Hazel Blears urges those affected by floods to watch out for bogus traders when they repair their homes

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has warned flood victims to watch out for cowboy builders. The warning came as she outlined the government’s commitment to supporting long-term reconstruction in flood-hit regions.

Around 45,000 households and 14,500 commercial properties have made insurance claims following the June and July floods, according to a report by the Association of British Insurers.

Flooded roads

The government says there have been reports of both bogus traders and cowboy builders operating in flood-affected areas. Fraudsters are offering a range of work from construction, tree chopping, garden clearance and roof cleaning.

Julia Evans, National Federation of Builders chief executive, said: “Alarm bells should start ringing if the work is offered free of VAT. People need to ask themselves if they really want the work done by someone who does so little work that they do not reach the VAT threshold, or, if they are dodging their tax liabilities what else will they try to dodge.”

Evans said that householders should get detailed estimates in writing from at least three referenced builders.

The government has been holding discussions with the construction and insurance industries, and local agencies this week to help flood victims find reputable builders.

This includes giving practical advice on how to find qualified tradesmen and avoid rogue traders; and closer information-sharing between insurers, the construction industry and local councils to ensure quicker support in areas with shortages of qualified builders and tradesmen.

Blears said: “While the vast majority of people, including the building industry, are responding positively to the challenge it is extremely saddening that some people are trying to cash-in and exploit the hardship of others."

She added that free advice is available at the National Federation of Builders, the Federation of Master Builders and Consumer Direct.