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If you are planning building work this year we recommend that you draw up a contract with your builder.

There has been a lot of talk recently about Cowboy Builders, and what a drain they are on our economy, but not so much focus on what you can do about it. Regulation and Government intervention can only work so far, the most effective vehicle for change is to use market forces which are driven by consumers, so DIY Doctor decided to make it their mission to help eradicate Cowboy Builders by giving homeowners the tools they need to avoid them.

There are things you can do to help you find a good tradesman and avoid the Cowboy Builder. We have a section on the site called HIPS which stands for Home Improver Protection Solution. This section is dedicated to helping you avoid Cowboy Builders by providing you with useful information to arm yourself with before you choose your builder, then it gives you valuable information on how to choose and contract a builder and finally keeping control of costs and processes throughout the build.

What is HIPS?

There are five main sections in our Home Improvers Protection Solution (find out more by clicking here):

Price Doctor
Online software that allows you to get a costing of an extension before you meet your builder to discuss prices, the free version will arm you with a rough figure so that you can tell if your builder is quoting a reasonable figure. There is a paid version which allows you to put in a much more detailed set of choices and will break down the costs of materials for you into a ‘shopping list’ which is ideal if you are planning your own build.

Desired Outcome Contract
This is a contract, written by DIY Doctor and checked by legal professionals, which has been designed to make it clear what you expect from your builder, and what he can expect from you. Disputes often arise over unreasonable expectations on either side, but if all stages of the build and payment are discussed at the beginning then this leads to fewer arguments.

If a Cowboy Builder is presented with a contract before they start work they are much less likely to take the job on. Even better it is provided free to DIY Doctor users.

Desired Outcome Contract – Notes
By reading through the accompanying help notes you will know which questions to ask to make sure you have a legitimate builder eg. are they insured, how long have they been trading, can they provide references for similar jobs. You will also be prompted to ask for proof of the answers to these questions.

Third Party Payment Plan

We recommend you use a third party payment plan. They are designed to hold the money for the build securely for you. This will reassure your builder that you can pay for the job, and will release the money in pre-agreed stages such as: on delivery of materials; on completion of first fix; and on completion of the build but with a percentage held back against ‘snagging’. They often have warrentees and dispute resolution procedures attached too.

Trustmark is a Government approved body which lists tradesmen who are insured and belong to trades bodies. Although this is not a failsafe method of choosing a builder it will rule out any fly-by-night traders who do not want to join trades bodies because of the way they do business. The attitude of a builder who bothers to get insurance is much more professional, and trades bodies often have dispute ombudsmen attached to their organisations. You can easily check the details out online.

For more information on how to make a Desired Outcome Contract work for you when you are planning building work, please watch this explanatory video.

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