Small Claims court. This costs €15 and you can claim for damages up to €2,000.

Remember if you don't have full contact details such as a postal address how can you make a complaint? Also if the service provider is not a registered business then these rights do not apply and you cannot take a small claims action.