Kicking out rogues

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell reports on the latest attempts to rid the construction industry of rogue traders.

Today sees the launch of a mandatory licensing scheme that has been designed to combat the image that the construction industry is unprofessional.

The new Construction Licensing Task Force has the backing of several professional bodies, including Fensa, Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and Which? Trusted Traders, and aims to “transform the sector into a high quality and professional industry”.

I have yet to delve into the details of the scheme, but the pan-industry scheme has widespread support and is a response to some embarrassing statistics, such as: one third (32%) of homeowners are put off doing major home improvement works requiring a builder because they fear hiring a dodgy builder, which means that the UK economy could be missing out on £10 billion of construction activity; and more than half of people (55%) who commission home improvement work have had a negative experience with their builder.

According to surveys, more than three-quarters of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms support the introduction of licensing to professionalise the industry, as do 78% of consumers. Furthermore, nearly 90% of homeowners believe that the government should criminalise rogue and incompetent builders.

Interestingly, I also received a news story from Supalite this week regarding the part it played in sending two rogue builders to prison.

Durham Trading Standards told the company that a homeowner had complained about a SupaLite roof installation. Following an investigation, it became apparent that this was a cladover, falsely sold as a SupaLite tiled roof.

SupaLite acted as a witness to the case, as the two men told homeowners they were approved suppliers of the SupaLite tiled roof system. The pair pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud consumers and were sentenced to 32 months each in prison.

According to Liz Peace, who will chair the task force: “Mandatory licensing has the potential to transform our industry into a world-leading sector. Licensing will help drive up standards and help address the issue of quality and professionalism, which is some areas, is falling short.”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “It’s unacceptable that more than half of consumers have had a negative experience with their builder. However, we shouldn’t be surprised by this given that in the UK, it is perfectly legal for anyone to set up a building firm and start selling their services without any prior experience or qualifications.”