Home Improvements

You may need to hire a builder, plumber, electrician, tiler or painter at some point to fix a problem where you live, or to extend or renovate your home. When you hire a tradesperson you are buying their services, and your rights as a consumer are the same as those when buying any other services. We have information on:

Remember, you have rights when you buy or engage a service but there are no hard and fast rules – every situation is different and the solution to a problem with a service will depend on the individual case.

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 they use in the work are fit for purpose
  • Any goods they supply to you as part of the service should be of acceptable quality too

There are a number of things you can do before 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 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

Remember, deposits are usually non-refundable. If you pay a deposit and then change your mind about the product or service, the supplier or business may not have to return your deposit.

 Tips for hiring tradespeople:

  • 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 a member of a trade association. Check the company is on the Register of Builders and ask for their registration number. If you are looking to hire a tradesman for gas or electrical work, check that they are registered with the Registered Electrical Contractors Ireland (RECI) or Register of Gas Installers of Ireland (RGII).
  • Ask friends or family for their recommendations on tradespeople they have used
  • Search online reviews of the tradesman on social media or discussion forums, but be aware that some reviews may not be genuine
  • Try to check their track record and ask for references from previous clients – call the clients to confirm references and if possible visit them to see the work done
  • If they have given you a mobile number, check that they have a landline number and a street address
  • Check if they are covered for damage to your property, or if your own home insurance policy includes this
  • 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 14 days. This is known as the “cooling-off” period.

Getting a quote

  • 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.
  • Look for several quotes from different tradespeople. Remember that the cheapest quote does not necessarily mean the best value or quality work. If possible, ask for examples of previous work.
  • Look for quotes instead of estimates: An estimate is an educated guess with no legal standing, and the price could go up during the job. A written quote is binding as long as you don’t make changes to the job’s requirements.
  • Look for as much detail as possible in the quote. Get a breakdown for the proposed work to be done and ask for the quote to include VAT.

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 and conditions or small print.
  • Make sure you have a clear agreement in writing before the contractor starts the building work or repairs. The agreement should describe what they will be supplying and the payment schedule.
  • For larger jobs in particular, 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

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.
  • Remember, deposits are usually non-refundable. If you pay a deposit and then change your mind about the product or service, the supplier or business may not have to return your deposit.
  • Always try to pay a large deposit using a debit or credit card, because if the supplier goes out of business, your card provider can 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.

If you are not entirely happy with the work carried out, or you feel that the tradesperson 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 written or verbal. A verbal contract is as valid and binding as a written one. You should talk to the tradesperson you used, explain why you are not happy and try to agree how the problem can be sorted out.

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.

Last updated on 28 June 2021