Landlords who frequently have to change locks after tenants leave are being warned to be on their guard against rogue locksmiths who have become more active during the pandemic.
The Master Locksmiths Association, the largest trade body in the UK representing the profession, says its latest survey shows that 66 per cent of its members have been called to a job after property owners - many of them landlords - inadvertently called out a rogue locksmith over the past 12 months.
Collectively, respondents have attended more than 300 botched jobs involving a rogue locksmith over the last year and 65 per cent said rogues were overcharging by £200 or more.
The association says its been contacted upwards of 500 times in the last 12 months with stories about unscrupulous activities by people masquerading as locksmiths. With unemployment rates rising after companies cut thousands of jobs as Covid-19 continues to hit the economy, the MLA is predicting an upturn in unscrupulous activity in the industry.
Steffan George, managing director of the MLA, says: “The industry is unregulated so it’s easy to set up as a locksmith with no training, experience or insurance. During the pandemic, we expect the number of incidences involving rogue locksmiths to rise as people under increasing financial pressure see it as an easy way to make money.”
He continues: “Experience tells us that at best, rogues are going to do a sub-standard job or overcharge after initially quoting a cheaper price in a tactic known as bait-and-switch, sometimes ultimately charging 10 times that of an inspected locksmith, or at worse, display threatening behaviour or withhold keys to locks they’ve just fitted.
“There are already hundreds of uncertified people working in the industry. With numbers expected to increase, people need to be aware of the dangers and know how to select a reputable locksmith to ensure they don’t fall victim to a rogue.”
He says one of the tell-tale signs of a rogue operator is the unusually low price quoted on the initial conversation with a landlord or other prospective client, while he advises people to ask about other jobs done by the locksmith - “tradesmen should be happy to talk about previous jobs and experience as well as provide photographs and recommendations” he claims.