Tommy’s Tips: Cowboy Builders


Its been a very interesting couple of months, I’m making a new series for BBC1 called “Cowboys and Angels.”  And the clue to the content is in the title! It’s never justified the way some people have been left in the lurch, or worse, some appear to have been left in a warzone, surrounded by major problems with very few options left.  Some people however behave in strange ways, and end up being complicit almost, in their own downfall!

I’ve never quite understood why anyone would pay money up front for building work, some people when asked, pay the full amount before, or part way through, the work, and then left to ponder why their builders have seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth!  I ask would you go into a restaurant where the chef comes out, and demands half or all of the cost of the meal before you had eaten, I think not, you wouldn’t stand for it, and would be out of there in a flash.  This over the cost of a meal, which may be expensive, but in comparison to most building projects would be peanuts!  

So why do people sensible or not, behave so out of character when it comes to building work?  I think a couple of the main reasons are, a lack of knowledge regarding the subject matter, and feeling intimidated by the builder or salesman into accepting the deal on their terms!  You’re the customer, so you’re the one who decides.  If you were buying a new car, you’d research the car and model you want, which dealer would give you the best price, and you’d pick the engine type and size, colour of the car, interior and all the extras and then bargain hard over the price, that’s the approach needed with builders, you have to take control.

Another major problem is avoiding paying the tax!  Building and renovation work is subject to VAT @ 20 % currently, except new build which is zero rated.  If the contractor demands “cash”, the warning signals should flash instantly, especially if there’s not a full and complete breakdown of the cost’s on a proper specification, accompanied by a current estimate, valid for a minimum of 3 months.  Once agreement is reached on the specification and price, contracts should be signed and exchanged, and a start date agreed.  That agreed price should be fixed right up to job completion, and should only change by mutual agreement if alterations or extra works are specified, priced and agreed BEFORE completion, if these are variations from the original agreement.  A payment schedule should be agreed and signed before work begins and should consist of a minimum of 3 payments. No deposit, 1st payment of 25% approx a third of the way into the job! a second payment of 25% two thirds into the job! and 45% paid on absolute completion, when you as the client are absolutely happy with everything.  A sum of 5% should be held as a retention for any problems that may occurred as a result of the work for a min of 6 months – maximum of 12 months.  If no problems appear the final payment of 5% should be paid to the contractor.

The good guys in the business have been grappling for years to find a way of protecting the public from cowboy contractors, and good contractors from cowboy clients, in the residential market!  The answer has arrived, created by a man passionate for a solution, Harvey Ellingham and it’s called “The Home Improvement Guarantee!  It’s a simple solution to a difficult, and what could be a potentially devastating life changing disaster! Believe me, I’m not overstating the case, with what I’ve seen in the last couple of months, and many varied disasters I’ve borne witness to, over a lifetime in the building business, do not be complacent. Do the necessary preparation work before you start, for extra protection, sign up to a HIGS contract, it’s totally free for the client and includes a free 10 year warranty on the work!

Nobody likes paying tax, the real culprit here is the Government, 20% is too high! and if it was reduced to 10% or less, most people would pay it rather than try to avoid it! probably bringing in far more revenue than it does currently.  Check out “Home Improvement Guarantee” online for more information.


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