After complaints about ‘cowboy builders’ soared by a third last year (Citizens Advice report, 2022), households are urged to be vigilant amid fears of a further rise this Spring as rogue traders seek to take advantage of the cost of living crisis.


A warning has been issued that, as well as work being potentially unsafe, victims of unscrupulous traders could face further complications and difficulty selling their home as the enforcement of building regulations is tightened.


Certain work in the home, such as an extension or installation of a new heating system, must be correctly notified with the local authority, either directly, through a private building inspector or a technician registered with a competent person scheme who can ‘self certify’.


The responsibility typically lies with the tradesperson and tighter regulations mean they could face up to two years imprisonment if rules aren’t followed. However, local authorities may serve an enforcement notice on the property owner requiring work which does not meet building regulations to be redone or removed. If the owner does not take action, the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs from the owner.


In response OFTEC, a registration body for heating technicians, is urging households to check the credentials of any tradesperson when having work done in the home to ensure all the regulations are correctly followed:


1.     Beware of unexpected tradespeople at your door. If you receive an unexpected knock at the door from someone offering to undertake work in your property, don’t be pressured into making a quick decision. It’s important to do some further research and consider all the options available before proceeding.


2.     ‘Look for the badge’ and check their credentials. Check the tradesperson has the appropriate qualifications and experience to complete the work safely by asking to see their credentials. This is particularly true for a technician installing or servicing a heating system. Using technicians registered with a competent person scheme, such as OFTEC for oil heating, solid fuel or renewable work, means they can ‘self certify’ that the work meets building regulations, making the process quicker and cheaper.


3.     Get multiple quotes for the work. Speak with two or three tradespeople to obtain different quotes to compare. Rogue traders often entice people with seemingly ‘cheap’ offers, but this can be a sign that they will cut corners which may end up costing you more in the long run. It’s also a good idea to speak with family or neighbours for recommendations.


4.     Do your own research. Familiarise yourself with some of the key requirements when you are having work undertaken in your home. For example, will you need planning permission? Is the work compliant with building regulations? Will the work need to be notified, such as in the case of a new or replacement heating system installation.


5.     Don’t just take their word for it. It’s much easier today for rogue traders to create a professional looking website, leaflet or online advert to use to make their offer more compelling. Always search for the company’s name online to see if there are any complaints from other customers, or news story where they have been identified as an unscrupulous worker.


Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: "Spring is a time when many of us are looking to make improvements to our homes and gardens but, it’s unfortunately also a time when rogue traders are more prevalent. With finances squeezed in the current cost of living crisis, it may be tempting to go for a cheap option offered on your doorstep, but there are significant risks with not doing your research which is why we’ve published this guidance.


“Building regulations are being tightened to clamp down on tradesperson who don’t follow the rules. However, this also impacts homeowners who may have to cover the costs of redoing the work to make it compliant or face sanctions from their local authority. Not to mention difficulty selling the house in the future. A reputable tradesperson should always be happy to speak with you if you have any questions about the approval process.”


You can find a local registered heating technician near you at for oil heating, solid fuel or renewables, or for mains gas.