Council: It’s DIY season, so beware of doorstep sales and deals

Set of DIY Tools

Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director of Place at Birmingham City Council is urging local residents to be vigilant as rogue traders could be knocking on your door as the bank holidays and DIY season approaches.

While many people look to make improvements to their homes over the spring and summer, be it gardening, double glazing or roof work these are often projects which require expert knowledge and professional workmanship.

In 2016/17, the number of calls the city’s Trading Standards team received about household repairs fell by 30 percent from 218 in 2015/16 to 152 – many of these would have resulted from traders knocking doors to find work.

However, over the same period, the number of doorstep sales complaints more than doubled up from 11 to 23 (109 per cent).

These warmer months are a peak period for rogue traders to go door-to-door trying to get people to get expensive and often unnecessary work done to their properties, as the better weather provides them with more opportunities to exploit householders.

Residents are reminded that some rogue traders may look to be from professional firms with liveried vans and glossy flyers. If in doubt, check the firm out: Ask for ID or a contact number for their base, to verify who they are and who they represent.

In September 2016, a rogue builder was jailed for 37 months for defrauding a 71-year-old man of nearly £40,000 for work that could have been completed for just £5,250.

So, to help you protect yourself and your ‘castle’, here are some tips on how to get work done responsibly, without getting ripped off.

Whether it is roof work, a patio or driveway you’re looking to install, research the work that needs to be done and get quotes from reputable contractors. Think would you allow a stranger calling unannounced into your home? Our advice is not to deal with uninvited callers.

Rogue traders use a range of common tricks to convince householders to have jobs done – these usually start as a ‘small’ repair, perhaps a roof tile has slipped or some brickwork needs repointing.

These can escalate to become ‘urgent’ jobs, which the householder is told is dangerous to leave in its current state, as it could cause further damage to the property or injury to others.

Bona fide experts do not trade on fear and intimidation so don’t be rushed into any decisions, ask for time to think about it and a contact number. Seek second opinions from other traders, neighbours and relatives if you have any concerns or doubts.

People can find a list of reputable traders checked by Trading Standards in Birmingham on the No Rogue Traders Here website www.noroguetradershere.com for free.

A partnership between Birmingham City Council and No Rogue Traders Here was officially launched on 6 March 2017, to ensure all traders in England wishing to be listed are thoroughly vetted by our Trading Standards officers.

Doorstep crime refers to rogue traders, who make unannounced visits to a consumer’s home to carry out repairs to their property, convincing them to pay extortionate prices for substandard or incomplete work which is often unnecessary.

This is a very serious issue, but sadly incidents are often unreported for various reasons, such as embarrassment, not knowing who to contact, or even realising you have been a victim of crime.

If a trader calls unsolicited, be polite but firm that you don’t want any work doing there and then. If necessary, ask a friend or family member for help, or contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

Contact some reputable traders to get several quotes on the work that is required, if anything other than, to ensure you get a fair price.

If you do enter into a contract at your home, remember you have a legal right to a cooling off period, during which you can cancel a contract. So do not be pressured into making a hasty decision. Also, you should insist the contract is on headed paper, stating the name of business, and clearly sets out your cancellation rights.

Unscrupulous traders often take advantage of this, scaring the householder into thinking the work is urgent, so that they will allow them to start work immediately and therefore waive their rights to a cooling off period.

Anyone can fall victim to a rogue trader so we need people to help us stop this sickening crime by refusing to be bullied into having shoddy, unnecessary work done, and reporting rogue traders so that they can be investigated and hopefully brought to justice.

Remember: If it sounds or looks too good to be true, it probably is, so take time to make a decision. Don’t be rushed or pressured.

For advice and to report rogue traders, contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service hotline on 03454 04 05 06.

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