cowboy builders

Home and commercial property owners, who require the services of builders and tradespeople to handle repairs and reinstatement as part of a property insurance claim, are being warned to not let down their guard just because an online search suggests an ‘outfit’ is not a cowboy builder.

The website says there is a new breed of cowboys in the market, who are developing reassuring ‘shop windows’ on the internet, without having the credentials, references or accreditations they appear to have accrued. also points to the fact that 45,000 people called Citizens Advice in 2017, to seek help with home improvement and maintenance problems, as reported in The Guardian, on June 4 2018. The Federation of Master Builders also estimates that cowboy contractors are costing the UK economy £10bn a year.

As the industry has sought to become better managed, a plethora of what calls ‘trust-me’ websites have sprung up, seeking to give the consumer reassurances about the workmanship available from those with profiles on their sites. Some of these websites are better policed than others and some localised variants of these may not carry out any checks at all.

Alarm bells should ring at the fact that:

• 40% of applications to the ‘My Builder’ website are declined
• One out of every four traders applying to be listed on ‘Rated People’ are blocked by its screening process, which includes fraud and credit checks

This suggests that around 25-40 per cent of those tradesmen touting for work are either not to be trusted or lack the skills or ethics that screening processes identify as being necessary to work on and at somebody’s property.

Furthermore, there have been instances, as highlighted in a story posted at, where a cowboy builder has built an attractive looking website and carried out some smoke and mirrors style activity, to try to fool the consumer. In the case cited, they lied about being accredited by one trade body and completely made up the name of another by which they were supposedly endorsed. says that the onus is on the consumer to: check the address and contact details provided by the workman, as well as their memberships, references and public liability cover; go through an exacting examination of what a tradesman intends doing as their schedule of work; draw up a contract that both parties can sign before work commences (to include details of agreed costs, timelines, payment scheduling and expectations) and keep a journal, day-by-day, to ensure time is not being wasted on the job and that progress can be logged.

Additionally, the property owner is advised to watch out for ‘extras’ that unexpectedly slip into the schedule, as well as any strange periods of absence of the workmen on the job.

In today’s busy world, the property claims specialists at say this is an impossible task for the majority of people and particularly distressing for the elderly and more vulnerable.

Another spanner in the works relates to what is always best advice, and a requirement in most insurance claims – the need to obtain at least three quotes for comparison purposes. Given the fact that demand often outstrips supply when it comes to competent tradespeople, it is hard enough to even get them to visit to provide a quote and, even if they do, a property owner with an urgent need may have to wait months for any work to commence.

With this pressure to find a tradesperson on their shoulders, it is easy for a property owner to take a chance on someone who does present themselves as being available and for background checks and references to then fall by the wayside.

In its capacity as a property insurance claims management specialist, takes the pressure off the shoulders of those who have to make a claim on their insurance policy.

Its loss assessor becomes the negotiator in negotiations with the insurer’s loss adjuster, enabling the property owner to get on with their day-to-day lives, knowing someone is fighting their corner and seeking to gain them their full entitlement, as stated in the terms of their property insurance policy.

As part of this, works with its own vetted, honest and trusted contractors, ensures that a schedule of works is carried out as specified and to the pre-agreed timescales, and oversees all contractor works. It monitors the quality of the workmanship and can often complete the reinstatement of a customer’s property relatively swiftly and typically within shorter timescales than is the case with claims lodged by property owners who have suffered similar damage (in scenarios such as flooding) and had to sort things out themselves.

This is often due to the issues involved with finding reliable and trustworthy tradespeople, checking their credentials and then being able to find a slot in their packed diary for the repair and reinstatement works to be undertaken. When operating to the traditional three-quote system laid down by the insurer’s loss adjuster, and/or handling everything themselves, lengthy delays can ensue.

The welcome news for many domestic and commercial insured property owners is that if the customer appoints a loss assessor and uses its contractors, no payment is required.

James Whittle of says: “Whilst it may appear that the transparency of the internet makes it more difficult for cowboy builders to operate, there are still many out there who are hoodwinking the browsing customer or panicking policyholders with phoney credentials, accreditations and reviews. With the emphasis now more firmly placed on individual recommendation than was the case a decade ago, many reputable tradespeople are fully booked for what can be three to six months, or even longer, ahead.”

“This can lead to long delays in getting properties repaired and reinstated, if the property owner cannot tap into a network of reliable contractors. As a result, they are forced to use what trades support is available, which can result in them being subjected to shoddy workmanship, incomplete reinstatements and hours of frustration. It could also potentially lead to financial wrangles and losses.”

“The minute an insured property owner needs to call on their insurance, wherever they are based geographically, they should pick up the phone to us and instantly bring someone into the frame who is on their side and ready to manage everything on their behalf, with that including having reputable and tried and tested tradespeople on hand, to tackle the repairs.”

More information is available to those needing property insurance claims assistance at Alternatively, calling 0800 077 6705 will put you in touch with a Property Damage Claims Management company, Aspray and someone who can help.

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