How to avoid rogue traders

Would you invite a stranger into your home? More householders than you imagine open the door to someone they’ve never met before when they need repairs or alterations carried out in their property.

cowboy-builderWhile the overwhelming majority of trade professionals are trustworthy and carry out high-quality work, a small number are wrecking that good reputation.

Here are eight ways you can ensure that the tradesman you hire is not a rogue.


Most professional organisations issue qualifications and certificates to tradespeople that have demonstrated a certain level of skill. These validate that the person you hire is able to carry out the work they say they can do.

In the trade industry a lot of firms belong to an association group or trade body, and this can also be a great sign that the company or person in question is the real deal.

If you have concerns over the legitimacy of the firm or tradesperson then you are well within your rights to ask to see a certificate, qualification or any other reference indicating they are fit to do the job.


Although you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover, seeing a brand name or company van is a good sign. Having good equipment, a clean vehicle and brand logos etched onto a uniform can signify the company is profitable and their reputation is more at stake compared to those that don’t.

Cash in advance

Never pay cash in advance to a tradesman. A successful builder would never ask for money in order to source materials ahead of a job – it isn’t up to you to pay upfront for this, especially for a job that’s yet to start.


If you receive quotations from around five different companies and one comes back a lot cheaper than the rest, then be careful because it could be a sign of inexperience. Try to make your quotes as specific as possible so you can get every detailed price. This can also help to avoid any hidden expenses which may crop up.

Cold calls

A successful tradesperson shouldn’t need to cold call or sporadically knock on doors to drum up business. New starters may need to do a little extra marketing to get things underway and acquire new leads but cold calling or knocking door to door is rarely ever practised in the industry. A busy tradesperson is a good sign and 99% of their business comes to them through recommendations.


A written contract should include all the prices and work specifications, this means you can both work towards the same goal and if it’s needed you can use this as evidence should legal proceedings have to take place. Although some arrangements may not require having it in writing your most important agreements should always be down on paper.


Smaller businesses may ask to be paid cash in hand, which is fine if their yearly takings are so little that it doesn’t warrant paying VAT or becoming registered. Most tradespeople will be required to pay VAT so there is no reason for them to request cash payments.


It is rare that a tradesperson will be available to start your job immediately. If they say they can get the job done within a day or two, it could be a sign that they do not have a good reputation. On the other hand, you might get lucky and it could be that you catch the tradesman just after they’ve finished a job off. If so, take advantage while you can.

Trust your instinct

Giving a person you’ve only just met access to your home requires trust. If you have any doubts about the tradesman you have invited to submit a quote, trust your instincts and give the job to another company.