If work on the building goes wrong leaseholders will look to you, as a managing agent or director of the residents’ management company, for an explanation and to put it right.
In a worst-case scenario, they may also hold you liable for any losses or inconveniences they suffer; and then you may require the protection of Directors & Officers Liability insurance specifically written for RMC directors, or Professional Indemnity cover for residential property managing agents.
We’ll look at steps to be taken when jobs go wrong in a future blog, but here we want to focus on helping to finding a contractor and avoiding problems.
While it is always easiest to work with a tradesman or contractor you know, there will be times when you need to find someone new. You’ll find plenty of advice from online ratings and recommendation sites that claim to check and vet their trade members.
Yet unsurprisingly, they cannot give any warranty or guarantee for the quality of work and service provided and, of course, the tradesman has usually paid to be listed – either many £100s per annum for a subscription or paying per lead. These sites often collate customer feedback to give you some benefit of “word of mouth”, albeit once removed.
The Citizens Advice Bureau recommends that you check traders out with TrustMark, the
Government-approved register of trades including electricians, plumbers, renewable technology installers and both specialist (damp, roofing etc.) and general builders.
Always check the credentials of the people you are considering using. Sometimes rogue traders make false claims about being a member of a trusted organization so ask to see their ID/membership badge.
Except for really simple jobs, beware of handyman types and, if they are immediately available ask yourself why they don’t have any work?
Good reliable tradesmen are always busy and don’t need to knock on doors to get work. Be extra careful about using anyone who has put a leaflet through your letterbox or advertised in small ads in local papers too.
Always get references from recent customers and take them up. Try to speak to people who have had similar work done to what you are planning. Does their van or vehicle inspire confidence? If they give you a trading address, why not drive past to get a better feel for the people you will be entrusting your home to?
Fully explain exactly what work you want doing and any specifications you require. It is a good idea to have a written brief to ensure all contractors are pricing on the same information. Keep a written note of conversations.
You’ll probably want to get at least three written fixed price quotations for the work. Remember an estimate is just that and the final price is not fixed. Be sure to know if it includes VAT to avoid nasty surprises later, and to ensure you are comparing quotes on a level playing field.
Is their work covered by any independent warranty or guarantee? Are they insured? If there is a request for advance payment for materials, alarm bells should start ringing; a good firm or individual will have at least monthly credit terms at their merchant.
On completion of the works to your satisfaction, be ready to pay their invoice promptly – or in stages, if that has been agreed, for longer-term jobs. Don’t forget that for bigger jobs, where works will cost over £250 for any one contributing leaseholder, you may need to undertake a Section 20 consultation with all leaseholders.
They may want to suggest alternative contractors, whom you will then need to invite to quote. It is not, by the way, permissible simply to split the works up into smaller tranches and avoid this consultation process.
Finally, do keep written records: before any work starts draw up a simple contract detailing at least what work will be done and when, the cost and the how long the job will take and what if any preparations you need to make before they can start, such as moving furniture, cutting back hedges or clearing outhouses. Ask the tradesman or builder to sign it. And never pay in cash if you want to keep unambiguous records of payments.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.