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Record your conversation with a Tradesman

In 11 simple steps you will have the right conversation with a tradesman.

This checklist will help you ask the right questions of any tradesman you are asking to quote to do work on or around your property.

Tips

  1. Have a clear brief for the work you want done.
  2. Try and obtain three detailed quotes before starting work.
  3. Ask friends and family for a personal recommendation.
  4. Also check the TrustMark website www.trustmark.org.uk
  5. Make sure the tradesman is registered with TrustMark for the particular trades you require.
  6. Always take up references and speak to previous customers.
  7. Don't just go with the cheaper option of paying with cash, rather than a properly invoiced job that may include VAT.
  8. Only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments.
  9. Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong.
  10. Agree in writing any changes to the work or agreed contract value.

About you - Step 1/11

Name

Today's date

Property address (work site)

Your telephone

Email

About the tradesman - Step 2/11

TrustMark registered Yes No

The tradesman you meet might not necessarily know if his company is TrustMark registered, but you can always check up by going to the TrustMark website or calling TrustMark's office.

Always check if the tradesman is TrustMark registered and that the registration is still current.

Check the firm is 'licensed' for all the trades / work you are asking them to carry out by looking at the firms 'more information' page on our website.

www.trustmark.org.uk | tel: 01344 630 804.

Any relevant memberships?

Most tradesmen are not members of any trade association or other body. But if they are, it's something to note down now and check out later.

Your tradesman may be a member of a trade association, an official certification scheme (such as Gas Safe for heating engineers, or a Part P scheme for electricians), a local authority approved scheme or any other supporting organisation.

Don't just look at the badges on the van. Always check up on these claims.

A good tradesman won't mind.

Company Name

Name

You should record the name of the person you are meeting and find out who they are.

Do they run the company? Are they the person who will do the work on the property?

If the tradesman doesn't object, ask to take a photo of them now using your camera or phone - this is always a good idea if you are letting someone into your home.

Take the picture of anyone you have let into your home. * Always ask permission.

Address

Tel (Landline)

Always insist on a landline telephone number, not just a mobile. If it's not a local number, find out why not. Be very wary of those only willing to give you a mobile number.

Email

Website

Further questions - Step 3/11

How long have they been trading?

What qualifications do they / their team have?

What experience do they have of carrying out work like this?

About the work - Step 4/11

Describe the work

Will they source all materials / equipment? Yes No

If you are supplying materials or want the tradesman to use your choice of materials, you need to discuss this with the tradesman in advance as it may affect insurance and guarantees later on.

Are there drawings or specifications? Yes No

If your job involves architectural or structural drawings or other detailed specifications, chances are it's a big job. Do make sure you get these documents attached to a proper legal contract.

Will they be using sub-contractors? Yes to all Some No

Be careful about the use of sub-contractors. Find out who they will be and check them out. Just like you are checking out this tradesman.

Are variations or extra charges likely? Yes No

If any extra work or changes to the work are likely to arise, you should agree with the tradesman in advance how you will deal with this.

You should try to keep a written record of any changes that are agreed. Be suspicious if you are suddenly being charged for extra expenses.

If you have agreed a price beforehand for the work, you should not have to pay for 'extras'. Don't be embarrassed to ask for receipts.

About the work, continued - Step 5/11

Start date

Most good tradesmen won't be available immediately unless they've just had a cancellation.

For example: Unless the job is urgent (e.g. a repair), be prepared to wait weeks or months!

Finish date

Jobs can over-run or turn out to be more complicated than you first thought. But do try and get a feel for how long the tradesman thinks they'll be on site. Will the tradesman be on site for consecutive days?

Working hours

Check when the tradesman expects to be working on site. Do they work at weekends?

Reasons the work could be delayed?

Discuss what things might cause the work to be delayed. Will bad weather influence work on site?

Is the tradesman going to work exclusively on your job or will they be doing other jobs at the same time? It's always best to talk these things through beforehand.

About the work, continued - Step 6/11

Is access required inside the property? Yes No

Can they use your toilet, play a radio, store materials in the property, use your kitchen to boil a kettle, do they need to remove their shoes?

Discuss this with the tradesman.

Required utilities Electricity Water

Do they need to move furniture or clear a room? Yes No

Scaffolding required? Yes No

Check who will organise and pay for this, and if neighbours or the local authority need to be informed. Discuss this with the tradesman.

Waste management

Will they tidy up each day? Yes No

Depending on the type of work and in which room(s) in the property, it is important you know what tidying up (if any) will be done. Discuss this with the tradesman.

Is a skip required? Yes No

Check who will organise and pay for the skip delivery and collection. And if there may be charges for waste disposal. Discuss this with the tradesman.

Planning & Building Regulations - Step 7/11

Does the work require...

Planning permission? Yes No

It is usually your responsibility as the client to apply for and obtain all the necessary planning approvals and consents. Discuss this with the tradesman.

Conservation officer? Yes No

It is usually your responsibility as the client to apply for and obtain all the necessary conservation approvals and consents. Discuss this with the tradesman.

Building regs compliance? Yes No

Where the work needs to be inspected or approved by a Building Inspector (council or private approved inspector), it is the tradesman's responsibility to ensure these inspections and approvals are carried out. For some electrical and gas / heating work, the tradesman may be able to 'self-certify'.

Discuss this with the tradesman and find out what they do to ensure Building Regulations approval.

Health & Safety

Health & safety risks?

A good tradesman will be very aware of health and safety on all jobs. It applies to any project, big or small. Make sure you are aware of any health and safety risks to you or any other occupier of the building.

Do you have guests, family or pets in the property and what needs to be done to reduce any risk of injury or damage? Discuss with the tradesman what needs to happen to minimise and manage these risks.

Notifiable under CDM regs? Yes No

Construction work is notifiable to the HSE if the construction phase is expected to last more than 30 days or 500 person days of construction work. The tradesman will usually handle this. Contact the HSE for further information.

Guarantees, certificates & insurance - Step 8/11

Warranty Provided

You must find out what options are available to you - you may be able to buy a warranty to cover the work and there may be a range of different policies. For example, TrustMark insists all registered firms offer you the opportunity to buy a warranty giving you some increased protection if the firm should go out of business.

If the company is TrustMark registered and the work is worth more than £250, the company should offer you the opportunity to purchase the TrustMark insurance-backed warranty.

This covers pre-payments and the rectification of defects or major damage in the event the TrustMark registered company ceases to trade.

Discuss warranties with the tradesman and be aware that the paperwork usually needs sorting out before work on your job can start.

Public liability insurance? Yes No

Public liability insurance covers the tradesman and you in case someone gets hurt on your site. Under law the policy must be available for you to view if you so wish. It's always a good idea to check the insurance won't run out before your job is finished.

Accidental damage insurance? Yes No

It is best to find a tradesman with insurance cover in case there is accidental damage to your property.

Instruction manuals / receipts to be supplied? Yes No

Confirm with the tradesman that at the end of the job, they will leave you with all supporting documentation applicable to the work carried out.

Defects liability

It is often a good idea to agree with your tradesman a period of time during which it is his duty and right to make good (at his own cost) any defects which appear.

Dispute procedure

Good tradesmen will have a clear and open policy for how they deal with any disputes. This will usually involve a meeting with you to discuss any grievance and, if necessary, access to an independent review, mediation, conciliation or arbitration.

It's always worth checking you understand exactly what these things mean and what redress you could get if things go wrong.

Be warned though: refusing to let a tradesman put things right can affect your legal rights later on.

Paying for the work - Step 9/11

Rough Estimate (Inc. VAT)

An 'estimate' is only an approximate idea of the cost.

A detailed scope of the work required (with all costs) need to be agreed with the tradesmen before they start work this will then form a 'quotation' which is a fixed cost and should be detailed in writing.

Any changes to costs during the contract for whatever the reason, should be approved by you in writing before being carried out by the tradesman.

Written quote to arrive by

Was the cost to include all materials / equipment? Yes No

In some cases such as sanitary ware or kitchen units / appliances you may have decided to source these yourself. You need to clearly define in writing with the tradesmen any items they will not have to supply as part of this contract.

Hourly / daily rate (Inc. VAT)

Ask the tradesmen for their hourly and daily rates as this will help you if there any additions / changes to the contract.

Timescale (hrs / days)

Ask the tradesman for a timescale for the work to be done.

If your job is charged on an hourly or daily rate instead of a fixed price, you should talk to your tradesman about how many hours or days he thinks the work might take.

Deposit required?

Try to avoid paying deposits, particularly large deposits, and don't ever pay the whole amount up front.

There is a risk that the tradesman could disappear with your money and you will have less leverage over completion, quality etc.

If you do need to pay a deposit, it should never exceed 25% of the contract value.

Will interim or stage payments be required? Yes No

If materials need to be bought in advance by the tradesman, it is reasonable that you pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses. But always be very clear, detailing a schedule when payments might be needed. Ideally payments should only be made when each stage of work is completed to the agreed specification and standard.

Paying for the work, continued - Step 10/11

VAT reg. number

How long is quote valid?

Do they provide a cooling off period (days)?

Since 2008 there have been regulations in the UK which allow you to change your mind after you have accepted a quote or entered into a contract.

These are the 'Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008'.

Check that the tradesman can provide you with the 'Notice of the Right to Cancel' and check further details on the web.

Payment terms

Warning: Do not pay upfront and do not agree to pay cash-in-hand. Find out how quickly you will have to pay invoices. This is usually between 7 and 30 days.

Tradesman's references - Step 11/11

Always take up references. Written references or a telephone call can sometimes be falsified.

The larger and more costly your job is the more important it can be to go and see for yourself recent work done by the tradesman and talk to the owners of those properties.

Don't ever rely on websites with customer reviews of tradesmen, as these are notoriously unreliable and open to abuse.

Name, address & telephone

Name, address & telephone

Name, address & telephone

Please keep this record of your conversation in a safe place