Problems with using a tradesman have been a constant source of complaints to Value Ireland. Whether consumers are using plumbers, builders or electricians among others, it seems that people regularly have an issue with dealing with them, and seem unsure on what they can do. This Tips Sheet should help you address such a situation.
- Before choosing a tradesperson check to see whether or not they advertise some form of quality assurance and possess any trade certifications. These are good indicators of professionalism and industry knowledge.
- Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, you are entitled to expect work to be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. As part of your rights under this Act, any materials supplied as part of the contract must be as described by the tradesperson, of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose for which they are intended.
- Always remember that it is much easier to enforce your rights if you have drawn up a written agreement of what is expected before work commences. If you select your tradesperson with care you can eliminate much of the risk. If a tradesperson is not willing to commit to a written contract prior to work commencing, are you sure they are the right person to trust with the job.
- Ensure that your written contract includes all relevant information, such as exactly what work is to be done, what preparatory work is to be included, when the work should begin and how long it should take, and what state your house should be left when they complete the job. This should also include the type and quality of materials to be used, and whether or not they are included in the price quoted.
- Ask the tradesperson if they can contact any former clients of theirs, almost as a referee for their work. A reputable tradesperson who takes pride in their work should be willing to provide you with a couple of people you can speak to.
- It is always advisable to try to find personal references when selecting a tradesperson for your particular job. Ask amongst your friends and colleagues if they’ve used anyone successfully for a job in the past – is there anyone they would recommend to you?
- Don’t pick the first tradesperson that you see advertised. Just because someone is in the telephone book as “AAA Plumbers” doesn’t mean they provide “Triple A” class service. It’s done for advertising purposes – are you ever likely to see, and therefore employ a company called “ZZZ Electricians”?
- Always ensure that you’re only getting the work you need done. Be careful of a tradesperson who “noticed” that something else needs to be fixed “while they’re at it”, or if they offer you extra unnecessary work because of a “discount” or “special offer”. If such a situation arises, get a second opinion and another quote from someone else. If this work does need to be done, ensure that your original written contract is amended.
- Ensure that the tradesperson you’re planning to employ has a fixed place of work or premises should you need to visit them for any reason. Be wary of people who may only quote a telephone number, and even more wary of someone who only quotes a mobile telephone number. Check for valid business cards and headed paper for invoices and quotations.
- In the spirit of “shopping around”, get more than one quote. Ask two or three people to quote for the work (written quotes), and check to see whether or not cost includes VAT.
- Ensure that the tradesperson you plan to employ has all necessary insurance to cover themselves, and your property in the event that something goes wrong.
What do you do if something goes wrong? As in all areas of consumer affairs, there is a standard manner in which to complain if you are unhappy with the quality and service you have received. Please click here for the general Value Ireland guidelines on how to complain. Specifically when dealing with a tradesperson, you could also bear the following points in mind when something goes wrong.
- Initially you should be clear in explaining your problem with the tradesperson, using your written agreement or quotation to illustrate the difference between your expectations and the reality of the situation. Give the tradesperson a chance to put it right.
- If this has no effect, put your complaint in writing to the tradesperson themselves, and management/head office is they exist. Detail your complaint clearly, explain what it is that you require to resolve your complaint, and give a deadline for this to be completed. Keep copies of all letters and replies. It is useful also to keep a diary of the timeline of events as they occur.
- If you are not satisfied with the work, you may consider withholding some or all of the payment for the job in question. If you follow this course of action, as in your first letter, be very clear as to your reasoning and refer to your original agreement. Provide a deadline and detailed expectations of what should happen before you will provide payment.
- If you have employed a tradesperson who is part of a trade association, you may want to send a copy of this letter to the association complaints department to keep them aware of what is going on.
- If you are still unsatisfied, an official complaint to the trade association may be your next step. They may offer a conciliation or arbitration service to settle your dispute.
- Technically, if you are still not satisfied, you should follow up the National Consumer Agency – see if they can do anything for you as they’re the Government body that is there to assist you with your consumer rights, and will be able to advise you on your next best course of action to have this matter resolved.
- A final method where you can possibly find redress if you are unhappy with the work a tradesperson has done, you may find the Small Claims Court process useful in attempting to have money returned to you.
And remember, what many a dodgy tradesperson depends on is that ordinary people like you and me are more likely to do nothing when they are dissatisfied. This is why they will always get away with shady practices.
If you begin to demand your rights, not only are you more likely to be treated properly, but it’ll make life a whole lot easier for Irish consumers as a whole.