The Federation of Master Builders has reacted coolly to an agreement reached between the Office of Fair Trading and a construction firm allowing the company to accept staged payments for home improvement work.

Limelight, which includes Moben Kitchens and Portland Conservatories, has agreed to use contracts that allow clients to make staged payments for work such as conservatory extensions rather than pay the full cost in advance.

Ian Davis, director-general of the FMB, said: "We have never supported total payment up front, but these measures should be coupled with proposals for assured payments for contractors." Davis stressed that the FMB always advises people not to use contractors that demand total payment in advance, but added that many small contractors fall victim to unscrupulous clients.

"Too many clients get work done with very little intention of paying. There should be a counterbalance ensuring that clients have enough money to pay for work carried out." However, Stephen Moon, director of the National Federation of Builders, said he welcomes the decision.

"Staged payment is already part of our code of practice. It's a good way of distinguishing the cowboy from the kosher," he said.