A new consumer protection service to help homeowners and tradespeople enter into an agreed contractual arrangement when paying for home improvement, repair or maintenance work has been announced by TrustMark.

The government-endorsed scheme for all trades in and around the home is offering an Escrow service to provide TrustMark-registered firms and their customers with a low cost, quick and effective way of helping protect each other through a financial contract, The payment for the works is placed into an independent, secure account, which is protected by a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorised firm.

Depending on the works and payment structure agreed, the service will allow the customer to pay for the work in advance or in staged payments.  For tradespeople, this will provide peace of mind that they will be able to supply the materials and complete the work knowing the funds for the job are available through the Escrow account.  Based upon the terms and conditions, which the two parties set and agree before the works starts, payment will be released accordingly.

There is a cost of £6 per party to set up the core Escrow service.  For homeowners, this payment will guarantee satisfaction for building work, and for the firms, it will guarantee 100% full payment.  Additional costs may apply if multiple stage payments are used or for very large transactions.

Once the terms and conditions have been agreed and payment has been received, the funds for the work are placed into the secure account.  This can only be accessed for payment subject the pre-agreed terms and conditions and the firm has visibility of the funds but no direct access.  As the works proceed, and only once the various stages are met, the customer is obligated to release the funds to the firm. 

TrustMark has partnered with Transpact.com to process all the payments and deposit transactions and will provide full protection to both parties involved.  Transpact.com uses the UK's Faster Payment Service (FPS) so payment is received and cleared into the firm’s bank account within a few seconds or minutes of the customer completing the secure instruction process.

In the event of a dispute involving the payment between the firm and customer, TrustMark will work to mediate and resolve the issues between the two parties, and if necessary will apply final arbitration according to the pre-agreed conditions set.

Simon Ayers, chief executive of TrustMark, said: “Using TrustMark Escrow can be a great solution for many homeowners with bigger jobs, such as extensions that can take a few months to complete, as it means they won’t actually pay any money direct to a tradesperson or firm until they are fully satisfied.  For the tradesperson, they will know they are dealing with a genuine customer and guaranteed payment if they carry out their side of the contract.  This is a positive step to eliminating those rogue traders who take large amounts of money for shoddy workmanship.”

Andrew Kaye, Founder of Transpact.com, added: “TrustMark'ssimple new service ensures rogue traders are gone forever and replaced by fully paid tradespeople who provide a promise of quality. It makes sense for anyone doing work to their home to use an escrow account as they are guaranteed the quality work they had agreed to their pre-set specification, or their money back, and every tradesperson is guaranteed 100% payment.”

To find out more information about TrustMark Escrow, visit https://trustmarkescrow.org.uk