How to avoid cowboy builders

Lisa Raynes

by Lisa Raynes

08/02/2022, in Design Hints and Tips | Main Blog

For many people thinking of renovating their homes or property, one of the most important questions is where and how to find a reliable, trustworthy builder to help them. Pride Road recognises this, so we met with Mat Maddocks, a risk software designer who works in financial services, on how to best help our clients protect themselves and avoid cowboy builders particularly. There are plenty of ways to do this, most of which are outlined in Maddocks’ new app ‘DevelopSafe’.

If something goes wrong during a project, it can have very negative effects financially, on your health and on your home or property, which is why we have compiled a list of strategies on how best to ensure a smooth-running operation:

Do thorough research about your builder:

  • Check that your builder is registered on companies house and have a solid history ideally over 5 years, watch out for changes in directors, resignations and ‘Phoenix’ companies.
  • Check your builders’ references, not just clients, but architects, structural engineers and building inspectors.
  • When the builder gives you the address of the property they have completed, check the council website for the name of the architect, and check it was built as it was designed. You can also use google earth to check.
  • Draw up a contract with your builder.
  • Check that everyone involved in the project has the correct insurance.

This may sound like a lot to do on your own, which is one of the reasons why Mat Maddocks came up with his app ‘DevelopSafe’. It has various strategies to protect yourself from potential problems:

  • General resources. This page serves as a curated library of information you should know before beginning a project including relevant articles, fact sheets and more.
  • The first checklist is for your building work and it supplies you with a list of things you need to do or check before beginning e.g. whether you are in a conservation area or not/whether you have planning permission or not.
  • The second checklist is for your builder or structural engineer and it provides you with a list of things to check about that professional before beginning e.g. whether they are registered or not.
  • A unique email. The third thing Maddocks’ app offers is a unique email for you and your team to use solely for your project, which is extremely beneficial as it works as a single source of communications, ensuring everyone’s coordination.

Whilst these assets help you generally with your project, they simultaneously work in your favour legally. Firstly, your checklists mean that you will have taken all the appropriate steps for your protection beforehand, lessening any risk. Secondly, if something were to go wrong, all evidence would be in the same place due to your unique email address, saving both time and money.


More advantages of using ‘DevelopSafe’ pre-build and mid-build:

  • The checklists have very simple steps.
  • The app is easy to navigate.
  • You can add more than one builder at a time and work through checklists for each of them separately so that you’re able to assess your options and choose the best one.
  • You can type in the builders’ or company name and it’ll give you some information about them, as well as external links to their websites.
  • You can upload your contract with your builder to the app.
  • You can upload photographs about your project to the app.
  • In the future, Maddocks plans to work with a law firm and create a monthly subscription within the app which clients can use to speak to a lawyer about their project.

Overall, to ensure your best experience while renovating your home or property, you need to do all the appropriate research, specifically surrounding the people and companies you’ll be working with. Pride Road will help you with that every step of the way, with the assistance of ‘DevelopSafe’.

Written by Eliza Mulready-Carroll