Cancellation rights

When a trader comes into your home, in certain situations, you have rights to cancel a contract you enter into with them.

Your right to cancel

When a trader does work in your home, your right to cancel and get your money back will depend on:

  • where and how you agreed the contract.

  • whether they’ve started work or not.

  • whether you've ordered 'made to measure' or standard products.

Cancellation advice from Citizens Advice

Work agreed on the traders' premises

If you made arrangements for the work in the contractor or company’s place of business, e.g. in their office or perhaps a contractor’s home, your right to cancel will depend on whether they’ve started the work.

Cancelling before the work has started

You can cancel the work as long as you haven't made a contract. You won't have to pay anything.

A contract is formed when either you or the business makes an offer and the other party accepts. You’ll most likely have a contract, even if it’s not in writing - for example, if you’ve:

  • signed an agreement

  • agreed to a quote (you could have done this verbally)

  • fixed a starting date

  • paid a deposit

  • verbally told them to go ahead with the work

If you do have a contract then cancelling will be breaking that agreement, unless:

  • you’ve agreed conditions for cancelling (such as a cancellation charge).

  • the business doesn’t honour its contractual obligations (e.g. hasn’t done the work in a reasonable time and then misses the final deadline you give them).

  • you felt you were misled or pressured into hiring the business to do the work.

They may ask you to pay for either or both of the following:

  • a cancellation fee.

  • any loss of profit caused by your cancellation (e.g. if they set aside time to do your work and can’t book another job for the same period).

If you gave a deposit they might hold some or all it to help cover their loss. Negotiate with the business if you think the amount they’re withholding or the cancellation fee is unreasonable.

Cancelling after the work’s started

A builder or decorator will only begin work if you’ve formed a contract, either written or verbal.

You’ll need to negotiate with the business if you want to cancel and get any money refunded.

They may ask you to pay for any or all of the following:

  • a cancellation fee.

  • labour costs up until the time you cancelled.

  • any items installed or fitted that can’t be removed without damaging them.

  • the return of any items that have been delivered but not installed (or can be easily uninstalled).

  • any loss of profit caused by your cancellation (e.g. where they set aside time to do your work and can’t book another job for the same period).

Work agreed in your home

You have a ‘cooling-off’ period of 14 days to cancel and get a refund if you arranged the service:

  • over the phone.

  • on the internet.

  • by mail order.

  • somewhere else outside of their business (e.g. in the street or at your home or workplace).

Minimum cooling-off period

14 days is the absolute minimum cooling-off period that a seller must give you. Make sure you check the terms and conditions in case they’ve given you more time to change your mind - many choose to do so. 

Your cancellation rights after the ‘cooling-off’ period are the same as if you’d arranged the work while on the business’s premises.

When you might not get a cooling-off period

You don’t automatically get a cooling-off period if:

  • you have something specially made - for example, made to measure curtains, windows or a conservatory (some traders voluntarily offer a 7 day cooling-off period for these products, but they don’t have to).

  • you invite the business into your home for urgent repairs or maintenance - for example, when you ask a plumber to come and mend a burst pipe.

When the cooling-off period begins

Your cooling-off period will begin the day after you give the go-ahead for the work to be done.

For any goods that you’ve ordered as part of the work, your cooling-off period for returning them depends on the type of order:

  • if you’ve ordered a single item, or several items that will be delivered in one batch, your cooling-off period starts the day after the delivery is made.

  • if you’ve placed a one off order for several different items that will be delivered at different times, your cooling-off period starts the day after the last item is delivered.

  • if you’ve placed an order for several deliveries of the same items over a period of time, your cooling-off period starts the day after the first delivery.

A business must give you details of how to cancel (they’re allowed to send this by email for phone, internet and postal orders). If they don’t provide these your cooling-off period is extended by 14 days from the date you receive these - up to a maximum of 1 year.

Cancelling if the work’s not started yet

You can cancel and get all your money back if the business hasn’t started the work and you’re still within the 14 day cooling-off period.

Cancelling if the work’s started

If you asked for the service to be provided during the cooling-off period and the business provided the cancellation information, you’ll have to pay a part of the agreed price. The amount will depend on how much was completed when you asked to cancel.

If the builder, decorator or installer begins the work during the cooling-off period without your approval you’ll have the right to cancel and get a full refund of all costs.

If you had items installed that now can’t be physically removed without damaging them, the business could argue that you lose your right to cancel. If removing an item reduces its value, the business could argue you get a reduced refund because of this.

Even if items were installed or fitted as part of the work and can be uninstalled, you may have to pay for their return if the pre-contract information states this and includes a cost.

Have you tried to cancel?

If things go wrong you can seek advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service. KCC Trading Standards will continue to monitor complaints on all individual members of the scheme.

Contact Citizens Advice

0808 223 1133