Homeowners across Devon, Torbay and South West are being warned by Trading Standards to be alert following concerns that increasing numbers of people are being duped by rogue builders.
In the last financial year (2021/2022) The Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service received almost 800 complaints – averaging more than two a day – from householders across the service area regarding building work totalling more than £9.5m.
The complaints relate to work including loft conversions, extensions, roofing, chimney work, paving, driveways, decking and general building work.
The concerns reflect a rise in the number of building fraud claims across the South West’s 11 trading standards authorities last year, with the highest value claim worth over £420,000.
Rogue builders use a range of tactics to trick homeowners into using them. The latest methods include fake online reviews, posting on social media sites and advertising on non-verified online platforms. Charging upfront and asking for more money for apparently increased material costs were also common complaints put to Trading Standards.
Sherry Carter from Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service said: “We continue to receive a large volume of complaints about building work and since April 1 this year we have received more than two complaints every day. The complaints received included both civil and criminal matters.
“We’re really keen that people arm themselves with the knowledge they need to make the right decisions and they can do that with advice and guidance available on the Trading Standards South West website.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “It is not surprising that the upward trend in home improvements since the pandemic has led to increased activity by rogue builders. Despite many complainants having done some due diligence before instructing works, this was not sufficient to protect them from the fraudsters.
“We hope that by raising awareness of building fraud, we will educate consumers, give them the confidence to make the right decisions and make it more difficult for fraudsters to operate.
“If you’re looking to have work done then Trading Standards always advise you get recommendations from friends and family, Trade Associations or from the Trading Standards run ‘Buy with Confidence’ approved trader scheme.”
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