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Householders be wary: a reminder from the Office of Fair Trading 21 February 2013

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading has issued a timely reminder to householders to be wary of using builders who call at their homes without an appointment offering to do work. The OFT is aware of builders who are currently operating on this basis in the Island. Past experience of such builders indicates that the quality of their work is of a poor standard. Despite numerous warnings issued by the OFT consumers are still falling victim.

Consumers approached by these builders are often persuaded to accept their offer because they are cheaper than local builders and they can begin straightaway. Good local building firms may be very busy and not be able to start straightaway but waiting for them is a much better option. Even if problems do occur with their work the firms are still here to sort things out.

Many ‘cowboy’ builders who cold-call not only carry out poor quality work but also use sub-standard materials so the job could be doubly shoddy. Any “guarantees” provided are likely to be worthless. They will often pester householders into having unnecessary work done and have even been known to take their victims to the bank to secure payment. The likelihood of them returning to put work right is minimal unless they think that they can con more money out of their victims. It is often the elderly or the vulnerable who are targeted.

Chief Inspector of Trading Standards, John Peet offers these tips to avoid being the victim of a ‘cowboy builder’:-

  • “Be wary of builders who call at your house without an appointment offering to do work
  • Take time to make sure that the business name is properly registered. You can check registration at
  • Do NOT be pressurised into having unnecessary work done
  • If a builder is pestering you, call the police or Trading Standards for advice
  • Ask for time to think about it before you decide to go ahead with any work – many householders change their minds on reflection when the builder has gone away
  • Do NOT fall for patter such as “We’ve got some tarmac left over from a big job”
  • Take the time to obtain at least two further quotes – be wary if the quote from the cold-caller is significantly cheaper than the others
  • Do NOT part with a significant amount of cash up front
  • Seek the advice of friends, neighbours and relatives before you agree to the work being done
  • Ask for a written breakdown of the work to be carried out – don’t settle for vague written statements, e.g. “Coat roof”

The Office produces a leaflet “Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home” which can be obtained from the Office in Lord Street, Douglas, telephone 686500 or from its website

If a householder is concerned that they may have fallen foul of these problem builders they should contact the Office’s Trading Standards staff on 686520.


In addition to the problems caused to consumers “cowboy builders” also cost the Island’s economy by:-

  • operating on a cash only basis, will not be paying for employer’s liability insurance and the workmen will not declare their earnings for income tax;
  • not paying VAT even though they may earn many thousands on each job;
  • will take work from legitimate builders who do pay their dues

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