Falling Victim to a Tradesman’s Scam Could Leave You Financially Ruined
We read stories in the newspapers like those about the buy-to-let landlord from Bristol who was scammed out of thousands of pounds and think, “It will never happen to me”. Then it does. How do you find a tradesman who won’t rip you off?
When You Trust a Tradesman, You Don’t Expect to Be Scammed
Ross Studzinski was scammed out of money by tradesman Danny Preece. The tradesman was seemingly legitimate. He had good reviews on a popular online review site (this time, ‘Rated People’), which Studzinski used to find a tradesman.
Preece quoted Studzinski £35,000 for a two-storey extension and asked for £12,000 upfront for building materials. Preece then hired a subcontractor – whom he never paid. The building materials never arrived. Preece even told Studzinski that he used the money to pay off another builder to whom he owed money.
In total, the buy-to-let landlord’s dealings with Preece cost him around £20,000. He was left on the brink of bankruptcy. You may think this sort of thing will never happen to you, but if you are not aware of the scams to look out for, you could fall victim to them yourself.
Here are our tips to find a tradesman who won’t rip you off.
Vet Tradesmen Like Tenants
Your buy-to-let property is an investment and the key to your financial future. You vet your tenants before letting to them. This helps to ensure that you don’t get ripped off by rogue tenants. You should do the same when seeking to find a tradesman.
Conduct thorough background checks.
Sites like Rated People can be helpful in ascertaining the trustworthiness of a tradesman, however, it is not always accurate. Learn how to read reviews and buy the best every time. Unscrupulous tradespeople will go to some lengths to post reviews that praise them.
Before hiring a tradesperson, search across other review sites. Ask local suppliers about them. Seek out previous customers, and request to see the work that has been done and learn if those customers are satisfied customers.
Google ‘Tradesman’s Name + Scam’
A simple way to check if a tradesman has a reputation for scamming their clients is to do a quick Google search. Search the tradesman’s name plus the word ‘scam’. Add in words that denote what the tradesman does, such as ‘building’.
You may be unpleasantly surprised by what you find. If there are any news articles or reviews that mention that this tradesman has tried to scam clients before, then you must move on to another.
For example, if you Google ‘Danny Preece builder scam’, the first result that appears is a review of his work that would immediately ring the alarm bells. The review calls the experience a ‘disaster’. The builder damaged a water stop tap chamber, and the work had to be postponed for three weeks. The builder disappeared, without paying for the water company’s repairs.
The customer admits that they were ‘naïve’ and thought they could be trusted because they found them on a ‘traders’ website’. If Studzinski had done even this rudimentary check, I doubt that he would have used Preece.
Avoid Large, Upfront Payments
When a tradesperson asks for large payment upfront, it should raise a red flag. Smaller deposits are normal. They ensure that you are serious about the work needed and stop the tradesman’s time being wasted. However, large payments should always be questioned.
If your tradesman is asking for a big sum upfront, you need to ask what it is for. If they start making excuses or telling you stories about things like supply shortages, beware. Always fact checks what they are telling you. Get quotes from multiple tradesmen. If only one tradesman is asking for a large, upfront payment, then it could be that you are about to be scammed. Avoid!
Your buy-to-let property is a part of your financial security. Construction is often extremely costly, and if you do not pick the right tradesman you can end up thousands of pounds in the hole to fix issues they have caused; or, worse still, find that they take your money and disappear.
Follow some basic rules when you want to find a tradesman:
- Before you let anyone start construction or maintenance work, you need to thoroughly vet them.
- Always check and double-check reviews.
- Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and other buy-to-let landlords.
- If you are asked for a large deposit, be very wary.
- If you are told the money is needed because of supply shortages, check with the supplier. Most reputable tradespeople have accounts with suppliers and will have time to pay.
- Take the time and make the effort to request multiple quotes – this will help you get value for money from a reputable tradesman.
These are the key steps that we go through to find a tradesman. It’s just another way in which we help buy-to-let landlords maximise their profits. Isn’t it time you benefitted from effortless property management? To learn more, contact Ezytrac today at +44 0 1522 503 717.
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