I watched Bad Builders: Bang to Rights on STV on 27 January, my dad’s birthday (Hi dad) and Holocaust Memorial Day (lest we forget). I was particularly interested in one case that our host ‘consumer champion’ Dominic Littlewood was presenting. This was the usual sting operation involving a house and bogus homeowner fitted with covert cameras catching out the untruths and shortcomings of a local contractor ‘known to Trading Standards’.
In the programme Dominic tells the viewer that allowing dodgy builders and rip-off merchants over the threshold can mean ‘inviting in a world of pain’; and asks ‘do you worry you’ll end up paying through the nose because you’ve let a complete clown into your home?’
I’ll not bore you with the technical details of the roofing repairs quoted for and carried out. The key point is the contractor had a prominent advert in a local paper which included carefully chosen wording. I have shown relevant parts in bold type and added comments after each one.
- ‘Book your pre-winter health check for your roof’ – This creates concern in readers who are ‘born worriers’; appeals to organised people who consider themselves proactive and in control; and suggests the company is so busy that customers need to book early to avoid disappointment. In practice the contractor missed or ignored obvious defects that would have resulted in leaks.
- ‘Help save you pounds on your heating bills’ – After confirming with the householder that she never goes in the attic the contractor looked into the attic hatch and said he could see daylight through the roof covering. This point was refuted by the programme makers.
- ‘OAP discounts available’ – Roof works can be hard to check at the best of times but it is a safe bet that most pensioners will not be inclined to get the ladders out for a post completion inspection. In offering discounts the contractor also targets those pensioners for whom money is a concern.
The same contractor in a previous case highlighted by Dominic provided a 35 year guarantee on a chimney repair. Dominic commented that the original leak was worse after the repair and the contractor refused to return to site.
Having seen the same pattern and outcomes repeated in similar programmes I am left wondering Despite how well it is worded, why would people appoint a contractor on the basis of a newspaper advert (without requesting and checking references or proof of experience)?
It also seems ironic that the Chartered Building Surveyor who is usually asked to comment about the rogue trader and their workmanship only becomes involved after the event.
Of course I realise financial hardship may force some consumers to make bad choices. However, for those readers who can afford a professional to inspect, specify and oversee roofing works, I would recommend you choose this option. For free advice why not contact me by completing the enquiries form or calling 07748 327937.
3 February 2015