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Essential Repairs

Picture the scene. It's a Saturday night the middle of January, it's snowing and your central heating system decides to give up the ghost. What do you do? You have two young children who are too young to just grin and bear it. So there is no other option than to call out an emergency plumber. This can cost an arm and a leg and because you are so desperate you will pretty much pay anyone who looks like they even have a remote chance of fixing the problem.

So the problem is fixed and you can go back to sleep, but two weeks later it happens again. It looks like you've been done! A recent government survey found 10% of British citizens have had to correct work undertaken by 'rouge traders' - a 16% increase on 2007/8.

How do you know if the builder, plumber or electrician is reliable? We let complete strangers into our homes, give them cups of tea and quite often a spare key, but can we really trust them. In most cases, the answer is yes, but evidently there is a small percentage we shouldn't trust.

So what can you do? Firstly you should get yourself some decent home insurance. Most policies will cover you in an incident such as the one described here and it will cost you considerably less. Kwik Fit Insurance for example, has a 24-hour helpline available with its home insurance policies. The call centre can give you advice on what to do and recommendations on trusted local builders listed on the Federation of Master Builders list, so you don't have to go to some dodgy dealer.

Be wary of VAT free deals. Money may be tight right now and the last thing you want to spend it on is a repair job, but if a builder offers to knock off the vat if you pay cash, warning flags should go off in your head.

Make sure you get all quotes in writing, including breakdowns of material and labour costs and a rough estimate of when the works are expected to be completed. Don't pay in advance and never pay more than a 15% deposit.

Remember at all times that it's a business relationship, not a friendship so should be treated as such. Don't be afraid of being the boss.

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