Thinking of Hiring a Tradesman

June 2, 2015

If you are looking to hire a tradesman to do repairs or renovate your home, stories about rogue builders or large bills can make you nervous. You may know someone who has experienced problems with the price of the work increasing halfway through or a bill being higher than they had been told at the beginning. There are however a number of checks you can do before and during your home improvement to make sure the work goes as planned.

  • Make sure you have a general idea of what you want changed or improved. Collect photos from magazines or websites to give the builder or tradesman a clear idea of what it is you want.
  • Work out your budget so that you don’t overspend.
  • If you are planning to take out a loan, check out our loan Money Tool to see what banks are offering. Our loan calculator  will help you see how much you could borrow and for how long.
  • Compile a list of potential tradesmen who you want to do the work.  If you are unsure, ask family, friends and neighbours if they have any recommendations.
  • Search online reviews of the tradesman on social media or discussion forums, but be aware that some reviews may not be genuine.
  • Make sure companies or individuals you deal with are well-established. If it’s a company, check that the company is registered with the Companies Registration Office or if they are a member of a Trade Association.
  • If they have given you a mobile number, check that they have a landline number and a street address.
  • Check that they have a valid insurance certificate for public liability insurance in case someone is hurt on site.
  • Check if they are covered for damage to your property or if your own home insurance policy includes this.
  • Ask the tradesman lots of questions, about how long they have been trading and previous references. Call the references and visit them if you can.
  • If you were offered the service at your door, carry out the relevant checks to ensure the caller is trustworthy. There is a chance they could be phony so don’t be pressurised into buying on the spot, even if they offer you a very good deal. As well as these consumer rights, you also have some additional rights that are set out in law when you buy something on the doorstep. If a salesperson representing a tradesperson calls to your home (or workplace) uninvited, and if the goods you buy will cost you €50 or more, then you must be given a written cancellation form and a cancellation notice. In most cases you have the right to cancel the contract within fourteen days. This is known as the “cooling-off” period.
  • If they claim to work for a company, take the time to check that they are a registered employee and are not in fact working independently.

Getting a Quote

  • Get a quote instead of an estimate. An estimate is an educated guess with no legal standing, and the price can rise during the job. A written quote is binding so long as you don’t make changes to the job’s requirements.
  • Most professionals will give you a ‘no obligation’ quote before you hire them however some may charge for giving you a quotation so make sure you ask first.
  • Get three different quotes and remember that the cheapest quote does not necessarily mean the best value or quality work.

 Overseeing your home improvement:

Signing a contract

  • Always use a contract when hiring a tradesman or builder as it protects you. Never sign any contract offered to you by a company without reading it carefully, including the terms & conditions or small print.
  • If you are taking on a large project, such as an extension, conversion or complete renovation, you could consider getting the contract checked out by a solicitor. Although this may cost you, it could be a small price to pay to ensure that you are protected if things go wrong.
  • Check the contract to see if you have the right to cancel the agreement. This is known as a ‘cooling off’ period and usually lasts for a specific timeframe.
  • Issues such as clearing up after the job and the length of time the work is guaranteed for are often overlooked. Both parties should agree on who does what, when and for how much and this detail should appear in the contract.
  • Make sure that both you and the tradesman have a signed copy of the contract before materials are bought or work starts.

Making payments

  • If you pay a deposit, this shows that you intend to buy the service and are entering a contract with the supplier. You and the supplier should agree on the deposit amount, when the balance is due and the duration of the work.
  • Always try to pay a large deposit using a debit or credit card, because if the supplier goes out of business, your card provider may be able to reverse the transaction with a chargeback. Contact your bank immediately and give them details of your transaction.
  • To avoid potential disputes, break down the payments into stages.  Ideally, payment should be made when you are satisfied with the work carried out but you may have to pay something up front if materials need to be bought. Avoid paying cash if possible, as it can’t be traced. Always get a receipt for your payments and keep them safe.
  • Beware if the tradesman offers you a discount for paying cash up front, or asks for payment for materials for work yet to be completed.

Know your rights

When you hire a tradesman you are buying their services, and your rights as a consumer are the same as those when buying any other services. Generally, you have the right to expect that:

  • The service you ordered is provided with proper care and attention
  • The business providing it has the appropriate skills to do the job
  • Any materials used in the work are fit for purpose
  • Any goods they supply to you as part of the service should be of acceptable quality too

  What to do if something goes wrong

  • If something goes wrong, you have rights as a consumer but every case is different and the solution will depend on each individual case.
  • If you are not entirely happy with the work carried out; feel that the tradesman did not provide a proper service with care and diligence; used faulty materials or didn’t complete the job as agreed, you are entitled to have the problem sorted out. This applies whether your agreement with them is verbal or written, but having your agreement in writing will put you in a stronger position.
  • Check your contract to see what your position is on the issue.
  • Talk to the tradesman, explain why you are not happy and try to agree a solution.
  • If you have made payments by credit card, contact your bank as your card provider may be able to reverse the transaction with a chargeback.
  • If they are unwilling to complete the work properly or give you a refund or reduction in price, you can take legal action. You can use the Small Claims procedure if the job was for less than €2,000.
  • For claims over €2,000, you can choose to take further legal action against a tradesman or builder. In this case, you may want to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor.
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