Advice for homeowners


Meet your
FENSA Advisor

This is Harry.

You might recognise him from our TV ad.

Harry works for a FENSA Approved installation company. He's on a mission to help professionalise installers and protect homeowners across the UK, so he started this advice column.

Can You Spot a Cowboy?

I know what you are thinking. You're thinking:"of course I can - the hat, the horse and the 6 shooter gives it away", and you're right. But can you just as easily spot cowboy builders? Probably not. Cowboy builders like these don't conform to a particular look in the same fashion as Billy the Kid did. Here are two quick facts, which make for uncomfortable reading:


  • According to the Trading Standards, it is estimated that more than 106,000 complaints about rogue traders are logged every year!
  • Disreputable companies carrying out substandard work wastes £1.5billion each year


How to Protect Yourself from Cowboy Builders


If you are just starting out on some improvements to your home and looking for a window installer, then why not check the Glazing Installer Search for registered fitters in your area. All you need do is provide your postcode and the website brings back a list of trusted FENSA registered installers. The result list will provide you with a company name, address, contact details and wherever possible email options. We also show their FENSA registered number.


Of course though, you may already have an installer in mind, or your builder is putting you in touch with one, so what can you do? Well, in this case, look for the FENSA logo. If you don't notice one, ask if they are a FENSA registered company. If a company is registered with FENSA (and some 9,000+ businesses are) then that means the installer is subject to regular assessments on adherence to Building Regulations standards.


Registered Builders


FENSA only work with registered builders to make sure they meethe highest possible standards. A FENSA certificate is usually the crucial difference between cowboy builders and registered ones. FENSA's certificate proves thathe product, and the company providing it, are legally compliant. Without FENSA's approval, it's unlawful to install new products for homes, meaning most cowboy builders are acting illegally.


Fortunately, finding registered installers is easy. All you have to do is check for the FENSA logo, and to make sure with FENSA themselves thathey're part of their network. When you choose FENSA installers, you'll avoid the pitfalls of cowboy builders for good. Also, you'll feel the difference working with trusted local installers. You'll get a more thorough installation, personalised service and fair value.


Remember, you can contact FENSA to check if a company is FENSA registered. If you are told they are, then still check, as some cowboy builders stop at nothing to try and trick you. There are a number of give-away signs with cowboy builders. Just like the outlaws of the wild west, there are certain attributes you find all cowboy builders have. Here are some of the telling signs of a cowboy:


  • References: A cowboy wont want to provide you with details of previous jobs. Ask yourself why?
  • Contract: Cowboy builders will inevitable try to avoid any written agreements and may even suggest that a contract is not needed.
  • Cheap Deals: Ah, the cheap 'for one day only' offers - often cowboy builders try to overwhelm you with these type of offers to make you part with cash up front.
  • VAT: Often a cowboy builder will do you a VAT free deal for cash.
  • Time frames: Cowboy builders often will not agree on firm time frames or completion dates.
  • Competition: Cowboy builders are often underhand when talking about competition, often criticising competitors greatly.
  • Premises: Contact details are often just mobile numbers. A reputable company should provide business cards with full details, names, registered business addresses and contact numbers. Some will also have their own websites.
  • Start straight away: A cowboy builder will often state he can start straight away. Good window fitters are often in constant demand, so starting straight away isn't always something they can offer.
  • Confidence: Cowboy builders may not understand the building regulations or keep themselves up to date with any changes to the law, building regulations or latest industry developments. If you don't feel confidence in the installers knowledge, then you probably are correct and shouldn't feel confident in their ability to do a good job.


Is there any more information I can read?


FENSA are proactive in trying to help consumers spot cowboy builders and report them. FENSA also has a website dedicated to stopping them: Take your time and have a look through this website as it will help you spot a cowboy company quickly. In addition it will provide you with information on knowing your rights, and how to report these rogue traders.


Avoid Cowboy Builders with FENSA


With FENSA approved registered builders, you can get away from cowboy builders for good. 

All you have to do to find one of our registered builders is to use our Find an Installer function on our website. From there, you can search for local companies in your area to find the right option for you.

Also, you can search our site for more advice on avoiding cowboy builders, or to find our certificates.



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What to check before appointing an installer

Check that you use a FENSA Approved Installer but also check the following:

  • Ask family and friends who have used installers about their satisfaction and whether they got a FENSA certificate.
  • Check the installer's references by talking to their previous customers.
  • Get at least three quotes and check you are being quoted like for like.
  • Cheapest is not always best and good contractors are always in demand.
  • Get quotes, timeframes and the fact that you will get a FENSA certificate all in writing. A proper written contract with an agreed completion date will help prevent confusion later on
  • Check the warranty on the installer's work and ensure they have enough insurance to cover their warranty. Domestic glazing installers that are registered with a competent person scheme like FENSA are legally obliged to provide warranty insurance to cover your installation should the company cease to trade within the life of the warranty.
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