A Private Member’s Bill calling for the mandatory licensing of construction companies will help protect consumers and reputable builders, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The Bill, introduced by the Conservative MP Mark Garnier, is being debated in Parliament on 19th November and will allow MPs to debate proposals to outlaw cowboy builders and provide compensation for their victims. Currently, anyone can call themselves a builder without having to demonstrate any training, qualifications or experience. The only protection available to consumers who have fallen foul of shoddy building work is contract law, which is so complex and expensive that it is out of reach of most consumers.

The Bill seeks to give consumers confidence that they are choosing a licensed builder and provide a simple complaints system where work has been sub-standard. If complaints are upheld, the consumer may be entitled to compensation, and offenders face having licences taken away. It would also protect reputable builders from being undercut by cowboy builders, who harm the reputation of the industry and put consumers off commissioning building work.

Mark Garnier MP said: “Cowboy builders ruin the lives of their victims and tarnish the reputation of the vast majority of builders who are decent, hard-working people. This Bill will help to end this scourge once and for all.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB said: “Licenses for the building trade are long overdue and have widespread support in the industry. They will protect consumers, enhance the reputation of the industry, and provide a significant boost to the economy. Through our Licencing Construction Task Force, supported by over 40 organisations, the FMB has been advocating for such a licensing scheme to be introduced as a means to drive up standards in the building industry. A licence for building companies would help ensure professionalism within the builing industry; reduce health and safety infringements; and counter high levels of consumer detriment in the market.”


In 2018, the FMB released our Licence to Build Report, which found the following:

  • One third (32%) of homeowners are put off doing major home improvement works requiring a builder because they fear hiring a dodgy builder.
  • This means that the UK economy could be missing out on £10 billion of construction activity per year because of anxiety over rogue building firms.
  • Over half of people (55%) who commission home improvement work have had a negative experience with their builder.
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms support the introduction of licensing to professionalise the industry, protect consumers and side-line unprofessional and incompetent building firms.
  • 78% of consumers also want to see a licensing scheme for construction introduced and nearly 90% of homeowners believe that the Government should criminalise rogue and incompetent builders.

About the Bill

The proposal

  • The Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection) Bill is asking the Government to consider the options to create a compulsory licensing system for the building trade.
  • Such a system would protect quality builders from being undercut by rule breakers, protect consumers from the rule breakers, and provide a clear and simple system of redress for consumers where work is not completed to the expected standard.

How it could work

  • The Bill will ask the Government to license work where structural changes to the building are undertaken.
  • This protection would cover small-scale projects, for example home extensions, roof repairs, etc. It will cover individual residential customers and small-scale landlords. Commercial buildings and commercial landlords would be excluded.
  • If a customer complaint to the ombudsman were upheld, the ultimate sanction for a firm will be the suspension or revocation of their license, therefore creating jeopardy for them. Victims could also be awarded financial compensation.
  • Claims of substandard work would be judged against principles set out in the terms to which building firms agree in securing a licence.

Who it would protect

  • Licensing would reassure consumers that they are protected from unscrupulous builders in two ways:
    • First, they will know when choosing a licensed builder that they are of a certain standard, and that the risk of being left with sub-standard work is greatly diminished.
    • Secondly, if works are not up to the required standard, there would be a complaints process whereby, if the complaint were upheld, the consumer may be awarded financial compensation. 
  • Licensing would also create financial and reputational protections for quality builders. There are costs involved in adhering to the rules; rule breakers cut corners and can undercut law abiding rivals on price. By driving unscrupulous builders from the market, law abiding builders could expect a fairer price for their work. Additionally, enhancing the reputation of the building trade would increase consumer confidence, who in turn may commission more building work (see FMB briefing below for full figures). 

The full text of the Bill is available here: Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection) Bill publications - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament

Notes to editors

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry representing thousands of firms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Established in 1941 to protect the interests of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, the FMB is independent and non-profit making, lobbying for members’ interests at both the national and local level.

The FMB is a source of knowledge, professional advice and support for its members, providing a range of modern and relevant business building services to help them succeed. The FMB is committed to raising quality in the construction industry and offers a free Find a Builder service to consumers. 


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