Smart Consumer: What to do when you get that knock on the door. . .
Have you ever been told that you have loose tiles on your roof or your gutter needs fixing? How about paying in cash to someone you have no way of contacting?
A UK survey found that half of all homeowners had been ripped off by rogue tradesmen. While the problem is not as big as that here, according to Pat Doyle from the National Guild of Master Craftsmen, there certainly is a problem as he says, "due to the recession people are chancing their arm at all types of work".
Dermott Jewell from the Consumers' Association of Ireland agrees. "It's growing again because of the black economy", says Jewell, who warns "if there is no record of the work done, no receipt, no list of agreed work and prices, then you have no come-back."
Jewell advises that "you need to choose someone whose credentials you know and someone you can contact in years to come".
So think twice as you could end up spending a lot of money for shoddy work or work that isn't needed at all.
The key thing is to be aware of the signs that should alert you to the fact that everything is not as it should be and after that follow the rules.
They can't prove who they are: If they say they are representing a company but you're not sure, don't be afraid to ask for ID.
If they are who they say they are, they won't mind. If they can't offer ID or give company details, don't continue the conversation.
The shock tactic: If a trader knocks at your door, never agree to on-the-spot house repairs, or sign anything there and then, even if they tell you that something is unsafe or needs to be repaired immediately. In other words, don't immediately believe what they say.
The pressure sell: Be wary of special offers, especially time-limited and exclusive offers, and of warnings that your house is unsafe. These are high-pressure sales tactics and are against the law.
They found you: In other words, a bogus seller is usually not one you have sought out, but one who has approached you. You don't know who they are and did not ask for their service or product.
Do not make snap decisions. Take time to talk to someone you trust before you make a decision; a neighbour, family member or community group. Always shop around to compare products and prices.
Think twice before you buy. If you are made to feel under pressure to make a purchase, have the confidence to say no. Remember, it's not personal; it's business.
Cooling-off. If you spend more than €40 with a trader who has called around unsolicited, you have a seven-day cooling-off period in which you can change your mind. Of course, if the trader isn't legitimate, it's going to be hard to invoke your rights.
Don't let them in. If you don't know the person at your door, don't let them in. Keep an eye on neighbours, especially those living alone.
Now that you've taken care of the chancers, if it turns out you do need work done, there are three golden rules you should follow: know who you are dealing with; get quotes; and take your time to choose.
That means getting contact details, references and recommendations; getting three detailed quotes so that you can compare properly; and taking your time to make the right choice.