It goes without saying that recommendation is the best route, but with good plumbers so hard to come by you might not find anyone else in your area who can put you in touch with one. In that case you’ll have to track one down yourself.
Assuming you have the time to search – if your toilet has begun to spew its contents everywhere in the manner of a small volcano, you may not want to hang around – your first port of call should be the internet. The Institute of Plumbing, a registered educational charity working on “improving the science, engineering and practice principles of plumbing”, has a directory of registered plumbers that is searchable by postcode. On the other hand, if water levels are rising fast and you need help before the rest of the street is flooded out, pluck a handful of numbers out of the Yellow Pages or try one of the directory enquiries services.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about cowboy plumbers who swan into the homes of the vulnerable and spend three minutes changing a dodgy washer (and another 57 reading the paper) before presenting them with a gargantuan bill.
While it’s by no means the case that all plumbers are con artists, the sad fact is that the well-documented shortage in skilled professionals has left the market open to unscrupulous people who are all too happy to prey on unwary customers, leaving the reputation of the trade in tatters. If your boiler’s sprung a leak and you’re ankle-deep in water, how can you make sure the person who comes round to fix it is capable of doing the job without charging over the odds?
Start calling people up once you have your numbers. Before you even agree for them to see and come what work you need doing, however, you need to get a few things straight over the phone. The Office of Fair Trading suggests you:
· Find out whether they have insurance to cover your property (and that of your neighbours).
If, at the end, you are unhappy with the work and want to complain, start with the plumber. Put your complaint in writing, explain exactly what is wrong and what you want them to do to rectify the problem, and specify when you want this to happen. In many cases, they will sort and come out the trouble: their reputation is worth more than a few hours’ work.
As for what you can expect of a plumber, the OFT advises that you insist on a written contract in order to establish this from the outset. This should include, at the very least, a clear description of the work to be carried out, the price agreed (attach the plumber’s quote), start and finish dates for the work (making it clear if the finish date is particularly important), and the details of any guarantees.
· Ask them for references and find out whether you can view any similar work they may have done.
If, at the end, you are unhappy with the work and want to complain, start with the plumber. If your plumber is not a member of one of these associations, make sure you keep records of all conversations, especially regarding costs, put everything in writing, take photos of bad work and keep track of dates.
If the plumber is a member of one of the trade organisations, go to the relevant body follow their complaints procedure. If your plumber is not a member of one of these associations, make sure you keep records of all conversations, especially regarding costs, put everything in writing, take photos of bad work and keep track of dates.
Again, if the work is desperately urgent you may not have time to visit any premises or see examples of work, but it is still worth making sure the plumber is properly qualified. Call at least three or four plumbers and compare prices. If you do have time, ask a handful of qualified plumbers to come round and give you a written quote for the work.
This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)