When choosing an agent, builder or contractor you should consider your choice carefully.  Check them out before employing them.

How do I choose someone reputable?

  • Get recommendations - ask friends, family and neighbours if they know of reliable contractor who have experience in the type of work you are after. 
  • Check out any supplied written references and that it was your contractor who actually undertook the work. A contractor with a reputation to preserve is more likely to be around if you have problems later.
  • Find out if the contractor is a member of an appropriate trade association or Competent Persons Scheme. Check the Scheme or Association out also - look for ones with strict joining criteria, codes of conduct and clear complaints procedures. Some, such as LABC, offer forms of contract, protection schemes and warranties.

For more advice see:

Avoiding Cowboy Builders
Works to Trees
Before you get works done

  • Look for the TrustMark - a Government endorsed scheme for almost all trades in and around the home.
  • Choose established contractors with premises you can visit and ask how long they have been in business - if things go wrong you should then be able to contact them. Ensure you have addresses and details of the contractors if you need to contact them in writing. Remember, telephone numbers are easily changed, leaving you with no way of contacting them.
  • Check the contractors out - ask if there is similar completed work that they have carried out that you can view. Make sure you speak to the previous customers for their comments, were they happy with the work? Was it started and completed on time? Was the final bill in line with the quotation?
  • Get three written quotations for the works with a breakdown of items to be done.
  • Check the Quotations are ‘like for like’ - do not make assumptions about quality of fixtures and fixings to be supplied, that is kitchens, bath suites, doors and windows, electrical provisions and so on. Check who is removing the rubbish, getting a skip licence or other consents. 
  • Agree payment terms before the work starts - be careful on upfront payments - ensure you know what you are getting for any upfront payment. It may be difficult to get monies back. Contractors offering cash / VAT free deals are not easily tracked down if things go wrong.
  • Consider paying, where possible, by credit card - this gives you extra protection if the work is not satisfactory, because you may be able to claim for compensation from the card company.
  • Be clear from the outset exactly what you want the contractor to do and then stick to it - changing your mind too often may be expensive.
  • Once you agree a price and start date, get a written contract and make sure you understand and agree with it. 


Get as much as possible in writing, for example:

  1. What is included in the quotation.
  2. When will work start and how long will it take.
  3. When and what payments will the contractor expect from you before the works are finished.
  4. On what basis you will want to agree any increase in cost (before the money is spent).
  5. What arrangements are there for you and your neighbours' safety and convenience (see the Considerate Constructors Scheme)? 
  6. Where will materials be stored and contractors vehicles parked (avoid road verges)?
  7. Who is getting rid of any waste or rubbish? There is a ‘Duty of Care’ to ensure waste is transferred only to authorised persons. By following simple steps you may help prevent your waste being fly-tipped.

Example of standard contract: JCT (Joints Contracts Tribunal) Building Contract for home owner/occupier 

Seek professional advice if you are unclear.

Before works start

Agree, at the beginning, to withhold a final payment until you are fully satisfied the works are complete and the Completion Certificates issued.

Check the insurance - make sure your contractor has up-to-date public liability insurance. Tell your insurance company about the works.

Don’t let your contractor start building works without checking that all necessary licences and consents have been obtained, including giving notice under the Party Wall Act

Tell your neighbours when works are starting and when they may finish. Let them know who to talk to if there is a problem. Register your project with the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Ensure that all conditions imposed on the Planning and Building Regulation approvals are addressed before work starts.

As works finish, get the Completion Certificates, which will be needed for any future house sale.

What if things go wrong?

  • Complain to your contractor: give your contractor a chance to put things right. If you are still unhappy, put it in writing with a deadline.
  • Keep a diary recording all telephone calls, conversations and events. Take photographs of any work you are unhappy with, recording the time and date taken.
  • Get advice - speak to Trading Standards, Citizens' Advice Bureau, consult a solicitor, engage a Chartered Building Surveyor, or other suitably qualified professional person.
  • If the contractor is a member of a trade association or competent person scheme, speak to them.
Date of last review: 22 March 2019