Urgent Repair Needed at Home? How to Avoid Excessive Costs in Spain
One of the main issues with emergency home services is that tariffs are not regulated by any national or regional body. This means that you can find yourself paying rates of up to 120€ per hour of work (depending on where you live) and call-out rates at similar levels. Indeed, at these rates one can start to wonder whether instead of working in an office all day you should have become a locksmith yourself!
So, when you’re in the unenviable situation of having to call someone to come out to your home you can look in the yellow pages, local commercial directory or, the more usual case these days, on the internet. Be aware, however, that the first places that are advertised tend to be call centres that deal with callers from all over Spain. This means that, if you want to ask for an estimate (presupuesto) over the phone – which you should always do – they’re unable to give you an answer with the excuse that they don’t know who will be going out to visit you. Although some regions such as Baleares and Extremadura mandate that call-out and man-hour rates must be give over the phone, this doesn’t tend to be adhered to.
The problem with not getting an initial estimate over the phone is that once the technician looks at the problem and gives you an estimate for the repair, if you don’t accept it you’ll have to pay the call-out charge anyway, which can be over 100€ even if they’ve just come from round the corner. In some cases there are companies who say over the phone that they won’t charge for a call-out, but once the technician gets to your home the story has changed.
So, after this scaremongering, you may be asking yourself how to avoid these situations and save money as well. Here are 6 tips to try and help:
- Take 10 minutes today to find local numbers of electricians, plumbers and locksmiths (2 of each should be enough) and put them in your mobile phone memory. This will help to save on excessive call-out charges.
- When you need someone to visit, always call more than one professional if you can, it’s a free market and rates can vary considerably.
- Make sure you ask for an estimate over the phone by describing basically what the problem is (get a neighbour to help if your Spanish isn’t that good). Ensure that the estimate covers both the call-out charge and hourly rate and what you’ll be charged if, once they evaluate the situation at your home or office, you don’t accept the estimate. If they won’t give you this information over the phone, move on to the next one on the list.
- When the person arrives at your home, request to see the rates as, by law, they must be supplied in writing.
- If you didn’t request an estimate before carrying out the repair and the bill you’re presented with seems to be too high, don’t sign the estimate and request a copy of the bill before paying. If you don’t have the paperwork you won’t be able to make any claims afterwards.
- Don’t forget that all repairs are guaranteed for a period of 3 months minimum – some companies, depending on the type of repair, may offer a longer period.
Don’t despair – there are decent professionals out there, it’s just a matter of luck. But if you do need to make a claim you’ll have to fill in a Claims Form “Hoja de Reclamaciones” which the company must supply, alternatively you can fill in a form and present it online. These claims forms are dealt with by the regional authorities and can only be used for disputes between individuals and companies.