You can report a problem trader or get consumer advice by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. The Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. It channels complaints about traders to the correct local trading standards service. You can get clear and practical advice on all kinds of consumer issues from faulty goods to dealing with unsatisfactory services, from guarantees to finding out whether you can cancel a contract for goods or services. Additionally, if you are aware of a scam or a business acting unfairly or illegally, report your concerns to Citizens Advice.
Consumer advice and information is available online from the Adviceguide website.
To contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, please call 0808 223 1133 (textphone users should dial 18001 then the full number) or email, using their online consumer complaint form.
The telephone helplines are open Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm.
A variety of sample letters are also available on the Citizens Advice website to assist you in resolving your dispute on topics such as complaining about faulty goods, poor services and returning goods purchased over the internet.
There is also information on common scams.
Choosing a builder
When choosing a builder a little research goes a long way. You can ask friends and family for personal recommendations of builders they have successfully used in the past, however we recommend you access details of the Trading Standards approved list of trusted traders by visiting the Buy with Confidence website.
Buy with Confidence members undergo a rigorous assessment by Trading Standards Officers in order to be approved as members. You should check to see if the trader is a member of a trade body such as the Federation of Master Builders, which is a well regarded building industry trade association.
Although membership of a professional body alone doesn't guarantee a good builder, members usually have to comply with a code of practice and the trade body may assist if any disputes arise.
You can also read reviews on traders, but use careful judgement as some rogue builders have been known to leave their own positive reviews.
Finding a builder
You should contact at least three reputable builders for quotes whatever the size or nature of the job and get them to visit you in person. Never agree to any work on the spot. The aim of these visits is to get three quotes in writing and assess the builder in person. A good trader will never pressurise potential customers into a sale or work they cannot afford.
If you've had plans drawn up which have been submitted for planning permission, then supply these plans to the builder. The plans will help them give you an accurate estimate or quote. Don't necessarily go for the lowest priced quote as a common scam for rogue traders is to under quote for work and then increase the price once the work has started.
Rogue traders employ a wide range of tactics to target consumers. Local residents have previously been targeted via the Council's planning website as planning applications contain details such as the homeowners name and address. Rogue traders use this information to write to potential customers asking if they can provide a quote for the project.
Rogue traders often operate by cold calling. Always say no to doorstep sellers. Any home improvement opportunities that can be seen from the road can be a target for a rogue trader, especially homes with tired exteriors where elderly or vulnerable residents are likely to live.
Before you agree any work check the builders references and contact the referees to find out if the builder has the skills necessary to carry out the work. If the builder claims to be a member of a trade scheme, make enquires with them to check they are a current member. Trade schemes often offer dispute resolution services which may be helpful if you ever get into a dispute with your builder.
Always do your research before entering into a contract, and never part with large amounts of money before work starts. Rogue traders have previously misled consumers into handing over large deposits for building work by claiming they need to pay for materials up front and have then disappeared.
Hiring a builder
Be patient when choosing a builder. The most reputable ones are likely to be booked well in advance, so begin looking in plenty of time as you may have to wait for them to start work.
Once you have chosen your builder, ensure you get a written contract from them covering all the details of your agreement. This should include the cost of materials, scaffolding, electrics, plumbing, etc. The agreement should also contain the price, start and completion dates, any staged payments, retention periods, and the position on delays where time is of the essence. This will ensure both parties understand what they are agreeing to.
With all building work, the owner of the property or land in question is ultimately responsible for complying with the relevant planning rules and building regulations. Check with your builder that Building Control are carrying out regular site visits to inspect the work.
If you aren't using a Buy with Confidence approved trader, then ask the builder for evidence of their Public Liability Insurance which covers the work carried out on your property. You should also check if the work is covered by an insurance backed warranty, and view the associated paperwork.
Paying a builder
Avoid paying large deposits up front. Before the work starts you should agree a schedule for payments and this should appear in writing within the contact. Consider making staged payments as a means of keeping the work progressing, however always ensure that payments made are proportionate to the amount of work completed.
Never pay in cash and if possible pay a proportion by credit card as this can provide you with extra protection.
You may wish to retain 1% to 2% of the contract value for a 3 to 6 months snagging period. Use any retained payments to ensure that defects discovered after completion are put right. Once the builder has completed any snagging you should pay the final instalment.
Make sure you get your building regulation completion certificate before you make the final payment to the builder.
What to do when things go wrong
Builders should complete their work with 'reasonable care and skill', but faults can sometimes still come to light. This could be weeks months or even years after the work was completed.
In most cases you can ask for a fault to be put right, have an item repaired or replaced, or claim a partial or full refund. For further advice on your statutory rights please visit the Citizen's Advice consumer website, or call 0808 223 11 33.
Sometimes a builder will issue you with a warranty or guarantee which is in addition to your statutory rights. If this is a written guarantee it will only last as long as the business exists. When a builder ceases trading the guarantee becomes worthless. However an insurance backed guarantee will honour the builders guarantee for the full term offered, even if they go out of business.
No Cold Calling Zones
The purpose of a No Cold Calling Zone is to discourage doorstep callers from visiting specific residential areas - usually a street or small cluster of houses. Zones are usually set up through a partnership of Police and Neighbourhood Watch schemes, but can also be set up by a group of residents working together.
Location of No Cold Calling zones in Bath and North East Somerset
- Chandler Close, Weston, Bath
- Swainswick Gardens, Larkhall, Bath
- The Green, Odd Down, Bath
- Trinity Road, Combe Down, Bath
- St Nicholas Court, Bathampton, Bath
- Mountain Wood, Bathford, Bath
- Blagdon Park, Southdown, Bath
- Quebec, Hanna Close, Twerton, Bath
- Hinton Close/Iford Close, Saltford
- Sherwood Close/Carpenters Lane, Keynsham
- Hantone Hill, Bath
- Old Vicarage Green, Keynsham
- Stirling Way, Keynsham
- Wedmore Park, Southdown
If you are not within a no cold calling zone but wish to obtain a sticker discouraging cold callers at your door please contact Trading Standards on 01225 396753.
You can find out more about doorstep crime on our web pages.
Further useful information
The Buy Wise Be Safe website provides advice on appropriate, safe equipment for children aged 5 and under. The project team includes professionals from Bristol Lifeskills Centre, Avonsafe and Trading Standards South West.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute Business Companion provides useful guidance for traders. Although the guides are aimed at businesses, consumers may find them useful in identifying what responsibilities a trader has towards their customers.
You can also find Trading Standards approved traders in Bath and North East Somerset in the Buy with Confidence directory.
You can access Electric blanket safety testing on our web page.
You can also read about product safety on our website, and the Citizen's Advice website has information on loan sharks
We can provide talks to community groups on scams, doorstep crime, and the general work of Trading Standards. Please contact us on 01225 396753 to discuss your request.