‘Be vigilant’ households in Cambridgeshire urged as millions targeted by rogue traders
Households in Cambridgeshire are urged to be vigilant this summer after it emerged more than one-in-six adults across the UK has been impacted by rogue traders in the past year.
The warning comes amid concerns ‘cowboy tradespeople’ are seeking to take advantage of consumers looking to cut back on the cost of home improvement or maintenance work in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis and stretched household finances.
Unqualified individuals may impersonate heating technicians, plumbers and other skilled tradespeople. Their work can lead to unsafe or inefficient heating systems and additional costs – with the average homeowner spending over £1,883 to repair rogue work (CIPHE).
In response OFTEC, a registration body for off-gas grid heating, is encouraging households in Norfolk to do their research before booking a tradesperson and to avoid attempting dangerous DIY repairs to cut costs. The advice includes:
Ask for credentials. Before letting a tradesperson work in your home, check they are registered, qualified and part of their industry’s Workmanship Warranty scheme. If you need your boiler serviced, make sure the technician is registered with GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for heating oil, solid fuel or renewable heating technologies like heat pumps) as they have undergone professional training and are regularly inspected to ensure they are following best practice.
Don’t just take their word for it. Anyone can create a professional looking website, leaflet or business card. Always search for the company’s name online to see if there are any complaints from other customers. If you use oil, solid fuel or renewable heating to heat your home, you can use the ‘Find a Technician’ tool on the OFTEC website to find a registered technician.
Avoid last minute or DIY repairs. Now the UK is out of lockdown, demand has soared for home improvement services – meaning you may have to wait longer for a visit from your usual tradesperson. If you need an urgent repair, check your options carefully and don’t rush to book the first person you find without checking their credentials. When it comes to your heating system, do not attempt DIY repairs yourself as this can have potentially very dangerous consequences.
Don’t cut back on regular maintenance. Keeping your heating system in good condition helps to avoid problems and additional costs further down the line. Over the summer months, make sure you turn your boiler back on for a short period of time every few weeks to stop the interior parts from seizing up. If you notice any issues with your heating system, don’t put off booking a technician. The summer is a good time to have your boiler serviced before the winter months when emergency call outs can be expensive.
Beware of strangers at your door. Be cautious of unexpected doorstep traders, especially if they try to pressure you into making a quick decision. Don’t hesitate to take a step back and ask them to return another time so you can consider their offer.
Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: “As the cost of living increases, many consumers are understandably trying to save money wherever they can. Rogue traders are sadly using this situation to target households with pressure selling and shoddy workmanship.
“Always do your research before letting a tradesperson in your home, and don’t be afraid to ask for their credentials. Whilst it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, if you’re quoted a price significantly lower than all the others it could be a scam that leaves you with an expensive repair bill. It’s important to remember only qualified tradespeople should work on a heating system so don’t be tempted to try to fix the problem yourself.”
“If genuine, a trader will be more than happy to prove their identity and qualification details. For oil households, if you have any concerns about a heating technician, contact OFTEC directly for advice and support.”
More information about rogue traders can be found on the Citizens Advice website here. You can find a local registered heating technician near you at www.oftec.org or www.gassaferegister.co.uk.