Why an Article on Up-Front Deposits?
Not happy to be writing this article, but feel we must. We want to warn people about a worrying trend where thatchers are asking for, and being given, up-front deposits for thatching works.
Sadly there then seem to be problems occurring. Either nothing is done and thatchers cannot be contacted or the thatchers abscond after doing very little. It seems that many of these upfront deposits amount to thousands of pounds, with clients are being left with nothing to show for it. This is not all thatchers but a few too many for comfort. A minority across the board causing enough issues for it to be drawn to our attention.
We had been informed of a few such instances regarding up-front deposits and so were just monitoring things. This was via telephone and emails. Then to hear about yet another one, this time where a building firm had given a large deposit and the thatcher seemingly disappeared. It meant that it was time for us to act, warn our visitors of the pitfalls and hopefully stop anyone else being added to these concerning statistics.
It also appears that it is a variety of different thatchers who seem to be asking for deposits and, sadly, a growing number of these then do not fulfil their obligations leaving clients out of pocket and in a mess. We decided to try and understand more.
Who is Asking for Deposits?
It seems that there is no “type” of thatcher who is asking for an upfront deposit. They may be a member of the national society, a master thatchers association (both of these are paid membership organisations with apparent redress through their organisations – currently unproven to us) or an independent thatcher. So, across the board.
Are the ones we hear about just “bad apples” or do they have genuine reasons for their behaviour? We are happy to hear the other side of the story but apparently these thatchers are “Hard, if not impossible to get hold of”.
Why are they Asking for Deposits Up-Front?
Why indeed would a good business need money up-front?
In our experience, it is fair for a thatcher to ask for part payments, especially on a large job. One third after one third of the roof is complete, another third when the next third of the roof is done and final third on satisfactory completion. That way, monies were paid when works were actually physically completed and thatch was on the roof. Paying for goods when received, if you like.
This money up-front seems to be a newer thing which maybe from: –
- Thatchers who have been in business for years and got into financial trouble
- Thatchers who have just set up and genuinely have a cash flow shortage – perhaps a bank loan is a better way forward?
- Thatchers who seemly have no conscience, just take the money, run and rip people off. Often after various business name changes…
- Thatchers who use the money to fund their business instead of borrowing.
- Thatchers who say they have to pay the material suppliers to “book the materials and reserve them”. Many thatchers no longer have facilities for storing their own materials. This point is an interesting one.
- Thatchers who apparently used the money to secure the slot in their calendar, turned up briefly (to tick that box) then went away with the money. Shocking, surely a bad apple?
Is it Necessary to Pay Up-Front Deposits?
We don’t think it should be necessary for up-front deposits for thatching
If it is for materials that the thatcher’s business cannot afford, or want to reserve there are options. Maybe let the client deal with the material supplier or pay the reed dealer invoice when materials are delivered. Maybe get the dealer to hold them until needed, with relevant paperwork in their name. Care with these arrangements are recommended.
Scaffolders ask for payment on completion of works, no up-front deposit needed for that.
Thatching works. Do you pay a garage for car repairs before your car is fixed?
Why do people think they need to pay the thatcher up-front monies, for what? It would be good to think that at least they have something clearly in writing explaining it. We know that thatchers are busy but this deposit trend really isn’t working for too many clients. It does, however, seem to be to working too well for some thatchers and giving the trade a bad name.
If you Pay an Up-front Deposit…
You have been warned.
An increasing number of unscrupulous thatchers are not fulfilling their obligations. Courts cannot easily retrieve money which is not there or from a business which has gone/is going bankrupt. You also have to be able to contact them/find them first. Do you have their home address or just a mobile number?
If you feel you have to, get things clearly in writing – via a solicitor even – and understand what the money will be for. Unfortunately, the fact that all thatchers are very busy and booked up seems to have exacerbated a situation.
If you feel you have to give an up-front deposit:-
- Understand exactly what the money is for. Do it on your terms so you are in control, it is your money. Don’t give money over with no clear understanding of what it is for, or when works will commence etc.
- Please get things sorted clearly in writing before you hand over any money – why not lodge monies with a solicitor?
- Be aware of the potential pitfalls (bankruptcy, not turning up to work, illness…)
- Go into any agreement with your eyes open understanding that thatching is an unregulated craft.
Our best advice remains “Don’t give up-front deposits”.
To all the fair, hardworking and diligent thatchers who are managing perfectly well without asking clients for monies up-front, well done. Please don’t change.
To their clients, make sure you pay promptly for works completed satisfactorily, to keep the good system working well.
Feel to free to email us with any comments on this article.