Seven warning signs that you might be ripped off by a new tradesperson

How to find a reliable business

January is the perfect time for fresh starts. It is also the perfect time to finally sort out those odd jobs around the house.

Related: There’s a new way to buy a boiler and get it installed next day – but would you do it?

Whether it is finishing refurbishing a bathroom or finally sorting out the ominous sounds coming from the boiler. Most of these jobs will require calling in a professional.

You might have a tried and tested plumber or builder you know you can rely on. However, if you're new to an area or using a tradesperson for the first time, it can be nerve-wracking knowing whether you can trust them.

unreliable tradesperson

(Image credit: Future PLC/Maxwell Attenborough)

With almost 40 per cent of Brits admitting that they've had a bad experience with a tradesperson, it's unsurprising many of us are reluctant to call in professional help.

There are plenty of tradespeople out there who are reputable and will to a top-notch job. But keep an eye out for these seven tell-tale signs to make sure you're not stuck with a cowboy contractor.

Seven tell-tale signs of an unreliable tradesperson

Seven tell-tale signs of an unreliable tradesperson

If you can't find any sign of a company's legitimacy, stay far away. Several accreditations you should look for to check a business is legitimate are the Federation of Master Builders, Trustmark and National Federation of Builders.

Plumbers should all be Gas Safe Registered. If they are part of the CIPHE that is an added bonus.

table with chair and lamp

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Merewether)

2. Check they have insurance

'Public liability insurance may be voluntary, but it covers the tradesperson for any potential damage caused to your property,' explains Izzy Schulman, Director at Plumbers4U. 'You'll sleep better knowing someone has the right insurance to compensate you if the worst happens.'

3. Make sure you have a contract in place

Before a tradesperson starts work on your home make sure they're prepared to provide you with signed time estimates and cost quotes in writing. You should also have an official signed contract in place.

'A contract is legally binding and without one, it's simply one person's word against the other, leaving you in a potentially vulnerable position,' explains Izzy.

4. Make sure you have their registered business address

If a tradesperson is unable to provide you with a registered business address or even a number, alarm bells should be going off.

You can verify their details on websites such as, and These will also allow you to check qualifications, insurance and customer recommendations.

5. Watch out for too good to be true prices

Some contractors will offer low prices and then later exploit loopholes in contracts to charge for 'extra overs'.

'Always source at least three different quotes so you get an idea of what a job should cost,' advises Izzy. 'Reduced rates for cash-in-hand work put you at risk as you could be prosecuted for VAT fraud if caught.'

table with cup

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jeremy Phillips)

6. Never agree to an advance

An established and reliable company will never ask you to pay upfront. A tradesperson should be able to buy materials and be happy to be paid when the work is done or at stages in the work.

However, make sure you always ask for an invoice so there is a paper trail, and you are legally covered if any issues occur.

7. Be suspicious if extra issues keep popping up

Sometimes unexpected issues do pop up. However, if a company keeps coming to you with extra issues, offering to fix them at an additional cost, be suspicious.

Related: From Lino Ritchie to Surelock Homes – the UK's best trade company names revealed

Make sure you and you're wallet aren't caught out by a rogue tradesperson.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.