Brighton and Hove City Council Trading Standards is urging local residents to be on the alert against rogue builders after seeing a dramatic rise in complaints over the past year.
Complaints about rogue home improvement services including roof repairs, extensions and landscaping have escalated to an ‘exceedingly worrying level’ according to the service, which has received more than 200 reports about rogues over the past year, involving sums ranging from £5,000 to £250,000.
It is estimated that nationally, unscrupulous traders cost homeowners about £3.5bn every year.
Investigations into rogue builders and contractors can prove particularly difficult since there is often a lack of documentation provided, and victims are often encouraged to pay in cash.
Cold-callers in particular often target vulnerable people, knocking at the door and ‘advising’ that a loose tile on the roof can be fixed for a few pounds. Once the homeowner has agreed to the work, costs can then spiral out of control, with an entire new roof costing anything from £80,000 to £150,000.
The Brighton and Hove team is warning residents that engaging with traders who are not fully qualified, insured and competent can result in devasting financial losses and leave their homes in potentially dangerous conditions.
Councillor Leslie Pumm, Chair of Brighton and Hove City Council Equalities, Community Safety & Human Rights Committee, said: “There are a lot of very good, reputable builders in the city. But we are concerned about reports of rogue operators targeting residents, including the elderly and vulnerable.
“Such exploitative practices cause unnecessary distress and financial strain on consumers and often cause more issues than they fixed.
“We ask everyone to always make sure you are dealing with a reputable builder and get details confirmed in writing, before making any payment.
“If you feel like you were a victim of a rogue builder, do not hesitate to contact Citizens Advice and spread the word among your friends and neighbours to ensure it won’t be easy for them to find more business.”