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Dealing With Cowboy Builders

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 11 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Builders Construction Rogue Traders

Cowboy builders are the bane of the construction industry. There are, on average, at least 100,000 complaints every year about them. They ruin things for perfectly reputable builders, and for all the talk about them, they’re in the minority – it just happens to be a minority that gets a lot of publicity.

Cowboy builders are simply rogue traders, of course, often with little or no knowledge of building, so you end up with a botched job – that’s if it’s finished at all.

Protecting Yourself From Cowboy Builders

The best thing is to learn to spot the cowboy builders early, so you can turn them away – it saves a lot of trouble later. The first tip-off is if they asked to be paid in cash, or cash-in-hand all with a promise on no VAT to be paid. No legitimate business will work off the books like that.

If they say a contract isn’t necessary, watch out – it’s vital in a business transaction like this, and without it, your legal position is nowhere near as strong. Most rogue builders don’t carry insurance, either, which again could work to your detriment if an accident occurred.

Are they willing to provide a written estimate and costings for the job, as well as a time frame for each stage of the work? A proper tradesman would, quite gladly. Where they do offer a quote, it could be unusually low, and they might offer to begin work immediately.

Do they have references? Do they have premises and a landline number, or simply a van and a mobile?

All of the above should raise red flags. You can protect yourself by having everything in writing and ask for a guarantee. Check references, talk to the people who’ve had the work done, and look at the work if possible. Ask your family and your friends for recommendations. Get several estimates and remember, cheapest isn’t always a savings.

It’s a help, too, if the builders and members of some trade group – although check that as well, since cowboy building firms have been known to fake membership. Finally, never pay in cash, and certainly never upfront – you should only pay for work that’s been completed.

What To Do If You’re A Victim Of A Cowboy Builder

Sometimes, though, the cowboys do win, and the building work is a shambles. What should have been wonderful construction work is a mess, and the builders have moved on. What can you do?

What they’ve done constitutes fraud, so you should complain to the police, giving them as much information on the builder as possible. Also complain to Trading Standards, which takes a very harsh view of rogue traders.

If you can track down the cowboy builder and he refuses to refund your money, take him to court. In the event of a small job, small claims court will likely suffice, and won’t cost you much. In the event of a big job, though, you will be looking at some hefty legal bills.Either way, it’s a lot of problems, and you still need to employ a proper builder to do the work correctly. The best solution, always, is to take the time and find someone who’ll do it right the first time.

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SA BUILDERS.ARMENIAN BUNCH OF UNSKILLED WORKERS. THEY SAY THEY DO EVERYTHING FROM GAS TO ELECTRICS. NOT A SINGLE TEST CARRIED OUT AFTER ADDING TO EXISTING CIRCUITS! ROOF LEAKED AFTER A LOFT CONVERSION. DIDNT WANT TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL ROOFER REPAIR IT.STILL OWES ME FOR THE REPAIR. ROMFORD.GOES BY THE NAME ARBEN OR BEN
Brogsy - 11-Oct-19 @ 2:12 PM
Steer clear of Luke and Daniel Ray near Reading. Patio work overpriced. Payment demanded with threats to property. They may be in roofing now. No receipt, no guarantee, no VAT, no final bill. Further action taken.
Henry - 8-Oct-19 @ 8:21 PM
I got highly recommended by a manager, Richard, of a secondhand furiture and electrical shop, in Derby, to employed one of his workers called Mr Micheal Adams, he was my handyman.He worked removing rubbish from my derby house and doing jobs inside and outside my derby house,he put a internal door up side down in my derby house, it did not look very professional, he found one job after another, I had arson which burnted my garden fence, police got involved, I than found out my handyman,s surname, which I felt he did not want to part with his surname to me. Than the same month as arson happen, to my fence, someone thrown a large brick into my small toilet roof, it damage my toilet roof,Micheal Adams handyman wanted the toilet roof job, he went to is mates house in derby to get secondhand plastic roof sheeting, for my toilet roof, the handyman wanted money up front to do the job. I taken photo,s of the damage toilet roof, than, took photo,s of the beginning to the end of the toilet roof job, the completion of the toilet roof looked a mess.My sister looked at my toilet roof, she said it looked a mess and property options derby ,said the same.I looked at my builder, on the internet, I found a roofer called Jason Walters, a local roofer in derby, to put a new slate roof on my toilet roof, I told him what happen, him and his workmate said I paid double for the roof job, I am out of pocket with it.I lucky, the house been empty for 6 mths, I got a new tenant into my derby house, so I am getting a rental income coming in now. I looked at the photo,s of the toilet roof, I notice Micheal Adams-handyman broken my cluttering on the small toilet roof. So I got to get that sorted out before winter sets in. My handyman Micheal Adams did cash in hand jobs, he tried to hide is surname, I tried to claim on all the buildings work done on my derby house, Micheal Adams said he is self employed ,he said he getting his accountant to write the quotes out,for me, it was written on plain paper, not on legal paper, It had M.A and his company,s name, with no address on it,it did not look very prosfessional. S.Moreland-landlady.
Susan Moreland - 8-Sep-19 @ 9:57 AM
Trading Standards would be my first port of call with as much info you have about them and a list of other victims. Then I'd give the same to the police.
iANa - 7-Sep-19 @ 10:53 PM
I started to get work done on my back garden In july, the firm called jj landscapes turned up at 5pm one night stayed 2 hours then left and then the night after they came again for a further 2 hours an left. They asked for a deposit of £1900 for materials and since receiving this they havnt been back since, we told them we want to cancel the job and would like our money back. Since then I have been contacted by a further 4 people to say the same has happened to them all been ripped off, I'm looking for some help as In what to do next I have a baby due in November a back garden that is in a mess and I am £1900 down. Feeling very angry and ripped right off cod any one help
David - 6-Sep-19 @ 4:41 PM
I was done out of tens of thousands of pounds by Neil Antony Packman and Zad Leonard McLeod trading as Smooth Transformations Limited in the Watford / Hemel Hempstead area of London. They demanded more money to complete my job after full payment had already been made and then refused to give me a refund when I refused their new demand. I am in the process of taking them to court for building works not completed but fully paid for. These scumbags spew so many lies to get your hard-earned cash and then they run off expecting no consequences...there is a special place in Hell reserved for them.
IJA - 6-Sep-19 @ 4:10 PM
Just wondering if others know about the 'way back machine'? It is a website that let's you look at old websites ( archives) - how the website looked when you read the trade advert ie what logos and service description they gave when you hired the person. They might have changed it recently, but you can access, print a screenshot as evidence.
Denny - 21-Aug-19 @ 11:41 PM
Hello, House insurance legal protection can pay for legal fees/ expert reports if had some sub- standard professional advice and it caused problems afterwards. We used it to sue our surveyor who failed to advise properly. There is a limit for how much you paid for the service rendered- ours was 6grand limit- so that meant we could use house insurance to pay for legal fees and get justice. Good luck.
Kkim - 20-Aug-19 @ 10:59 PM
Like many contributors on this page, we fell victim big time to a rogue builder, leaving us with a financially crushing situation. Case going through the court process but builder has weaved his scam web so that he would eventually claim not having assets or insurance for us to claim against.All advice most appreciated. The post by Southwood [- 6-Aug-18] if of particular interest if it is possible to get in touch for advice about choosing a Forensic Building consultant.
Cheri - 28-Jun-19 @ 1:16 PM
Hi,my elderly friend had work done on her house,fitting of a canopy above back door and new brick steps done at back door.The canopy was a simple £50 from Argos requiring just 4 bolts into wall and steps are just 2 bricks high,width of the door.She was charged £4000 for the work which I believe to be far to much? When I raised concern she contacted the builder and he agreed he would do extra work for her(admission of overcharge if you ask me?). However he claims be be ill and not able to do anymore work,I feel she should be entitled to a partial refund,having received quotes from others builders for £1000 (top quote) to do the work. Could you advise on options she may have thank you.
Maccatm - 6-Jun-19 @ 9:21 AM
Hi I had work done by a builder but building regulations failed his work due to a contravention and failing to follow the technical drawing. We've paid him in full and trusted him but now we don't have the final certificate sign off and he is being anything but cooperative. Please advise?
Adidas - 21-May-19 @ 8:45 PM
Hey guys so we have been let down a number of time by our gardner who's taken almost 2000 pounds of us and not finishing the work what can we do in this case? Hes also deleted his Facebook page and dont response back our messages or text? Hes not only taken money off us but also the neighbour and not finished there work either please shed some light as to what I can do. Thanks
A.patel - 3-May-19 @ 1:01 PM
I had a conservatory by a local builder in August 2017. It leaked on many occasions so decided to get a solid roof. I had another builder look into it in late 2018 as I wasn't happy with my original one. To our horror, we found the walls and frame had suffered severe damp and puddles under our wooden floor. We sent a letter and photo evidence to the original builder along with the new builders report. He accepted it was his down to his work, gave it the sob story of being skint and we would have to take monthly payments which we had to agree on. He offered to fix the conservatory but we didn't want him working as his work was so poor. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that reasonable care and skill must be used while working. He clearly didn't. Also, we had pulled down the conservatory as the current builder said he needed to start work on the new footings. We were also informed that we actually needed planning permission as our house is a new build. We were unaware. We trusted the original builder who claims to have 30 years experience to have this knowledge. A week later, he claims to have spoken to 2 solicitors and that 'we didn't have a leg to stand on' as we didn't have an Engineers report and the conservatory guarantee expired after 12 months. We have tried Citizens Advice, Trustatrader who we found him through but with no success. The only way is to go legal but would we win? I have spoken to several solicitors and it's costly just to get them to review our case and that's before hiring a barrister etc. Having googled 'cowboy builders', he ticked all the boxes. We paid in cash which I'm sure he didn't declare to the taxman. Do we write off £20k. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Molesy - 9-Apr-19 @ 2:00 PM
Lat year in August we engaged in creating an extension on the advice of Flintshire Care And Repair as there was nothing they could do. I am a registered disabled man needing for my house to be modified to give me better accessible property. This was to include a downstairs bedroom all downstairs floors levelled and a wet room. I then set about looking for a suitable builder. I used several sites to recommend a build r and several meetings and quotes from many builders. We set our sites on a builder through a site dmcalled Book a Builder who recommended several builders including the one we chose. The builder was called DMC from Manchester as he was the most cooperative and understand our plight and requirements. In Mid August last year he started work. He turned up regular over a 7 week period but with very few employees. Then after this period he requested an advance payment so as he could get more labour and catch up as he had fallen behind. I agreed making my first mistake.Lat year in August we engaged in creating an extension on the advice of Flintshire Care And Repair as there was nothing they could do. I am a registered disabled man needing for my house to be modified to give me better accessible property. This was to include a downstairs bedroom all downstairs floors levelled and a wet room. I then set about looking for a suitable builder. I used several sites to recommend a build r and several meetings and quotes from many builders. We set our sites on a builder through a site dmcalled Book a Builder who recommended several builders including the one we chose. The builder was called DMC from Manchester as he was the most cooperative and understand our plight and requirements. In Mid August last year he started work. He turned up regular over a 7 week period but with very few employees. Then after this period he requested an advance payment so as he could get more labour and catch up as he had fallen behind. I agreed making my first mistake. To cut a long story short we were told to contact Citizens Advice as they were the legal point of contact and informed that contacting Trading Standards was not allowed and had to go through Citizens Advice. We were told in the first instance to write a recorded delivered letter to the builder making all the references that were advised. If a reply was not received in 14 days to get back to them and they would start the next stage which would be to get the current stage of build assessed and then to get the legal side of it started through them. This would include getting the total monies for the complete build refunded or the builder to complete the project. We did not get a reply from the builder and made the follow on phone call to Citizens Advice. This time another person answered who showed no interest and told us to read thier site and use thier documents and go through the small claims court. This was a huge change in approach and felt upset by this approach. The small claims court woul
Victim - 10-Jan-19 @ 12:54 PM
I got done by this rogue builder.He said he noticed my gutters were full and he would do them for 40 quid.He said he would be back at 9am the next morning.11:30 he turned up and said he had done them at 6am and it is now 160 quid.One question my dog never barked at that time and I was having breakfast so is there the possibility he took money for something he never carried out?This took place on 1 November and I am still annoyed that I have been taken for a ride.HOW DARE THEY TAKE MONEY OFF DECENT HARD WORKING PEOPLE?
Alibongo - 23-Dec-18 @ 5:18 PM
I’m an absolute layman Next to my house was a car park , a builder built a maisonette attached to my wall , there was a third party wall agreement including installing lead flashing where The houses met The work was signed off by a surveyor, I trusted them . Some years later I have severe damp ,otherbuilders have looked at the work and said there is no lead flashing, how can I proceed Regards Paul
Paul - 17-Dec-18 @ 1:23 PM
After 2 years litigation and many thousands of pounds chasing a cowboy outfit who ripped our mother off for £42,000, today we find that they have gone into liquidation, despite their still very active Facebook page showing all their new commissions, in fact we just rang their number and asked if they indeed still build - and the receptionist said yes, she knew nothing about their liquidated status - all lies...
Sam - 16-Nov-18 @ 12:49 PM
My husband and I hired a roofer for my elderly Father who has taken £10,000 of my Dad's money and completed a tiny amount of work and had a couple of pallets of tiles delivered. We have not seen or heard from him for over a month. He has also moved house without telling us.Is there any way we can find out where he lives now so we can try and recover the money through the small claims court? Or, as my Father is elderly/vunerable, should the Police help us?
Amanda - 25-Sep-18 @ 1:08 PM
A rogue roofer has fleeced my father in law out of 7500.00. It is part way through a job that is only worth £2000 unfortunately he did not tell his daughter until cash was paid. He was meant to turn up a couple of days ago when police would have been called while he and I were there. Police are now investigating. Please if you are asked to keep paying cash for work, do not and don’t feel embarrassed to seek help from the family or the police if it happens to you. Let’s get these guys off the streets.
Sparky1967 - 27-Aug-18 @ 2:34 PM
40 New build houses. 8 month ago we moved in to our new build house, the last of 40 on our road. There has been a few unfinished jobs and mainly cosmetic problems with our house. After speaking with neighbours they too have the same problems and the builders are uncontactable. The main issue is that the road is incomplete along with large walls which would all cost a lot of money to complete. It does not look like the builders will be coming back to complete the job and this would mean the council will not take over maintenance of an incomplete private road. Please can you offer any advise on this. Many Thanks.
Robert - 15-Aug-18 @ 9:05 PM
Dear Tina, Dont know if you have read my recent post ? But as someone who learnt the hard way, having undergone the Small Claims Court process (successfully) I can advise you generally on best practise.... Email the Trademan with polite requests, you then have a record. Give them a reasonable time frame to respond. List what you are unhappy with. If they are "unreasonable" tell them you will get second opinions, and ask them to pay. You can employ the Services of professionals who will document the problems. At Small Claims Court, ask yourself what would a REASONABLE person think is fair and proportionate. A lot of tradesmen are greedy and lazy and play on the fact that most people do not want the hassle of going to Court. If they are accredited with a professional body, or advertise on trades sites, involve them, negative press will hit them where it hurts. Decent tradespersons will want to complete the job to a satisfactory standard, after all most business is word of mouth, dodgy ones wont care less !
Southwood - 7-Aug-18 @ 1:42 PM
Tina - Your Question:
I had building work done about 3 months ago where the builders ripped out the kitchen, floor and bathroom. They seemed to have done a good job but just 3 days ago the electrics in the kitchen seem to stop working. I've taken all the plugs out of the sockets flicked the switch on again from the fuse box but still does not work. I called the builders and told what had happened he came to see what the problem was and said he'd call his electrician who is obviously not wanting to come. The builders are not taking any responsibility for the works they undertook and rectifying the problem. What can I do?

Our Response:
Was the whole project arrranged by the builder or did you appoint the electrician separately?
ConsumerRightsExpert - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:45 PM
Earlier this year I successfully took a small builder in Farnborough, Hants, to Small Claims Court and won substantial compensation for his substandard workmanship. He had arrogantly denied any wrong doing, despite professional second opinions. He blamed me and would not admit ANY wrong doing. I paid for a Forensic Building consultant to examine his work, and draw up a report for Court, that even identified what Building Regs had been breached. Again the Builder said it was nonsense. We went to Court, he stalled, blamed me, but common sense won. I needed bailiffs to recover my money, he tried to tell them he owned nothing. Luckily they are used to people like him. I eventually got the full amount owed. Moral of the story: Check they are known to FMB ? Do they belong to Professional Trade Associations. Check companies house, are they a dissolved company. Do they advertise through professional sites, if not, why ?? Do they show and charge VAT. Are their business details correct and up to date. Finally, a gem: ALWAYS check the online CCJ register. For a few pounds you can check their history. It may just save you months of heartache and many thousands of pounds.
Southwood - 6-Aug-18 @ 9:56 AM
I had building work done about 3 months ago where the builders ripped out the kitchen, floor and bathroom. They seemed to have done a good job but just 3 days ago the electrics in the kitchen seem to stop working. I've taken all the plugs out of the sockets flicked the switch on again from the fuse box but still does not work. I called the builders and told what had happened he came to see what the problem was and said he'd call his electrician who is obviously not wanting to come. The builders are not taking any responsibility for the works they undertook and rectifying the problem. What can I do?
Tina - 5-Aug-18 @ 8:08 PM
Hi. I'm seeking advice. My family put a add on fb for some ground work and gardening to ve done.( the aim to make our back garden disability freindly for me to actually use and enjoy) two blokes came to give a quote. Id seen the works van drop em off so knew to make my way to the front door. Id noticed the company logoon the uniform they had on too.I showed them the side of the house that had a large kinda flower /weed bed that was to be dug out and paved the spare soil was to be utilised to level off the upper part of the garden to again be paved or concreted. We agreed that the the digging out and leveling needed to be the first job to be done with the project. They went on about the company they work for already having all the plant machinery they need so they could start as soon as. A few days later. again i saw the works pickup pullup with a trailer and a mini digger on the back. So again i made my way to the door. They were already of loading the mini digger. So i left them to their work. About 20mins in my electric started to flicker. I went out and asked if there was any problems because the electrics were flickering'oh no no there are no electric cables down ere' they both repeated waving their hands up and down the side of my house. So i turned and went back indoors. It happend again so again i went out to stress my concerns about the electric. To again both of them assuring me it was definitely not them because they are telling me there are no cables down the side of the house. Back in doors i went again. within minutes its actually tripped the electric and i had to firstly go to the box to flip the switch to get the lights back on. When i got back out to tlk to the lads again no sooner had i got the same answer when there was an almighty bang and a flash! The guy driving the digger had ripped through the mains electric cable. Cutting off my electric and two of my neighbours.I wasnt happy. I called the national gridwho wanted to speak to the builders so i past the phone to the driver of the digger.Who then said to me right their coming out to sort that out and get the electric back on. So relieved i said ok while apologising to my neighbour. The next thing i know the works pickup is back the digger is back on the trailer and gone (i did take pictures of the pickup and the company) I left the lads digging by hand and went to calm down my son came home they asked him for there money while saying not much we can do now till theyve been out to fix that (pointing at the cut cable) so we will be back tomorrow to finish if off. Then my son came up and told me theyd gone and was coming back. But i had a really bad feeling about it then he mentioned hed paid them. I must admit i went nuts with him. I just knew the way the company had so quickly turned up to get the digger up Anyway cut a long story short 7 weeks later its an absolute heartrending mess. They never came back i even name and shamed them on fb but found sit
Mandy - 17-Jun-18 @ 12:55 AM
After chasing a Cowboy builder unsuccessfully through the courts for six years. I changed tack and reported him to HMRC for tax evasion, he was fined £85,000. Ok I still haven't got my money ,but I feel great!!!. Courts are powerless and fraudsters know this. The more information you give HMRC the better. You may not find out any results(mine was given at a court hearing),but just think of the hassle he will get. Try it!!!! what have you got to lose. These fraudsters need stopping and the courts are useless.
ptolemy - 27-May-18 @ 1:11 PM
I had a builder in last November to lay a new paved driveway build a front garden wall and erect a fence. We have had a surveyor's report on the wall and it's built on insufficient foundations. Ultimately the wall will buckle and fail. The mortar is all different consistencies and you can scrape it out with your finger. The perps all different widths and the surface of the wall covered in mortar. The fence posts aren't verticle and the fence panels have had battens attached. The driveway is already sinking. I've contacted the builder and all he says is we were happy with it when it was done. He said he was going to get his own surveyor out but hasn't done. He knows full well he's done a botched job. I got him through an Internet site which says they vet and monitor all tradesmen, you know the one. He has no business address on his invoice, no invoice number only his business name. He won't provide his address to send legal documents to, got an address from the said internet site and sent a recorded letter to this, his mum's address, it was returned 2 weeks later stating no longer at this address. Contacted police who aren't interested and say it's a civil case. What can I do to get this address? Paid nearly £9000and we purchased the fencing ourselves. He doesn't reply to emails and is still continuing to trade. He is using uploads of other peoples work claiming them to be his and is still claiming to be a member of this internet site but isn't. He cancelled his membership as soon as our review went live. Any advice of where to go from here? Already contacted Trading Standards and Citizen's advice but we still are unable to get his address even though he still advertises from his mum's address andalso his partner's business address.
maggie - 29-Mar-18 @ 1:33 PM
I have A house that I let. I had it removated recently and unfortunately some of the work was unfinished. The people who rented the house were well aware of this. They agreed to ove into the house for a reduced fee while the builder finished them outstanding work. As a result of the tenant's controlling and aggressive behaviour the builder left. Prior to that, the tenant asked if we could stop all work as they wanted a rest from it. I agreed that the tenant's father could hang a couple of doors - that was all. Unbeknownst to me, the tenant's father took it upon himself to do a lot of other diy jobs , many of which were unnecessary and all substandard and anyway not to my taste or in keeping with the recently completely refurbishedproperty. He expected me to pay some £1700 (which a local builder quoted £500) and the tenant has refused to pay the rent for two months. I feel that they have obtained money by deception In other words, they have committed fraud. I would value your opinion.
Eedee - 26-Mar-18 @ 2:17 PM
I had some work done on my house, some guttering put at the front and back of my house,the driveway power washed and had a quote for some painting to be done, I am not happy with the work that has been done, the guttering is cut short, the driveway looks a right mess, I have payed for the guttering and driveway but have said I won't pay for the painting they have started, I was told it would be sanded down and then painted they didn't even wipe it over just painted over dirty boards, the company had been badgering me for the money for the painting and have said they will call the police and make sure no other company will do any work on my property,I have written down all the quotes I was given and how much I have paid, I have told them I will not pay them anymore money but have started to be very nasty, what can I do?
Pus - 6-Feb-18 @ 10:28 PM
Had a summer built . I was ill indoors after recovering from sepsis brain infection, kidney failure found id also had a stroke. when i went outside i was shocked at what had been done leaving a young lad putting doors on and said the boss had gone and he had never done work like this other than laying slabs.He said they were coming back tomorrow so icould complain to the boss that was 2 years ago they have never been no where near ever i took company to small claims where ive been battling with the company who folded months later.im left with a summerhouse i cant use the floor was cracked,roofnot pinned down wrong wood usedits rough sawn timber very abrazive is cracking and been told its the cheapest wood used and the nails have been hammered in so deep its cracked all the wood all sides of wood is splitting not planed has wanted because of young grandchildren and im disabled with walking probs and needed it has support if i stumble has had it put next to the path way but if your skin comes into contact it will tear your skin and have splinters .i have photos which judge and defendants have.I have joiners report, shed builder report but judge wont accept saying not enough evidence.It was built to be a sewing room so keep my body active and my mind even door hingers rusty screws were hammered in cracking wood so they will come apart doors will fall off cant open and shuts doors I feel has tho im fighting both the ex company and the judge having to have a property suveyor will cost hundred and tried some but they wont do the survey on summerhouses im screwed I been cheated by this company who had no intention of doing a good job found out the boss isnt a joiner by trade but the lies they get away with saying theres nothing wrong with the summerhouse and i have photos.How can this company get away with this im so angrey with the justice system this small claims court procedure is a laugh thats why its been going on for 2 years and the summerhouse is wet water coming under roof.CAB dont want to know they say they cant do anything.Trading standards are supposed to be ringing me but nothing.who else is there to help me ??MAT
Annie - 5-Feb-18 @ 1:26 PM
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