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  1. Hello, I employed a builder to do a loft conversion, and renovate my house which I had just bought. He quoted £72,000 to do the work including all electrics, plumbing, plastering etc. The quote was itemised and he visited the property twice and priced up materials etc before emailing it to me. He said that the work would be completed by the end of last summer. He requested an initial payment for materials into his wife's bank account quite a while before any work was done. When he started he told me that he didn't have a lot of money and that I would need to give him money for materials which he would not make any profit on, and he generally showed me receipts. He also asked for 'wages' for himself on a daily rate of £180. I'm a single woman and I realise now after googling that I should have had a proper contract in place and made stage payments; I know now that he took advantage of me for being trusting. I was renting alternative accommodation in another town as the property wasn't liveable. I would pop down once or twice a week or so to see how it was going and progress was slow. Sometimes there would be no-one there at all and most often when I arrived they would be in the kitchen drinking tea. He had decorators, plasterers, electricians and plumbers come in, who he knew and had arranged. He had me pay their invoices. He had initially one labourer working with him, but that escalated to three labourers - he was invoicing me for all of them at a daily rate. The work dragged on past the end of the summer for no reason. The builder told me that he had been diagnosed with leukaemia and I felt sorry for him, but now realise this was probably a lie. I was finally able to move in in November, The main house being finished. The builder seemed reticent to move on the the conversion of an attached brick outbuilding and seemed to be finding odd jobs to do around the house. He asked if I could do a favour and pay his building subcontractors directly as this would mean they would need to pay their own National Insurance instead of him. I made a couple of payments to them in November- the daily rate for the builder and 3 labourers was £500. I also gave the builder £7500 in cash for the roof, which he gave me a receipt for, but he has kept the money and not given it to the roofer as intended. When I started the renovation I had the money needed from the sale of my previous house plus another £20,000. That had all gone and I took out the maximum loan I could from my bank of £25,000. The work continued throughout December when I was away on holiday. I came home after Christmas and it still wasn't completed. I did a spreadsheet and found that I had paid through bank transfer to the builder and various of his contractors £105,000. I also had unpaid invoices from him, his building subcontractors and further other contractors of £12,000. There had not been any extra work requested on top of the original quote, I had chosen the cheapest option wherever I could and the work on the original quote is still not finished. I told the builder that there was a problem with the overcharging and not to return to site until it had been resolved. I asked for a list of his extras and he quoted putting up a shelf in the pantry and other trivial things which in no way add up to the total. The biggest overcharging has been in payments to the builder and his 3 subcontractors - £60,000, the vast majority of which is for labour. This does not include the £7500 for the roof. My house is not huge, it is ex local authority 3 bedroom, outside of London. I refused to make any more payments and had the subcontractors texting, calling round at my house and demanding payments. One morning I found concrete poured on my car, and when I got home that night the front and back door locks have been superglued so I had to call an emergency locksmith. I reported this to the police and bought security cameras. I paid to have letters sent the builder by a building disputes company explaining that he had overcharged me and needed to pay me back the money. Also letters to the contractors stating that any payments they had received from me were made in error because the builder had told me to and that they should get payment from the builder and reimburse me with the money already paid. In return I got seven identical letters back from the builder's solicitor, one for each contractor saying that he was looking into it. That was two weeks ago. I would appreciate any advice please - I am a woman on my own who is finding it hard to get advice which doesn't cost a lot of money. I don't have much funds left and need to get the work finished. The cost of a solicitor is very off putting and I worry that if I take that route I could end up owing more money. I am also a little concerned that the six subcontractors might try to sue me for their outstanding invoiced which are each in the £1000-£2000 range. There are also some issues with the work which has been done - the brickwork for example is shocking and needs re-doing. I have tried calling CAB who referred me to Trading Standards, I called Trading Standards but they said that they would only help businesses in my county and not individuals. The builder is a sole trader and he co-owns his house with his wife.
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