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How to avoid hiring unscrupulous tradespeople in France

Owning a home in France is an absolute dream for many. And with a French home comes expense, as French homes differ in many ways from what we are used to in British homes. If you have purchased an older property, it will come with some issues that will need to be remedied by skilled trades who know what they are doing.

The language barrier is a driving factor for homeowners hiring English-speaking trades, and many of those English-speaking trades are very busy, thus leaving advantageous opportunities for unscrupulous tradespeople.

So when it comes to hiring trades into your home, choose carefully. Take your time, don’t take the first one that is only too pleased to start next week, and cheaper if you pay cash!! Your bank balance and stress levels will not appreciate shoddy workmanship, unnecessary expenses and potential safety hazards.

Knowing how to spot warning signs and hiring the right trade is essential. This article outlines some key points to watch out for.

Credentials and Licensing
Skilled tradespeople in France have either trained in France or arrived in France with skills and competence in their line of work. Before Brexit, a tradesperson would have registered at the Chambre de Métier and had their qualifications and relevant UK-based experience validated before receiving their siret number. Post-Brexit, no UK trade qualification is acceptable in France.

France does not have the professional bodies we are used to seeing in the UK, such as the Gas Safe Register or NICEIC. Each trade is required to carry out their work subject to French normes and with appropriate assurance. It is an opportunity for unscrupulous trades to take on jobs they lack understanding and skills to deliver.

Professional paperwork
The provision of a devis is also subject to specific standards as this is the basis of the ‘contract’ between client and tradesperson. A professional devis will provide clear information about the project, cost of materials and labour. If the trade is TVA registered, there will need to be mention of that, along with assurance décennale details.

It is always advisable to obtain several quotes. If you have 2 or 3 that are similar and one is very cheap, you must ask yourself why? Is it cheap because they will cut corners and surprise you with hidden costs later?

There are set rates on services in France, which may become apparent when comparing devis from French trades against devis from English trades. There are also differences in devis among English tradespeople, depending on their business regime: microentrepreneur, EI or SARL.

So look out for a well-presented devis, and if you have questions, talk to the trade. Always be bold, ask for proof of credentials, see assurance details, and speak to previous clients.

Reasonable deposit
The devis from a reputable trade will/should clearly state what deposit is required along with payment terms throughout the project to completion. It is usual for a deposit to be requested, accompanied by a signed devis, and returned to the tradesperson.

Avoid using trades that ask for cash payments for materials upfront, especially if you have no devis and it’s a verbal agreement.

I can start next week!
Many reputable trades in France are busy months and months in advance. And depending on the trade service you are using, there are times when a trade is available for a limited time before starting the next big job—divine timing for some. Builders and roofers are often booked up with work well into the following year!

So if you will use a trade who can do it next week, [for all the right reasons], ensure you have a devis with T&Cs and all the expected standards.

The consequences of not applying the renovation brakes, little or no research, hiring the first available trade, and paying a large amount of money are soul-destroying when it goes wrong.

In France, it is unlawful to name and shame trades, so they continue to work with no recourse, ducking and diving around the red tape effortlessly. We receive dozens of emails from homeowners who have fallen foul of an unscrupulous trade.

To conclude:
Hiring the right tradesperson is a critical decision that can significantly impact your project’s outcome. Being aware of what to look out for can minimize the risk of hiring an unscrupulous tradesperson.
– Don’t rush; take your time
– Always do your due diligence and research
– Ask for reviews/testimonials/talk to previous clients
– Verify their registration and assurance
– Make sure devis are clear with what the job is, how much and payment terms

Download our Handy Guide

You may also want to read Prevent Painful Disasters: Vet Tradespeople with Our Expert Checklist

Artisan Central is a pre-checked trade directory promoting pre-checked trades only. This doesn’t mean that you don’t do your own due diligence, it just means that this directory is purely for pre-checked trades only. So you know that they are registered and insured to do exactly what they say they can do.