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Homeowners at risk as cowboy builders cash in on home extension boom

Cowboy builders and organised criminals are exploiting the post-pandemic constructing growth to focus on owners ‘determined’ for house places of work and extensions.

The variety of complaints about constructing crooks and rogue merchants rose by greater than 1 / 4 final yr, new figures reveal.

The Residents Recommendation helpline obtained near 60,000 stories of shoddy work, with social media websites a magnet for unscrupulous companies.

Cowboy threat: The number of complaints about building criminals and rogue traders rose by more than a quarter last year, new figures reveal (picture posed by models)

Cowboy menace: The variety of complaints about constructing criminals and rogue merchants rose by greater than 1 / 4 final yr, new figures reveal (image posed by fashions) 

Victims instructed Cash Mail that they had been fleeced of tens of hundreds of kilos and left to dwell in constructing websites, unable to afford remedial work. Specialists say within the worst instances, some have even been conned into signing over their houses to criminals.

The pinnacle of doorstep crime at Nationwide Buying and selling Requirements additionally warns that aggressive cold-calling is making a comeback.

She provides that jail sentences are a ‘lodge break’ for organised constructing criminals, who merely used their time inside to recruit extra members.

Lockdowns spurred scores of households to enhance their dwelling area, with many extending kitchens and lofts or constructing house places of work. However the demand additionally sparked a power scarcity of high quality builders and a spike within the value of supplies.

Builders’ teams raised considerations that households are so determined to get work executed they’re taking dangers and are susceptible to cowboys.

The courts have additionally seen a flurry of instances. Final yr, Gerald Johnston, from Goole, East Yorkshire, was jailed for 2 years after he conned a blind man out of a whole lot of kilos for roof repairs that weren’t obligatory.

The sufferer instructed the courtroom he felt ‘ashamed and betrayed’.

James Lee Knight, 44, from Cornwall, was additionally jailed for fleecing victims out of a complete of £100,000 and leaving their houses uninhabitable, damp or with leaking sewage.

One other cowboy builder, Jamie Thompson, was jailed after ‘crippling’ a household by spending their £46,000 on drink and medicines as an alternative of constructing their extension.

The house of Julie and Kelvin Briggs, close to Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, was left wanting like a constructing website for 4 years they usually had been instructed it is going to value £63,000 to rectify.

House salon dream ended with £47k invoice 

A single mom of two has been left with a invoice of greater than £47,000 and had her dream of working a hair salon from house shattered by a cowboy builder.

Nicola Goulden, 35, from Leeds, has been pressured to work two jobs to repay the mortgage she took out — and resides in a constructing website.

The work has already value greater than £15,000 and she or he now faces a £20,000 invoice — which she can’t afford — to repair the mess.

Shattered dream: Nicola Goulden is working two jobs to pay off the loan she took out to cover the cost of her cowboy builders

Shattered dream: Nicola Goulden is working two jobs to repay the mortgage she took out to cowl the price of her cowboy builders

Her solely recourse is thru the courts, the place she is anticipated to symbolize herself, regardless of paying £2,500 in charges to deliver her case.

The builder started work on her 18ft extension in late 2019 and gave her a quote for £17,500.

However he walked out after she challenged him over his sluggish progress on the job. Nicola, who has been placed on medicine, was pressured to drag the entire construction down after a surveyor warned it might collapse, and her youngsters nonetheless can’t play within the backyard.

She says: ‘I’ve needed to tackle a second job hairdressing in a care house to repay the mortgage.

‘I additionally needed to spend one other £10,000 to construct a cabin within the backyard to work in. The surveyor mentioned all the pieces was executed unsuitable.

‘I simply should get by means of every day. It has value hundreds simply to wash up his mess.’


In November, ministers had been lambasted for failing to again a statutory licensing scheme, which might deliver the constructing commerce in keeping with gasoline installers and electricians.

Present weak laws go away victims of cowboy builders with no approach of getting their money again.

Anybody can name themselves a builder with none {qualifications}, expertise or proof of coaching. Which means the one safety out there to owners is contract legislation — the legally binding settlement between them and the builder.

For easy claims of as much as £10,000 in opposition to a agency or particular person in England and Wales, owners can take motion within the small claims courtroom, after paying charges of between £35 and £455. In Scotland you possibly can pursue a ‘Easy Process’ declare for as much as £5,000; and the restrict is £3,000 in Northern Eire.

Bigger claims are significantly dearer. Charges are charged at 5 computer of the declare — for instance, £1,500 for a £30,000 declare — and it’s probably you would want to instruct legal professionals, which might value tens of hundreds of kilos.

Even in case you win, the builder can declare they don’t have the cash to pay, or victims might discover the agency has gone into administration. Insurers are additionally unlikely to cowl the price of any harm attributable to rogue builders.

‘My youngsters needed to sleep on the ground’ 

'Living in a building site': Emma Short and daughter Courtney

‘Dwelling in a constructing website’: Emma Quick and daughter Courtney

An A-level scholar recovering from most cancers was pressured to sleep on the ground for 3 months when a rogue builder left with out ending a loft conversion.

Mom-of-two Emma Quick, from Coventry, spent £9,500 earlier than the tradesman abruptly stopped work on the conversion claiming he had ‘gone bankrupt’.

She has additionally shelled out £4,000 on repairing harm executed to the home and her furnishings by his workmen.

Emma, who works as a coach for particular instructional wants faculties and foster carers, was initially instructed the work could be accomplished at a complete value of £15,000 to £17,000, and that it will take eight weeks.

The 2-bedroom home in Coventry marked a brand new begin for her household following an acrimonious divorce.

However shortly after the construct started in January 2021, issues began. The workmen often broken her partitions, furnishings and carpets, and infrequently solely labored a few hours every day. 

As delays mounted, Mrs Quick’s two daughters, now aged 13 and 19, had been pressured to sleep on inflatable beds on the sitting room ground for months.

Her eldest little one, Courtney, who has an autism spectrum dysfunction, was recovering from childhood most cancers and finding out for her A-levels on the time.

Ultimately, weeks handed with no work being executed and, in June, the builder instructed Mrs Quick he was going bankrupt and wouldn’t full the challenge.

The electrics, plastering and insulation have been left unfinished, whereas the council has ordered the steps to the attic be ripped out as they don’t meet hearth laws. There may be additionally a gap within the roof, harmful wires hanging out from the wall and the builder owes cash for furnishings his workmen broken.

Emma says: ‘As a guardian, I really feel I’ve failed my youngsters. They’re dwelling in a constructing website and I can not do something to get it mounted.

‘The girl from the council mentioned, ‘I am not even going to look’. She mentioned I wanted to tear it out and begin once more.

‘I am indignant that the builder has executed it. He knew my state of affairs and my daughter’s previous, and but he nonetheless selected to do that.’

Buying and selling Requirements refused to research, telling her it was a civil matter, however Emma can’t afford to go to courtroom. She has made a criticism to her house insurer however has not but obtained any response.

She provides: ‘The foundations are ineffective. I do not know the place to show or what to do.

‘I work exhausting for my cash, I miss out on issues for my youngsters and to maintain a roof over their head, and now I really feel it is nugatory and pointless.’

An Affiliation of British Insurers spokesman says: ‘When you ought to all the time examine your coverage for the scope of canopy offered, harm attributable to defective workmanship, defective design or use of defective supplies shouldn’t be generally coated by house insurance coverage.’

Katherine Hart, doorstep crime lead on the Chartered Buying and selling Requirements Institute, says: ‘The variety of cowboy builder incidents has gone up considerably. 

Folks can get scammed as much as and past £50,000. The criminals will exploit for as a lot as they will get. I’ve heard of people that have ended up signing over their house.

‘Persons are so determined to get work executed. These are prison organisations that see a weak point in society they usually’re fairly fast to take advantage of it.’

Brian Berry, chief govt of the Federation of Grasp Builders, says: ‘Even once you’ve executed all of your homework you possibly can nonetheless fall sufferer to an unscrupulous constructing firm.

‘There’s a enormous demand for builders popping out of lockdown, with folks wanting to increase their houses, materials costs going up and a abilities shortages. It is troublesome to get a very good builder in the mean time.’

Final night time there have been renewed requires the Authorities to control the business and shield susceptible owners.

‘Our life’s been left in tatters’ 

A pair had been left dealing with a £63,000 invoice after a rogue builder put up wonky partitions and uneven flooring.

Mark Smith, 56, and his spouse Gillian employed an architect and a builder to work on a kitchen extension and backyard room at their three-bedroom home.

However the ‘chilly, callous and heartless’ builder left them dwelling in a constructing website in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire.

Wonky workmanship: Mark Smith, 56, and his wife Gillian were left living in a building site and facing a £63,000 bill

Wonky workmanship: Mark Smith, 56, and his spouse Gillian had been left dwelling in a constructing website and dealing with a £63,000 invoice

They had been pressured to drag the inner partitions down and exchange the door frames.

There are nonetheless gaping holes within the partitions and flooring, ‘bangs within the night time’ as bricks crumble and the roof has been put in on the unsuitable angle.

The builder turned aggressive and refused to confess fault after they requested him to repair the work in March 2020.

When he lastly did so practically a yr later, he ‘made it worse’ and boarded up the partitions to cover it. The builder left with £33,000 of the couple’s cash they usually estimate it is going to value an additional £30,000 to rectify the errors.

However the Smiths have been instructed it is going to value between £20,000 and £30,000 to pursue the case by means of the civil courts and, even then, the corporate will be wound as much as keep away from any ensuing courtroom order.

Mark, a gross sales supervisor, has been left attempting to finish the work himself on the weekend. The daddy of 1 says: ‘We have now suffered two years of heartache, sleepless nights and tears over this ordeal. My spouse and I stand up feeling depressed.

‘Till you’ve got gone by means of this example, you do not perceive — it’s complete anguish. He is nothing however a rogue and he is left our life in tatters.’

He referred to as for a legislation to offer recourse to victims, including: ‘You’re feeling so helpless.’

Tory MP Mark Garnier, who fell sufferer to a rogue builder himself and campaigns on the problem, says: ‘It is a large drawback. It’s such a very bust system. The Authorities have gotten their head within the sand over this.

‘We’d like a licensing regime with an ombudsman — then we will crack on and regain confidence to get constructing work executed.’

Business figures reveal that one in three owners has been postpone beginning work as a result of they’re nervous about taking up a rogue builder.

In 2021, the Residents Recommendation shopper service had greater than 58,800 stories of points associated to house enchancment, glazing merchandise and installations. This in contrast with 50,000 stories in 2019, and 46,000 in 2020.

Most complaints about work in 2021 concerned main renovations, roofing and chimney repairs, and home windows and door frames. The Residents Recommendation ‘drawback with constructing work’ net pages additionally had a file 160,000 views in 2021, up from 105,000 in 2020 — an increase of 52 per cent.

Till regulation is launched, there are methods you possibly can shield your self.

Solely use a builder who has been really useful or one you discover on a trusted listing, such because the Federation of Grasp Builders’ Discover A Builder on-line service.

At all times ensure you have a written contract together with your builder, detailing the worth, what’s included and the timescale for every stage.

Pay for work solely as soon as the job, or every stage, has been accomplished satisfactorily. And beware builders who are usually not VAT-registered, provide a dirt-cheap quote or insist on money fee.

As an MP and sufferer, why we MUST act, says MARK GARNIER, Conservative MP for Wyre Fores

Abandoned: Tory MP Mark Garnier's builders stopped taking his calls with the job half done

Deserted: Tory MP Mark Garnier’s builders stopped taking his calls with the job half executed

In my function as an MP, I see loads of instances the place dodgy builders have executed shoddy, harmful work, leaving victims hundreds of kilos out of pocket. However I by no means anticipated to fall sufferer myself.

When seeking to restore our house, my spouse and I enlisted the assistance of a constructing agency I knew by means of my work as an MP. I believed I might belief them.

The 2 builders met with the architect to debate the plans and drew up contracts to ensure they’d full the demolition, rebuilding and extension inside six months.

It began nicely and the usual of labor was OK. However it quickly turned clear it will take for much longer than we might anticipated, and the 2 builders rapidly dropped to 1 when the junior acquired fed up along with his working situations.

When the work was overdue by 4 months, that they had barely completed half the contract. They stopped taking our calls and once we went to go to the challenge supervisor’s house, he refused to see us.

Ultimately, the positioning was accomplished to a primary degree, with no extension and enormous components left undone.

That is when the actual nightmare began. They offered us with a principally fictitious six-figure invoice. We engaged a authorized workforce to problem it however, at every flip, the builders made up extra expenses.

Our challenge started in July 2016 however we reached a settlement solely in March 2021. It value us greater than £100,000 in authorized and settlement charges, and I nonetheless have sleepless nights about it.

We’d like a licensing regime — this has to finish.

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