People have been urged to be on their guard for cowboy builders targeting local residents.
Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards issued the warning following an increase in the number of complaints from people about being ripped off for home improvement work.
Complaints range from being “grossly” overcharged, work being carried out that was unnecessary and paying out large deposits for work that was never carried out.
Officers are now reminding people to be wary of those offering convincing deals on various household jobs and repairs, particularly those calling door to door.
A spokesperson said that prices charged were usually “excessive” and anyone accepting work would pay much more than intended.
Work was also often “very poor” quality, could be dangerous and in some cases was not even done.
“Doorstep criminals in particular also rarely provide paperwork so they can’t be traced once they’ve left people’s homes. Names, addresses and business details are often false and telephone numbers don’t get answered,” said County Coun Victoria Wilson, Cabinet member for trading standards at the county council.
Common services offered by cowboy builders and cold callers include general building work, extensions, roofing, repairs and maintenance and driveway resurfacing.
County Coun Wilson said: “Keeping communities safe is our priority and this includes protecting people from rogue traders and doorstep crime.
“Cowboy builders prey on the vulnerable and sadly are active at this time of the year, as people use the new year as an opportunity to do some work on their home.
“Most reputable builders, roofers and gardeners do not cold call. Our advice to people would be to always use a reputable trader, preferably someone who has been recommended by a friend or relative, take your time before making a decision and get several written quotes before agreeing to have any work done.”
She added: “Never agree on the doorstep to have work carried out and don’t be tricked into thinking you’re getting a good deal in return for payment in cash or an immediate start to work.
“If you’re unsure about a cold caller you should ask them to make an appointment to come back when a friend or family member can be with you.”
Trading standards officers offer the following advice:
• Beware of prices that sound too good to be true;
• Don’t expect builders to be available immediately: reputable builders generally shouldn’t be available on the day;
• Don’t put down large deposits up front: it’s not normal practice for builders to ask for large deposits up front;
• Check out previous projects: start with a builder’s website and check out their completed projects;
• Vet builders thoroughly via references and testimonials;
• Be cautious of doorstep builders and look out for unmarked vans;
• Set up a contract, including estimates of how much the work will cost and how long it will take and key responsibilities for the builder to ensure a dispute-free build.
Anyone who has concerns about doorstep callers should call the police on 101, or the Citizens’ Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.