The driveway industry is full of professional businesses, but unfortunately sometimes customers can get scammed by unreputable traders.
From amateur “experts”, dodgy working practices and plain old scammers, unscrupulous practices seem to be on the rise. If you know what to look out for, you’ll be less likely to hand over your hard earned money to someone who will run off with it.
We are asked to inspect and rectify so many bad driveway jobs that we have put together this list of common scams and how you can avoid them.
Avoid anyone that asks for full payment upfront! You would be forgiven for thinking that trade businesses would need the money in advance to buy materials but any reputable firm would not ask for the full amount straight away. Most firms will ask you to pay a deposit up front or a proportion of the cost on the first day they start the work, this is perfectly fine but being asked to pay the whole lot upfront should set alarm bells ringing. AVOID.
Shop around to compare prices before you commit to buying - but be aware, cheap is not always cheerful! Whilst it might be tempting to go for the cheapest quote, you may end up getting what you pay for. A reputable firm will talk to you about their prices “per metre” at the consultation visit or even better, advertise their prices on their website. Try to be as specific as possible and make sure that you have a clear idea of what you want the firm to include in your quotation to avoid hidden nasty surprises later on.
Does the company have a website? How long has it been running? This is a great way to check whether a company is in fact reputable or if they are who they say they are. Check if they have case studies advertised - are there any jobs completed locally that you can have a look at? Check Companies House for information on Limited Companies. You can check the Director information and also if they are filing annual returns and if they are solvent.
Any reputable firm will provide a written breakdown of the work involved. Without anything in writing, there’s nothing legally binding for you to fall back on if you encounter any disagreements. It’s also a really helpful way to make sure you’re both clear on the goals you want to achieve. That’s not to say the firms who do everything verbally are not to be trusted, some are “old school” and experienced, but on the whole, get the work description down on paper.
Most businesses are juggling several jobs at any one time, which means if they are taking on new work it will have to fit in around existing projects. If you have a really small amount of work to complete, they may be able to “squeeze you in” but most jobs will have a future start date agreed. Anyone that can start work on the day or the next could be down to their lack of experience or they could be scammers.
It is known that some scammers will carry out work in a town, then move out of the area forever. Your driveway could be left unfinished and it might be incredibly difficult, if not impossible to track the trader down again to rectify or finish the job. So if someone offers to start your job that day, stay vigilant. You might be lucky to get a cancellation slot with a reputable firm but just be aware of potential known scams.
It’s sad but true that the trade industries are rife with scammers posing as reputable firms, inexperienced tradesmen marketing themselves as experts, people passing work off as their own and cowboys who do half a job then disappear off with your money. As long as you keep your wits about you, do your due diligence, ask questions and do your research you most likely will find a decent, hard working business that will do a really good job for you.
But listen to your gut instinct and if it seems to go to be true, it probably is.
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