There are five steps consumers can take to ensure their home improvement project goes as smoothly as possible:
1. Buy from a trader who is a member of an ADR scheme
When it comes to home improvement, it is not just about what you buy, it’s also about who you buy from.
Traders who are members of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme are committed to responsible retailing and will look after their consumers from the pre-purchase enquiries right through the installation, snagging works and if anything goes wrong down the line.
2. Know your obligations
It is not all about the trader’s obligations. There is an obligation on you to research what you are buying and check that it has been correctly ordered. Also, your installer has the obligation to check that the design and ordered product will work in the space you have, and that they can install it. This is known as the pre-fit survey and is done to highlight any issues before the installation begins.
3. Expect disruption but plan ahead
Whatever your project is, you can be certain there will be a lot of disruption and mess! You can mitigate this by:
- Removing anything breakable and valuable – even with the most careful of fitters, accidents can happen;
- making provision for your pets – it will be your responsibility to make sure they are safe and out of the way;
- making sure that any deviation from the initial plan is agreed and followed up in writing so that everything is clear.
4. Expect snagging work
Once the installer has left your property, there may still be some additional works to be completed – this is known as snagging and is usually left until the end to deal with the minor matters which may occur once the space is in use, so plan for a return visit to assess this as a matter of course.
If there is anything you are not happy with, this should be picked up and documented at the sign-off stage.
5. Adjust your expectations if something goes wrong
If things do go wrong, the legal remedy would be repeat performance. You might be able to claim compensation for delays, however, compensation for inconvenience itself is particularly difficult to quantify.
There is also a duty on you to keep losses to a reasonable minimum – you are more likely to get a refund on a microwave or a camping stove with a little extra towards your increased food costs, than reimbursement of a dinner at an expensive restaurant. But if you do incur extra costs because of overruns etc., do keep your receipts and try to agree the additional expenditure upfront.
Remember, if things don’t go according to plan and the trader cannot put things right, you can have your experience independently reviewed by an Ombudsman at the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman.