Rogue Builders


Does anyone know what the complaints procedure is for reporting a dishonest builder, who, it turns out, is working “on the black”, paying no tax, and holding no insurance?


Liz, it's rather fascinating in a sad and shocking way because the spiderweb of information really DOES spread outward around the world!

My husband was licenced and registered and had his siret and paid his social charges and so forth when he was working in France with another licensed tradesman prior to our return to Australia.

I have just learned today from the friend of a friend that one of their fully legally registered plumbers, who was originally from another EU country (not the UK -- I think she said Holland or Denmark) has dobbed in an unlicensed tradesman in our old neighbourhood in the Midi-Pyrenees. And the person who was dobbed in was someone that we actually knew.

We never asked him if he was registered to work over there -- why would we? But I am now left wondering just how much work he has been doing over the last few years with no paperwork and no guarantees for the poor homeowners.

All of the relevant authorities including the tax office have been informed now. The REAL plumber had heard about this Cowboy Builder before and hadn't paid much attention to it. But this time he decided to act and he has contacted every government agency that needs to know before that person that we knew (I still can't believe it!) can damage someone's house or property.

His clients must have no comeback now if anything goes wrong. It's such a small area down there and there aren't that many tradesmen, so people do tell one another if someone is working on the black or scamming people. In fact, as soon as I get done typing this up, I'm going to email a couple of the people that my husband used to work with so that they know not to ever use him as a subcontractor because it could come back on them.

We always wondered why he never made any comments about the rising taxes and social charges when everyone else was talking (groaning would be more accurate) about it. Of course he wouldn't say anything -- he was working on the black!

What a VERY small world it is. And how dreadful to trust someone with something as important as work on your home and then find out that they are not who they have portrayed themselves to be.

In your own case, I hope that you found a good solution and aren't out much money, Liz. I really feel for you.

Are you in the Midi-Pyrenees by any chance? If you are, private message me straight away so we can see if this is the same person! I'd rather not say his name in a public place or what village he lives in, but if it is the same man, this really needs to be stopped immediately.

Chris, Sara, this is one of the nicer sides of SFN.
Great posts.

He is over at the end of next week, with the grandchildren who are heading towards their teens, I will pass on your message to him, thank you.

He sold a boat for us many years ago in his yacht broker incarnation. He was a delight to deal with and got us a very good price. I hope the family is well, the grand children must be almost grown up now. Please say hello to him from me and John.

He has the joy and privilege of having me as a father.How come you know him?

Hi Chris, nothing to do with this thread, but are you related to Paul Knox-Johnston of Southampton?

For those who have not yet discovered it, I found most technical French terms easier to understand, when using French workers / tradesman, by using the Oxford Duden French English illustrated dictionary, especially for motoring and vehicle matters.

That's a pair of fairly broad brushes you are using Simon. It all comes down to who you choose to work with. There are cowboys on both sides of the channel but if you go out for competitive quotes and take up references, there is no reason to be taken for a ride in either terms of quality or price. I've now renovated 3 houses here and have used the some of the same artisans on each job. Where I've changed it's been because of timing problems or just not having liked working with someone, don't think anyone has ripped me off.

Remember all builders are nor rogue builders,just that the small minority come to light due to their poor standards.

a french builder will be doing one job at a time and will take his time as the more work he has the more income he has and the more tax he pays, that is why most French builders charge an arm and a leg for their service, they do not really want your trade, and if they do they are booked up for several months.

a British builder who does your job and has several others going at the same time is more than likely cooking the books.

Plus a British builder has not got the experience of using materials designed for pre WW1 properties. Where as a LOCAL French builder has been doing the work all his life. yes there are some good British builders over here who you can trust.

Lack of language skills is no real excuse as there are enough translator soft ware and apps on the internet to explain every thing to you, do a bit of research before getting a builder in. I will safe you a load of hassle.

The Chambre de Metiers is one place to drop the cachet, along with your mairie, gendarmerie and tax office, all listed as recipients on the letter. Then it will happen as and when the time is right.

Hi Liz,

We had a similar bad experience with a "builder" and after much thought we wrote a letter in French and English explaining what had happened to the local Chambre de Metiers.

Nothing happened for a few months and we had forgotten about it. But then the Gendarmes came knocking on our door (very friendly) and we had to go to the local police station to make a statement.

It turned out that they were investigating him for tax evasion.

We got nothing out of it (although we were asked if we wanted compensation) but at least some satisfaction that he was being "looked" at.

Hope this helps and whatever you decide to do good luck.


Thank you all. I think I will take Brian’s advice - and Simon’s. Much appreciated all - I’m obviously still a novice in France!!!

What Brian advises you to do is a good way of bring the attention of the establishment to the builder concerned and keeping your self clear of any involvement, I would wait a few weeks and see if the so called builder is still operating in the area, then I would send the letters out.

It is always associated with the cosa nostra (our thing) notion but is simply a common expression and is considered to be part of a code of honour that makes keeping silent something deep-rooted in 'family', which is a wider concept than it is in the Anglo-Saxon world. Even here, SW France, family is a wider concept, extending to community to an extent. My OH feels perfectly at home with that being Swiss Italian. It would, therefore, be wrong to denounce a person within the community and would lead to serious chastisement but as a collective protection against an outsider would be quietly accepted unless the outsider could then bring down others in the community like the proverbial pack of cards. Complicated? Well, not really, but if it is a clear outsider it is safe to do it and the traditional lettre de cachet is the preferred method in large parts of France still.

I'm not sure where the OP is but in a small community like where I am, I wouldn't do it.

Thanks for the new word (Omerta), at least today won't be a total waste of a day.

A 'lettre de cachet' put through the door of a mairie, gendarmerie, trade association and perhaps elsewhere, with a list showing where copies have been left can be anonymous. If a rogue anybody is conning people, doing inferior work to boot and lives off it, he or she needs to be stopped. They are not the mafia who impose an omerta, they are tricksters who take money and rely on the self-imposed omerta. Learning from experience is part of it either way, complacency does not help anybody else. The deluge of brown stuff does not need to happen and nor should it to other people. That is why I do not understand other networks who may almost be encouraging it by not allowing open discussion, names included but with enough detail for people to guess, which is what we are doing here.

Hi Liz,

I do not normally post much, but be assured the French do it to the French.

I know of several disputes between so called friends about friends in our community, where Mr French man reckons Mr French man has not paid him enough for some work so he takes some wood from the job, then he goes to the Police, then registered letters fly, etc etc. In the end one of them moved, but we all know not to trust the other.

Uk is just as bad, with so called professional qualified folk who are not.

Here in France lots of Brits saying that they are a builder, say a bricklayer, and that they are qualified but after asking where they served their time etc, turn out to be just a brickies labourer.

Me, I am a househusband and send the Mrs out to work, but then she does love her work!

Did you hear the story about the maître d oeuvre who takes

prospective clients to see several half finished jobs?

I was a prospective client but I chose a French Architect with

and paid 11 percent to his company to have a little stability in

my life.

I would just let it go, you have nothing to gain from turning him in and could bring down a whole lot of brown stuff on yourself if you do, if not from the authorities then perhaps from the guy himself.

The +ve side of not paying "au black" is that you have some protection when things go wrong, I was going to give details but didn't want to corrupt the thread.