Finding a trades firm

You need to get together a long list of potential tradespeople and then check out the firms to reach your shortlist. Ask your shortlisted trade firms to give you a written quote.

If you have a property manager, or if you are using an architect or surveyor to commission repairs, they will also have followed a similar course of action to select their panel of trades firms. 

Making a long list

Word of Mouth

  • ask friends and family
  • keep a note of who is carrying out building work in your area and ask owners there whether they would use that firm again
  • another local trader might recommend other firms they have worked alongside
  • your local city heritage trust may know of firms who have worked on similar projects

Trusted Trader Schemes

Some Councils operate a scheme where local tradespeople are invited to register.  These firms are thoroughly checked out and are also required to submit references.  Whilst they are on the register of trusted traders, firms are required to ask their clients for reviews and can be removed from the register if there are no recent reviews. Check your Local Councils' website to see if they operate such a scheme.

Check your local council website

Trade Associations

Trade associations will register members and make, at the least, paper checks to ensure the member is legitimate, solvent and has appropriate qualifications.  They all have an online service where you can find member firms in your locality.

Using a member firm will help avoid cowboys but it doesn’t automatically mean your repair will be problem free. The Trade Associations offer a range of services to the public:

  • complaints procedure -if a contractor is at fault, they will be asked to rectify work (compensation is not generally included)
  • insurance and warranties – normally available at an additional cost, typically around £100
  • inspection programme – where members' workmanship may be checked from time to time. This is not a “signing off” for customers

List of Trade Associations in Scotland.

Trustmark

This is a government backed register of trade firms. To be listed on this website, trade firms need to be members of an approved scheme or trade association, The trades firms must adhere to their approved scheme’s standards and also to the TrustMark Code of Practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care. You can search the website for traders in your area.

Trustmark firms also have access to a basic Warranty – a type of insurance that will cover you in case the firm ceases trading, you need to rectify major defects or there is a failure to meet Building Regulations etc.  You will pay an additional fee for this Warranty.

Trustmark firms also have access to a reasonably priced Escrow Acccount service.  An Escrow Account is one which safely holds your advance payment for a repair but only passes it to your builder once you have given your agreement.  Trade firms like this type of scheme as it ensures they get paid, as long as they complete the good repair they are contracted to provide.  

There is also a user-friendly complaints procedure.

Trustmark warranty protection

Trustmark Escrow Scheme

Commercial online recommendation services

Online recommendation hubs can be a bit hit or miss.  The sites charge trades firms for leads or contracts found through them. Every time you post a search on one of these sites, the trades firm that respond will have either had to pay a fee to get your request or will pay a fee if they get a job.

You can also see a firms’ reviews on these pages.  Some of the online services available are:

While useful for checking customer views of traders, these sites do not give the same assurances as government-backed sites.

Checking potential contractors

It is not easy to make advance checks on quality of workmanship – recommendations are the best way to do this. You can also make visits to check out workmanship on previous jobs and speak to previous customers (ask the trades firm for references).

Ask to see qualifications of any specialists they might be using.

Other checks you can make are essentially paper checks to find out if firms you are looking at are legitimate and reputable.

If you are a domestic client, you are responsible for making reasonable inquiries about the firm’s knowledge of health and safety risks and their track record in managing risk. 

Further guidance

Health and Safety Executive Guidance

Paper checks:

  • search Health & Safety Executive Public Register of Enforcement Notices
  • search Companies House Director Report and Disqualified Director register
  • check membership of any advertised trade associations
  • make sure they have an office address, use headed notepaper and have a landline phone number - firms which operate out of the back of van will struggle with many common repairs
  • if VAT is being charged, make sure there is a VAT number shown - if you are not being charged VAT, the firm may be fine for small or specialist repairs but too small to deal with larger common repairs (or it may be operating in the informal economy – in which case you won’t have any comeback if things go wrong).

Internet checks:

  • google the firm
  • check their Facebook and Twitter feeds (if any)
  • look up key personnel on LinkedIn.

Direct questions to the company:

Ask to see the firm’s:

  • health and safety policy if more than 5 employees
  • public liability insurance and any required employer liability insurances
  • any required licenses - electricians must be Part P approved by one of the electrical bodies such as NICEIC, NAPIT, or ECA; gas installers must be on the Gas Safe register.
  • references

Ask the contractor:

  • who will manage the job and how many other jobs are they managing?
  • what risk assessment they have carried out?
  • their experience and qualifications
  • whether they will use sub-contractors and if so, how are they chosen and managed
  • how long the trader has been in business
  • does the trader offer a guarantee or warranty insurance?
  • what experience they have in the work you need completing