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Newspapers dedicate pages to them, TV companies make fly-on-the-wall documentaries about them, and local authorities are bombarded with complaints about them, but exactly what are ‘cowboy’ builders?

Well, they are men and women who claim to be professionally trained builders, when in reality many of them have never laid a brick in their lives. These cowboy builders cause unwanted stress and problems to their customers, who lose paid deposits, never see the work completed, are pressured into having work done, are told unnecessary work is needed, or are overcharged for the work being done.

If you need repair or building work on your house then you’ll want to avoid cowboy builders at all costs, so here are a few tips to help you steer clear of dodgy dealers:

  1. If you cannot get a recommendation then it is vital that you check out the builders' credentials. Ask them if they are a member of a builders trade association, such as the Federation of Master Builders or the National Federation of Builders, and then check with the organisation that the builder is registered.

  2. Before you call a builder for a quote or estimate be clear in your own mind exactly what work you want doing. Many disputes arise when changes are made half way through a job, causing unanticipated problems and costs.

  3. Make sure you take the time to get at least three quotes from different builders, that way you should be able to establish the going rate for the job and therefore reduce your risk of being overcharged.

  4. Take your time in making a decision and never let a builder pressure you for an answer. If you feel pressured or the builder will not take the time to discuss your needs, find another builder who is.

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