Accidentally inviting a cowboy builder into your home to wreak havoc and then disappear with your money is everyone’s worst nightmare, as is buying a product or service and discovering you’'ve not got anything near the quality you paid for. We all hope it won't happen to us, but research from 2015 revealed that four out of ten British people have had a bad experience with rogue tradesmen, while one out of ten has been completely conned.

Protect yourself using smart tech

The majority of tradespeople are trustworthy, hardworking and very skilled at what they do. However, you can take steps to protect yourself from those that aren't, as well as give you peace of mind if you're feeling nervous about getting the builders in. The key is to make use of technology to gather evidence of both what was agreed and what work was actually done.

Here’'s how:

  • Spy cameras. A surveillance camera installed somewhere discreet and out of sight, but in the area where the work is being done, gives you a great way to keep an eye on the work if you can’t actually be in the room. Also, the footage can be used as evidence in case something goes wrong. You'll have hard visual evidence of what actually happened, which may well contradict whatever the rogue tradesperson may be saying. Spy cameras can be very discreet, some being disguised as air fresheners, smoke detectors and other household items, so there’s no worry about the camera being detected and upsetting your builder.
  • Call recording. Building work is often agreed upon over the phone, in quite an informal way. If you can’t get the price, description of works and timescale in writing, the next best thing is to record phone conversations with the tradesperson. You may never have to use your recordings, but they could provide very useful evidence in case something goes wrong or there’s been a misunderstanding or communication breakdown.
  • Prevention is best! As well as keeping a close eye on your builder using smart concealed tech, there are other ways you can protect yourself against rogue tradespeople. It all starts with identifying potential warning signs, such as a tradesperson:
  • Being unwilling to put a quote or estimate in writing
  • Gives you estimated prices that are significantly lower than others you’'ve received
  • Being unwilling to provide references
  • Providing no details about their business or giving you inaccurate information about who they work for
  • Demands full or even part payment upfront
  • Claims to belong to an official trade association when they don’t

When hiring anyone to do work on your home or business, don’t be afraid or intimidated to take your time and check all the details. Ask for references, get everything in writing and only pay in full once you're satisfied with the work and are provided with a receipt or invoice. If in doubt – steer clear!

Image credit: Wiki Commons