What happens if you hire a builder, electrician, plumber or roofer to improve your home, but they end up making it worse instead? Tens of thousands find themselves in that position every year after suffering the home improvement from hell. Seeking redress is never easy but you are in a much stronger position if you know your rights. Here's how to fight back against the cowboys…

The damage

More than 40,000 people contacted Citizens Advice last year to complain about a botched job.

Most were unhappy with shoddy workmanship or jobs being completed late, with many seeking information on their right to refunds and compensation.

Roofing, kitchen installations, door and window fitting, plumbing, and poorly laid driveways and decking triggered the most complaints.

One homeowner suffered serious water damage after their builder departed without completing their roof, another was left with no doors on their kitchen cabinets, while a third had all their windows boarded up for 11 weeks during an extension build.

Large sums are at stake, with the average homeowner spending more than £8,000 improving their homes over the last five years, according to research from Ikano Bank.


Highly rated

The best way to avoid a home improvement horror is to hire a reputable builder to do the work in the first place.

Seek references and recommendations from friends and family, or if that doesn't work, go online.

A number of sites allow you to search for local tradespeople with customer reviews and ratings, such as RatedPeople.com, TrustATrader.com, MyBuilder.com and TrustedTraders.which.co.uk.

You can add another layer of protection by checking if the tradesman belongs to a reputable trade body, ideally one with a code of practice that can help to resolve any problems if things go wrong.


Seek quotes

Compare quotes from several contractors to make sure you are getting a fair price.

Ask for examples of previous work and always get a written quote upfront, rather than an estimate, which is just a guess at how much the work will cost.

A quote is legally binding and cannot be changed without good reason. Make sure you understand what it covers, or you could face shock extra charges.


Build your case

Get a written contract before work starts to cover timing, payments, who pays for materials and subcontractors, and what exactly is to be done. If possible, pay in stages when you are happy with the work, rather than upfront.

Keep copies of bills and receipts and take photos of any problems as evidence.


Fix it

If things go wrong act quickly before you incur further building costs. Ask your builder to fix slapdash work or request money off your bill to pay someone else to put things right.

If that fails, complain in writing to the trader, their employer or relevant trade association, which may have a dispute resolution service. Going to court should be the last resort.


Take cover

Finally, remember to inform your insurance company before starting a major home makeover, otherwise, you could invalidate your policy.

For help with complaints, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.


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