2019 10 17
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How Landlords can Avoid being Ripped off by Rogue Traders

You don’t have to delve too deep into a Google search to find a news story or scathing blog about rogue landlords in the private rented sector.

But what about landlords themselves who fall victim to rogues in other industries?

Well, the stories are harder to find, unsurprisingly, but it does happen. And more often than you probably think.

In fact, it happened just this summer to a landlord down in Bristol, who was left close to bankruptcy having fallen victim to a cowboy builder.

And the most worrying thing about that particular case?

The tradesman in question had great reviews on the Rated People website and was, at first, second and probably third glance, completely legitimate and trustworthy.

So, if you can trust a review site, how can you be sure the tradespeople you’re bringing in to work on your rental properties aren’t going to rip you off?

Spend a lot of time vetting

You spend vast time (and money if you’re using a professional letting agent) to vet your tenants, right?

Because you want to ensure the people living in your property will be able to pay the rent and will take good care of your bricks and mortar.

So, you should absolutely do the same when it comes to tradespeople.

Thorough background checks are the order of the day and while the case mentioned above saw that particular landlord burned despite positive reviews, generally online is the best place to start.

Look for reviews on sites like Checkatrade, TrustMark and Buy With Confidence, but do so with a degree of scepticism.

Look out for batches of overly positive or negative reviews, one after the other and for reviews that lack detail or specifics about a particular job.

These can be tell-tell signs that the reviews in question are fake. Also only take in reviews from verified users.

Focus on what is written about a particular tradesperson rather than any star rating given. Often, once you’ve read a review properly, the rating simply doesn’t match up with the comments.

Google is your friend

You can find pretty much anything online with the right search.

When you’ve narrowed your list of potential tradespeople down to a handful based on their online reviews, type their name into Google followed by the words ‘scam’, ‘rogue’ or ‘cowboy’.

If your chosen trades have done anything wrong on previous jobs, details should pop up from either other reviews or news articles from local or national newspapers.

Speak to other landlords

Being a landlord can sometimes be a lonely, isolated job.

The best way to root out bad eggs either in the private rented sector or in trades is to network with other property investors in your area.

Okay, in many senses they are the competition when it comes to securing good tenants, but people are always better together and helping one another out with advice and recommendations of trades is beneficial to everyone.

Speak to other landlords and get recommendations. Vocally vouching for someone will always carry more weight than an online review.

Don’t pay huge amounts of money up front

Even if you feel you’ve done as much due diligence as you can and are as confident as you can be that your chosen tradespeople are trustworthy and legitimate, it’s time to seek quotes.

But beware: Any request for a large payment up front should set the alarm bells ringing.

A small deposit is usually all that’s required to show you are serious about having the work done and this is sufficient to protect the tradesperson’s interests.

If you are asked for a large payment in advance, question it and gauge the tradesperson’s reaction. Tall tales about shortages of materials or up-front payments for labourers should be a big red flag.

Use a good lettings agent to manage your properties

If you already use a lettings agent to look after your buy-to-let property or properties, then you should be benefiting from the agent’s trusted list of certified contractors and tradespeople.

If you’re not, then doing so could take a lot of the stress of self-managing away – and there’s nothing more stressful as a landlord than being ripped off by a trader.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our full management service at Martin & Co Chelmsford, get in touch and one of the team will explain everything.

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