Don’t Get Conned – How to Avoid Being Ripped off by Cowboy Tradesmen

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A Yorkshire heating and plumbing specialist is warning people to keep themselves safe from cowboy traders after experiencing a noticeable increase in people seeking help to put bodged jobs right.

Metro eco, which has been working in the plumbing, heating and electrical trades in Huddersfield for 45 years, has created a series of top 10 tips to help consumers better understand how to avoid falling foul of rogue tradesman. The firm regularly sees situations which could be a danger to life if left unrectified.

David Shaw of Metro eco said: “We are contacted by large numbers of people who come to us needing work put right, because a dodgy tradesperson has bodged it. Often these aren’t just small things – they could be dicing with death. Just recently we sorted a gas fire which hadn’t been fitted properly, meaning potentially deadly fumes came into the house if it was used. The work had been done years ago, but thankfully the fire was rarely used.

“We know finding tradespeople to trust is something many people worry about, so we decided to pull together some advice to help them avoid falling prey to a rogue trader. People say rely on your gut feel but often these cowboys can be very charming or convincing, so it’s not always that easy.”

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Metro eco’s top 10 tips to avoid being conned by a cowboy tradesperson:

1. Unsolicited calls are usually bad news – most reputable firms do not cold call or do doorstep selling. Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ special offers or someone telling you they’ve spotted a “really dangerous” issue while walking past. You can always get a second opinion.

2. Be prepared to be patient – be cautious of tradespeople who can fit you in straight away. Obviously it’s different for emergencies, but most good firms or individuals such as plumbers or electricians will have a waiting list for larger jobs.

3. Check out their reputation – they should be a member of their industry’s relevant professional associations, but don’t just rely on that as a sign of their skill. Look at reputable online reviews such as Which? Trusted Trader to see what people say about the quality of their work. Do a thorough search online to check for any negative stories or reviews. At Metro eco we also DBS check all our staff, which is something else to look for.

4. Don’t be pressured – a good tradesperson won’t insist you make a decision on the spot or put any pressure on you, so if they do, it’s probably safest to say no thanks.

5. Make sure you know who will do the work – some companies will subcontract out elements of work to other tradespeople. Make sure you know who will be completing the work – are they all appropriately skilled?

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6. Length of service and word of mouth – asking for word of mouth recommendations from neighbours, friends and family, and choosing someone with a strong, longstanding reputation in the area is usually a good idea.

7. Can they be contacted – make sure the person you hire has more than just a mobile number. Do they have a working landline and a business address? If there’s just a mobile number to get in touch it would make it very easy for them to disappear.

8. No cash only or cash up front – be very wary of someone who asks for money upfront or who will only be paid large sums in cash. It may have been the way the industry worked traditionally but at Metro eco we only deal in electronic money now – it makes it much easier for both sides to have a paper trail.

9. Get it in writing – get details of the work to be delivered and the fixed cost in writing before any work begins.

10. Check insurance – ensure your tradesperson has the appropriate public liability insurance in place to cover any damage which may happen to your property during the works. No reputable firm will mind you asking.

Metro eco, which launched in Huddersfield in 1974, is a Which? Trusted Trader. The company covers electrical work, plumbing, boilers, gas and heating for both homeowners and business owners. It directly employs its engineers and insists upon a high level of qualification, rather than relying on external contractors.

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