How to Find a Tradesman and Avoid the Cowboys

DIY-SpainWhether your home needs minor repairs or you’re thinking of carrying out a major renovation on your property in Spain, it’s well worth taking time to investigate a few companies before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Even though you might be tempted to carry out minor repairs by yourself after checking out a couple of “how to” videos on YouTube, in many cases hiring a professional tradesman can save you money in the long run.

Where Can You Find Tradesmen?

Usually the first port of call is to ask your friends and neighbours if they’ve had any work done similar in scope to what you require. If so, ask whether the final price was similar to the original quote, how long the work took and whether they had received quotes from other companies (remember that cheap doesn’t always equate with quality).

You also probably receive lots of flyers in your letterbox from local handymen and may decide to ask them for a quote. In this case make sure that they are legally set up to work in Spain (either as a company or self-employed), otherwise they won’t be able to invoice you and you’ll have no way of making any claim against them for damages.

What About Online Comparison Sites?

Through several websites you can request a quote for free and read customer reviews. You’ll need to have some Spanish to draft your requirements and you can always use Google Translate to check out the customer comments. Beware of glowing or damning reviews – better to check out those with a mid to high rating as more representative.

The biggest online site is Habitissimo, where you can get up to four quotes from tradesmen in your local area. If you’re thinking about a major renovation, they also provide quotes from architects. TuManitas and 3Presupuestos also offer several quotes free of charge.

What Should A Price Quote And Contract Include?

Check for the following:

  • Price quotes should ideally be itemised, in this way you can see exactly where your money is going and whether you could cut back in any areas.
  • Sales tax (IVA) should be shown as a separate line or it should be clearly stated that it will be added to the final bill. In order to apply the reduced rate of 10% sales tax to the whole bill, the cost of materials cannot exceed 40% of the total.
  • Time scale in days or weeks. Although this tends to be approximate, it’s also a good way to compare quotes.
  • In the contract make sure that all labour, parts and materials are detailed and this coincides with the quote. Start and finish dates should also be shown and for more important jobs a daily penalty rate should be established in case the job overruns.

Never pay 100% upfront – for long jobs establish a down payment (around 30% to cover materials), periodic instalments and a final payment when everything is finished satisfactorily. For shorter jobs you could pay 50% at the beginning and the rest upon completion.

insurance_SpainWhat About Insurance?

A tradesman will have his own insurance, but it’s always a good idea to double-check. Don’t just take the tradesman’s word and request to see the insurance papers (and that the last payment was made!).

Your own home insurance won’t be affected unless you decide to carry out part of the work yourself. In that case, before you start on any home repairs yourself take a look at your insurance policy, as you may not be covered if things go wrong.

Can You Get Tax Relief?

Not any longer for taxpayers in Spain. Previously improvements to your main home could (depending on your individual circumstances) be included in the annual tax return.

Do You Need a Permit / Licence?

If you live in a flat or apartment, any major works must be approved by the Comunidad de Vecinos (Neighbours’ Committee). Otherwise just let them know that you’re having workmen in to avoid any complaints about noise.

There are two types of project that require a municipal permit:

  1. Major works: These must be presented by an architect and include those that affect the structure, façade, increase in size or change in use.
  2. Minor works: All other jobs, some of which may require a permit but you will need to check locally with your Ayuntamiento.

And If Things Go Wrong?

First of all try to negotiate with the Company. If that fails then put your complaint in writing and send if by burofax as this gives a legal receipt.

If the company still fails to solve the problem, then you should make an appointment with your local Municipal Consumer Office (Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor – OMIC) and show them your written claim.

If the company refuses to go to arbitration, then your only possibility is to take the matter to court. Depending on the amount that you are claiming for damages, you may not need a lawyer (claims below 2000€).

How Can You Save Money?

You may consider that one of the best ways to save money is by buying the materials yourself at a DIY store and then hire a tradesman just to fit/install them. However, in this case you would have to pay 21% sales tax, whereas if they are included in the tradesman’s bill in most cases a rate of 10% is applied.

If you can get materials such as tiles and flooring in a sale then it might be worthwhile, but if you need materials such as cement then a tradesman can probably get it cheaper.

Not all tradesmen will be willing to install items they haven’t purchased as they also make a profit on materials. When you request a quote make it clear from the beginning which materials you will be supplying.

You could also check if there are any regional grants available. Periodically in different areas in Spain grants are available to change windows, gas boilers, install air conditioning and more, as long as they improve energy efficiency. These schemes are normally called “Plan Renove” and with no central website available the best way to find them is via Google, for example “plan renove ventanas Andalucia” and include the current year.

Related Post: Saving at DIY Stores in Spain