In January 2009 we hired builders after checking several companies, getting referrals and looking at their work to build an extension. We realized later that their referrals were friends of theirs who were in on the [problem]. We did staged payments and only paid into a bank account electronically. The council's planning department knew early on they were cowboys, but never told us until the builders walked off the job with claims they were being harassed by the planning department. We found out they did not use insulation, the roof was only plywood and the electrics and plumbing put in ran to nowhere. The brickwork was not even straight and the footings were too high. The reason why they walked off the job is instead of using insulation and hardcore they just threw any old junk including planks of wood for the floor. The planning officer caught them halfway through concreting over it and had a row with them. I was told by the planning department I could also be held liable for allowing them to contravene the building regulations! I asked them why they never told me what was happening and was told they do not get involved with such things and their only job is to ensure that the work is done within regulations. The builders took £14,500 of our money and called to threaten us if we did not pay a further £4000. They also refused to return the key for our gate to get into the back. I called the police and never heard from them again.
Our livingroom was left open to the elements and scaffolding was holding up the steel beam and the place was a mess. I got a good builder in and it was discovered that none of the walls were even, masonry fell and there was no insulation in the walls. Plus one wall had to be partially redone as it was moving back and forth. In total, it cost us another £15,000 to redo this when the whole thing should have cost £23,000.
We traced them and found that the original person we were in contact with has a legitimate business and he was working in partnership with the cowboy. But, it was presented to us that they were in business together as so-called brothers and the contract we did and all dealings were with the legitimate partner. He later tried to say he only introduced us and had no dealings with it, but we have evidence that he was just as involved. He told us he does the tiling and decorating and his brother does the building side of things.
The one who does not have a legitimate business was using 3 different addresses and I contacted the insurance company he had. They refused to take any responsibility. I contacted Trading Standards and was told they can record it, but unless they get at least 5 similar complaints against the same company they cannot take them to court. They also said that even if I did take them to court and won I would most likely not be able to collect any money. Shortly after all this I became very ill and nearly lost my life. It took a year to recover and now I am thinking of seeing what I can do. I know that the one brother has moved and is still in business.
Can anyone give me some advice about the possibility of suing and was I told the correct information from Trading Standards? I am unable to seek legal advice as I cannot afford and cannot get legal aid.