If 2021 is the year you are looking to make major home improvements, make sure you are using a reputable company and know the signs to look out for that someone may be a potential rogue trader.

Herefordshire Council Trading Standards Service manager, David Hough, said: “Homeowners have to be particularly careful when choosing a workman or builder. Don’t just rely on on-line reviews, get recommendations from people you know and ask around.

“You should always check whether someone working in your home is actually a member of the trade body they claim to be in and are bound by an effective arbitration service within that organisation should you wish to complain.

“Major building work involve considerable amounts of money and stage payments should only be made once satisfactory work has been completed at that stage. In addition you should ensure that payments are only made into the proper business bank account of the builder, whether it is a Limited company or a sole trader.”

Hereford rogue trader receives suspended sentence 

In a case taken by Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards Service, builder Gerald James Smith (53), Credenhill, was sentenced to 32 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and pay £7200 in court costs.

Mr Smith, director of GJS Carpentry and Building Contractors Ltd, had previously pleaded guilty to three charges, one involving false use of the Guild of Master Craftsmen logo on his vans, website, paperwork and on an advertisement sign. Mr Smith’s membership of the Guild had been terminated in 2018 due to failure to engage over complaints.

A second charge under Unfair Trading Regulations related to extensions built for five Hereford home owners. The work was either unfinished or took up to 18 months longer to complete than it should have done and work suddenly slowed up after final payments were made. More seriously, Mr Smith had got the five customers to pay over £270,000 into bank accounts other than that of his company, mainly into his personal current account. This left customers with no realistic prospect of obtaining compensation if they sued the company.

The third charge was for running GJS Carpentry and Building Contractors Ltd while he was disqualified from doing so due to being an undischarged bankrupt. Mr Smith, being banned as a director for a year due to bankruptcy, had duped one of his labourers into being the company director during that period. The labourer claimed to be totally unaware he was the director and Mr Smith still had total control over the company’s trading.

Herefordshire Council Trading Standards Service manager, David Hough, added: “We will not hesitate to prosecute, so that residents are protected from rogue traders.”

Anyone requiring advice on a dispute with a trader is urged to contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 2231133.