How to Spot a Bad Tradesperson

Hiring a tradesperson can be an anxious time for any homeowner. If you don’t have a favourite professional that you enlist the help of regularly, letting a stranger into your home and trusting them to do a good job can be a big ask. You hear all too often about cowboy builders, the kind that takes advantage of ill-informed and unaware homeowners – many leaving homes in a worse state than when they found them. Luckily, there are a few key signs you can watch out for to determine whether a tradesperson is respectable and trustworthy or not.

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Asking for work

A big red flag to keep in mind is if they approach you, knock on your door or cold-call you, rather than the other way round. Any reputable and experienced tradesperson will already be in demand and shouldn’t need to approach random homeowners to gain new business. Chances are, if they are telling you about something that needs fixing or trying to persuade you to get some work done then they may well be looking to make a quick buck and not concerned about doing a good or worthy job.

Difficult to reach

Being able to contact a tradesperson is a good sign that they are genuine and willing to be transparent with you as the client. Communication is important all the way through the process because you need to be able to prepare for work to be done beforehand, discuss the job as it’s ongoing and raise any concerns after the work is complete. If you can’t easily contact someone by phone or other methods then it can damage the trust you have with them and cause anxiety to build up.

Not insured

Builders should all be insured to protect themselves or their business in the event of damage to your home or you personally, as well as many other circumstances. You can ask for evidence of builders’ insurance before you agree to any work, so you can rest assured that they have protection in place. If they aren’t willing to show you this evidence then you may want to steer clear of their services.


Obsessed with payment

Dodgy tradespeople are often obsessed with payment and some may even ask for payment in advance. This is another red flag because this is typically not an industry norm – most decent traders will bill after the work has been completed. Consider whether any request for upfront payment is justified, if you aren’t comfortable handing money over before work is done then find someone else who can help you.

No customer feedback or referrals

A significant trust signal which is more easily accessible these days is customer feedback and referrals. Many tradespeople will have an online presence of some sort and this allows potential customers to see reviews, whether they be good or bad. If there are what seem to be genuine and positive reviews, this is normally a good sign. If customer reviews are hard to find, tread carefully when agreeing to any work.

Inconsistent quotes

Quoting is an important process in any building or labour work, so be sure to take a few quotes from different people and companies to get an idea of an acceptable rate. A bad tradesperson may quote exceedingly high or low, either because they are using poor quality products or they are trying to rip you off. Remember that going on cost alone may not be the best approach because you could end up paying more to fix problems if they do a bad job.