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The hotspot areas for cowboy builders revealed

Updating the interior of your home can be exciting but stressful at the same time. You can picture your dream kitchen or bedroom, but you’re putting your trust in (often) a total stranger – and to top it off, you’re spending a significant amount of money. 
In our recent study, we carried out research to find out the areas of the UK that are most (and least) likely to fall victim to cowboy builds. According to the study, although 82.3% of people were satisfied with the work that had been carried out in their home; almost a fifth (17.8%) have paid out between £500 - £999 to rectify a botched job.  
Whilst the vast majority of trades are highly skilled in their role, and are very honest and upfront, unfortunately there are a few that aren’t – and there could be a real worry when re-decorating your home that you might accidentally hire a cowboy builder. 
We’ve taken a look to see where the hotspots for cowboy tradespeople are and provided you with some top tips on how to find a reputable tradesperson for your next project. 

You’re most likely to find a cowboy builder in Bristol 

Our research reveals that more than half (54%) of renovators have received sub-standard work and then had to pay someone else to get it sorted, with some paying more than £2,000. So, it’s understandable if you’re concerned about choosing a contractor to invite into your home… 
… Particularly if you live in Bristol, as they are the city least satisfied with work that has been carried out – and potentially home to more botched jobs than anywhere else in the country – by quite a long way. Birmingham, Belfast, Leeds and Newcastle are all potential hotspots for cowboy tradespeople as well. 
On the other hand, if you live in Norwich, it’s the city you’re least likely to come across a cowboy builder, with 97.6% of people saying they were satisfied with the work undertaken. Sheffield was close behind at 95%, with Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh all making it into the top five. 
When looking into specific trades, Sheffield takes the crown as the best standard for plumbing, with homeowners rating them 3.8 out of five on average, whereas Newcastle is the lowest, at 3.1. 
It’s a similar situation with flooring – Sheffield rated traders as the highest, and Newcastle rated them as the lowest. Whereas for painting and decorating, Norwich and Edinburgh tied in top position, and Belfast came bottom, with people rating painting and decorators just 2.8 out of five. 

How to avoid cowboy builders 

Of course, when it comes to choosing tradespeople, a lot of it comes down to trust – but there are steps you can take when selecting a tradesperson to ensure that they get the job done to a great standard. 
Here are our top tips on how to best avoid rogue trades… 

1. Do your research 

Understand that it takes time to find the right tradesperson, and do your research, rather than picking the first one you find.  
The first thing you should do is check to see what their qualifications are. For example, if you’re looking for a plumber, head on over to the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors Limited (APHC), and you can search for accredited plumbers in your area. 

2. Get recommendations

If you know of any family or friends that have recently had work done and are happy with it, then that’s great. Unfortunately, not everyone is in this position. If that’s the case, head on over to their Facebook page, or Google them to see their reviews. 
When you meet your prospective builder, ask to see examples of similar, recent work they’ve completed, so you can see the standards they work to. 

3. Shop around for quotes 

Don’t just get one quote – shop around so you can compare. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Substandard workers will often have lower prices to entice you, so make sure you avoid them unless you know for sure.  
You should avoid builders who cold call you, or who knock on your door asking for work.  

4. Check your contractor has insurance  

A reputable contractor should always have insurance, and if you ask, they must let you see the policy. If they don’t have employers’ liability insurance, they’re breaking the law (this covers both you and the company if the tradesperson gets injured on the job). 
Other insurance to look out for is public liability insurance (this covers them if your property is damaged or someone else is hurt), and contractors’ all-risk cover (this covers the cost of replacing any work that’s been destroyed before it’s been completed). 

5. Sign a contract 

When agreeing the work with your builder, be very clear about what you’re paying for, and get that included in the contract, which you should review carefully before you sign. 
You should also agree to pay your chosen tradesperson upon completion, so you can be sure you’re happy with the work. Cowboys will often ask for money upfront, so if they do ask for this, say no and look for someone else. 
Whether you’re moving into a new home, or just want to re-design your existing place, getting the decorators in and seeing your rooms transform is extremely exciting; and hopefully our tips have given you that extra peace of mind when it comes to choosing a tradesperson. 

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The cities you’re most and least likely to encounter cowboy builders was determined by the percentage of residents that were satisfied and unsatisfied with work carried out. 
Survey of 1,002 UK residents who have had work carried out by third party contractors or sole traders undertaken by TLF in October 2021.