As landlords, we have all struggled with building trades over the years – big jobs are easy, you have a surveyor or similar to manage it, a contract with a builder chosen by tender and whilst much of the work is done 'as fast as possible' as opposed to as 'well as possible' generally, as long as the snags get properly recorded and resolved all is well. But...
The issue is the smaller stuff, whether it be a replacement kitchen or worse, an issue with a dodgy tap or broken guttering. There is a network of small traders we use for these jobs – typically they like working alone or with one other, so they avoid the bigger jobs but also, they don't get the bigger jobs as they don't have the resources, track record or time to focus on winning them.
That leaves us having to find someone to do whatever job is required and if they are good, you wonder why they are fixing taps or gutters instead of bigger jobs, and then the 2nd or 3rd time you use them they are harder to get hold of or not quite so reliable – is that a result of high demand and them trying to please everyone or the underlying reason why they operate at the bottom of the building trades pond?
It is not simply a question of skill levels or craftsmanship. Let me give you an example – one local trader was in court this week having pleaded guilty to 6 counts of contravening professional diligence and 1 count of engaging in misleading commercial practice. The News headline read "Shoddy builder who left Portsmouth homeowners with wrecked homes avoids jail" (see it here) but that is not the whole story – he did some work for me several years ago on several of my properties. His modus operandi soon became clear – he worked nights for British Rail, slept in the morning and then did some jobs, often with his son, during the afternoon. The work he did was generally good, but while up on the roof he might loosen a bit of a firewall or damage some flashing so that he could either highlight it and generate some more work or leave it and wait to be called back.
OK – so he was obviously a rogue, so what? Well, the problem is – he was also a craftsman. On my own house he stripped the tiles from the front of my bay, insulated the bay with Celotex or similar boarding, plastic wrapped and sealed it and then replaced to the tiles. To look at it, you would never guess they had ever been removed and look at the photo showing the lead flashing. He diligently sat on the driveway with a roll of lead, a knife, a glass bottle and a straight edge and skilfully cut the lead into the patterned flashing shown.
With those skills he could have run a successful business, built on word of mouth without the need for any shoddy practices – yet he obviously got more satisfaction 'getting one over' the people he worked for than he did using the skills he obviously had. Such a shame that some people can't be happy just doing their best. So please watch out and be careful (and always use and update our recommended traders!)