Government Decides Not to Back Cowboy Builders Law

Cowboy Builders Law Not Backed by Government
(Image credit: getty images)

A Bill that proposed to outlaw cowboy builders and provide compensation for consumers has not received backing from the government. 

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) had campaigned to create a compulsory licence scheme for construction companies which would help protect consumers and ensure reputable builders are not undercut by cowboy builders. 

The FMB drove the draft legislation for a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Conservative MP Mark Garnier, which was debated in Parliament last week.

If passed, the Bill would have meant all builders have to buy a licence which demonstrates their qualifications, such as if they are TrustMark registered, which was required on the Green Homes Grant

However, while minister Lee Rowley said "no one would disagree with the problem", he stopped short of backing the Bill. The government did, however, commit to collaborate with industry to address the problem of cowboy builders.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “While the government’s failure to back the Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection) Bill is disappointing, its commitment to work with stakeholders and industry and find a solution to stamp out cowboy builders is at least welcome news."

(MORE: How to Find a Builder)

See more

32% of Homeowners Fear Hiring a Dodgy Builder

The FMB’s Licence to Build Report in 2018 revealed that one third (32%) of homeowners were put off from doing major home improvement works requiring a builder because they feared hiring someone dodgy.

Current laws enable anyone to call themselves a builder without having to provide evidence of any training, qualifications or experience. This means that contract law (a legally binding agreement between at least two parties) is the only available protection to consumers, but the FMB says this can be complex and expensive for consumers. 

The Bill would have provided consumers with confidence that they are choosing a licensed builder. There would have also been a single complaints system introduced which could entitle consumers to compensation for substandard work, providing complaints are upheld. 

Brian Berry said: “Licenses for the building trade are long overdue and have widespread support in the industry. They will protect consumers, enhance the reputation of the industry, and provide a significant boost to the economy. 

Mr Garnier added: “Cowboy builders ruin the lives of their victims and tarnish the reputation of the vast majority of builders who are decent, hard-working people. This Bill will help to end this scourge once and for all.” 

Jack Woodfield
News Editor

Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms. 

He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.