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SPICE Business has received a number of reports of restaurant owners being fleeced by cowboy renovators. The problem isn’t just that the work they do is of a poor standard, it is the sums of money involved, coupled with the potential for the property becoming unsafe. With most TV channels

covering cowboy tradesman horror stories, why do people still get caught out? Firstly, cowboys are charming. Secondly, they are usually offering to do the work more cheaply, and without VAT, if payments are made in cash. This can be a false economy.

If you pay cash and avoid VAT, it is unlikely you will get guarantees for the work and any warranties. Most of the ‘good guys’ will provide a guarantee, anything from 12 months to even 10 years. If they go bust, the really good guys will back this up with a warranty so you can still get

work fixed. With ‘cowboys’ you have little third party recourse if things go wrong. Professional tradesmen will

belong to organisations which require them to sign up to a code of practice; often this means you have a free, independent body to complain to. As a condition of membership, they will need to operate within the law, which includes paying taxes. Choosing people who don’t belong to these organisations could mean having to go to court to get money back or jobs fixed, which could cost thousands of pounds. Even then it might not be possible to secure money from the ‘cowboys’, as they may go bust or claim to have no assets. Moreover a tradesperson willing to avoid taxes isn’t likely to keep up-to-date with changes to planning permission, building regulations, rules on gas, electrical safety and fitting glass, for example. So the work may actually be illegal, and it will be

Spice Cottage damaged in lorry crash

A LINCOLNSHIRE restaurant has been extensively damaged after an articulated lorry left the road and crashed into it. No customers at Spice Cottage were hurt and the 69-year- old driver of the lory escaped with minor injuries. Reports suggested that the side of the restaurant in

Whaplode looked ‘like a bomb had hit it’ with a gaping hole in the building. Fire crews have shored up the building to make it safe and the circumstances of the crash are being investigated by the police. n 37

the customer’s responsibility to fix it. The renovation work could

even make your business unsafe. The project may require a Gas Safe engineer or a qualified electrician such as a NAPIT member. Glazing fitters need to belong to FENSA and using a roofer that is a member of an organisation such as the Confederation of Roofing Contractors is wise. Spice Business recommends

only using contractors who are reputable, and provide VAT invoices, offer warranties, and can demonstrate that they have the right qualifications. Restaurant owners should also carry out a reference check of the builder before committing funds, if possibly going to see work carried out, or at least talk to other customers to check that everything was satisfactory. Having spent so much time and effort building up a business why put it at risk for the sake of a few pounds? n

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