Survey reveals 60% of UK homeowners prefer cash-in-hand builders

Over half of Britons would risk hiring a cowboy builder to carry out work on their home, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the National Federation of Builders (NFB).

Sixty-one per cent of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed blamed the soaring cost of food, fuel and finance for making a VAT-free, cash-in-hand deal more appealing.

Julia Evans, federation chief executive, said: “With mounting energy bills, food prices and mortgage payments, it is no wonder that consumers are more tempted than ever by a tax-free deal on their building work.”

Over 100,000 complaints are made about rogue tradesmen each year, according to figures from the Trading Standards. “As long as the temptation is there, people will be willing to take a risk,” said Evans.

In a bid to reduce the cash-in-hand temptation, the NFB has called on the Treasury to reduce the VAT rate on domestic repair and improvement work from 17.5% to 5%. The NFB believes this would help to level the playing field between cowboys and bona fide builders, as recent studies in France and the Netherlands showed that cutting VAT reduced rogue trader activity.

Mitch Westwood, who appears on the BBC One programme Rogue Traders, said: “I see too many people fall prey to cowboy tradesmen just to save on VAT, with catastrophic results. It's easy to think you're getting a good deal but you have no comeback when things go wrong, leaving you to foot the bill for repairs.”