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Hi,

 

It's a long post so apologies in advance. I've tried to keep everything in order but proved difficult.

 

We have recently had an extension 'completed' on our semi-detached house. The extention is two-story out to the side and then a single story garage on the side of that. The initial quote for works was £80,000 which included a new roof, plumbing and electrics. 

Works were started mid-June and we were making bank transfers to the builder upon request for materials/labour. It should be noted at this stage that the contractor is the owner of a small limited company and he employs a small number of lads to complete the work on his behalf.

Part-way through the job, the builder identified that our house wasn't level so additional work was required on the roof. This cost £1,200 but he stated that he was able to recover this elsewhere so wouldn't need to pass on the cost (as an example, the initial quote included a new garage door but the old one was refitted). 

 

Everything was going well with the project until the knock through around the end of September at which point things took a turn for the worse. Work slowed down as the builders started a new job on the other side of town and we were seeing more and more instances of them being careless in and around the house.By the end of October, we had already paid over the sum of the original quote and according to the contractor, still owed around £4,000. At this point, he deemed remaining works to be snags which we disagreed with. Our contract stated that we were entitled to keep back 5% of the contract value until practical completion so we refused his final payment request. He responded by saying he will not be sending anyone to finish the job until we made further payment. I suggested we make an initial payment for work completed that week and then piecemeal payments as we see the outstanding works being completed to which he agreed. 

Nobody turned up until a week later on 14th November when a few hours work were completed by one of his builders. He insisted he'd be back the next day so took a key for the back door. Needless to say, he never showed. 

At this point, we were being led on by the contractor as to when he would be able to get people here to finish. at the end of November, I suggested that we use our remaining balance of around £800 to get someone else to complete the works to which he agreed.

 

We asked another contractor to come and review the outstanding items. He'd not been in the house 2 minutes before he said how 'disgusted' he was with the work that had been completed and immediately suggested contacting trading standards. What we had been led to believe were snags is actually a large list of works either incomplete or executed poorly.

 

I'll try and keep the issues with the actual work together by type..

 

We had arranged a company to complete the electrical work and they had told the contractor they required two weeks notice before they were due on site. The contract gave a weeks notice and said if they didn't commence work by X date, it would hold up the project. The contractor offered us another electrician who could start immediately. As we didn't want the job being held up, we went with this. The electrical work was completed and we were asked for a payment of over £4,000 for the electrician. The quote stated an estimate of £2,200 so we challenged this and he said 'he just threw a figure in' for the quote. We consulted our original electrician and he said the cost wasn't excessive so the money was paid. 

As of now, we are still to receive an electrical safety certificate and have started to experience issues with the lights and plug sockets in the new kitchen. We have attempted to contact the sub-contractor however there is no record of him online. We can see his company registered with companies house but that's it. He has no online presence and doesn't appear to be registered with any recognized bodies.

 

Upon being told that internal work had been completed bar a snag list, we asked a decorator to come and paint the new downstairs rooms. (He'd already been out to quote prior to completion). Upon arrival, he basically said that the walls and woodwork were not in a condition to be painted and that no amount of prep work would get them looking acceptable after painting. He also observed that none of the windows had been sealed internally.

I challenged the contractor on this and he said that it's a decorator's job to seal windows and for them to do it would be 'like asking a plumber to skim a wall'. As the contractor had not visited our property for a number of weeks, I suggested he come and look at the quality of work which he declined to do. 

The new contractor has suggested he re-plasters around 75% of the new walls and in order to get the woodwork to an acceptable standard, the only option is to rip everything out and start again. The initial quote for the woodwork alone is around £2,000.

 

The new contractor also highlighted from an external perspective that none of the windows or the garage door had been sealed externally, none of the brickwork had been pointed at the rear of the property and no joints had been fitted to the new fascia boards leaving visible gaps. 
 

There has been a new radiator to fitted to existing pipes that does not work. The contractor stated that they could look but any additional works would be chargeable as the rad was fitted to an existing system (there was a working rad there previously). 

 

New rendering was put on the front of the house to match the existing property that looks awful. The contractor actually agreed that this looked poor and said he would re-do it.

 

Finally(!), they've left lots of building materials and waste around my property which has resulted in rats. 

 

Steps I've taken so far are sent a letter by recorded delivery in December quote the Consumer Rights Act 2015 asking to be reimbursed for the costs of getting the work re-done/finished. I allowed 3 weeks for response and have had nothing back. I sent a second letter today asking if he is part of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme as well as giving him 7 days to clear the driveway of waste.

 

I have spoken to Citizens Advice but they seemed to be a bit woolly in responding to some of my questions so was hoping someone can help:

 

- Given the waste is now causing health/environmental issues, am I within my rights to dispose of his materials if he doesn't collect within the 7 days stated on the letter? There is nothing overly valuable, wheelbarrow, wooden boards/planks, structural support poles. 

- I'm trying to establish what the likely outcome of this is. Everyone who has seen the work has said there's no way the contractor has a leg to stand on but my concern is if it costs us for example £5,000 to correct/finish everything, what's the chances of us actually getting that back? If he was to bankrupt his limited company would he be off the hook? 

- If I was to take him to court, am I likely to incur significant legal costs or be liable for his legal costs if by some miracle he was to win?

 

We've still got all of our paperwork in terms of contracts and payment requests and we paid via bank transfer so have evidence of that also.

 

Again, apologies for the very long post but just wanted to give as much detail as possible! We've got a baby due in 4 weeks and could really have done without all of this.

 

Thanks

 

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So I gather here is that you contacted with a builder to undertake a sizeable extension project. You agreed a price and you agree to pay various instalments with the right to retain 5% which was presumably to cover the snagging list. You have now paid the sum quoted and the job is not finished. Your builder claims that it is merely snagging – but you have been told that it is far more than that and not only is much of the work not done but also the work which has been done is of extremely poor quality.

Please can you confirm that this correct?

Please can you tell us the name of the builder.

I'm afraid that an awful lot is going to depend on whether the builder is accessible to you in the event that you get a judgement against him. Frankly on the basis of what you have said – its failure to reply, his lack of interest, essentially walking off the job, the poor workmanship – this is somebody who is not going to respond to any ADR system. You talk about contacting trading standards – I'm afraid that doesn't work. Trading standards are completely inaccessible nowadays. You have to contact citizens advice – who as you have already realised are extremely woolly. Well-intentioned is probably the best we can say about them for most of these kinds of problems. Even if citizens advice do notify trading standards, trading standards only move themselves when they get a weight of complaints against a single company and even then is very difficult to get them to move themselves.

I'm afraid that there is no one else around to help you – unless you want to instruct lawyers – which will be very expensive. All of course you can let us help you – and we're pleased to do it free of charge. We are much quicker than lawyers and much more assertive. If you go to a lawyer you will end up with a lawyer sending letters which may or may not be answered. If they answered then you'll get involved in protracted correspondence which will simply increase the bill and get you nowhere.

Please tell us the name of the builder. We need to understand how accessible this person is. Do you have any idea of its residential address or of any assets that he owns.

You have talked about the risk of incurring legal costs. You are right to be concerned about this because the small claims limit is £10,000 and after that if you happen to lose your case, you could be saddled with the cost of the other side – assuming that they want to defend, assuming that they spend money on the defence, and assuming that you lose the case. On the basis of what you have said here, your chances of success are better than 95% – but your problem will be to enforce the judgement which is why we need to find out a bit about the where with all of this builder before you start chucking money around.

You certainly will need some independent expert opinions – but talk to us about the builder first

You also ask about disposing of the equipment he is left lying around. I think it is worth getting a valuation of it first of all and taking lots of pictures. Certainly giving notice that you're going to dispose of it and then go ahead. However, if he suddenly came back to you for the value then as much as it sticks in your craw, you might be liable to reimburse him for the loss of the equipment – less your costs of storage and less your reasonable costs of disposal.


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Hi BankFodder,

 

Many thanks for your reply.

Can I ask if it's required that I name the builder publicly? I don't want to put myself in any kind of position where there can be any defamation claims (obviously everything I've said is factually correct and is backed up by evidence but still..)

 

I have his residential address which is also his registered business address. In terms of assets, other than vehicles and tools I have no idea.

 

Thanks

 

 

I should have added, the builder provided us with the electrical safety certificate on Wednesday. This was sent via email with no other wording/communication, simply just the certificate.

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It is generally helpful to name the trader involved. If they discover their being discussed on the forum, it tends to concentrate their minds. Also it can protect other people from the same kind of treatment. It can also sometimes bring other people out into the open who will say yes they had the same problem with the same trader.

It also helps us a bit to give advice because we can do little bits of our own research.

These things are definitely complicated. I have to say that it seems to me that you agree to pay far too much money in advance and it would have been more reasonable to retain 1/3 of the total payment until the job was done. Then get a snagging list, get an independent quote for the value of dealing with the snags as well as an independent inspection of the quality of the work – then pay the third but retain the money needed to deal with the snags.

Still it's all a bit late for that now.

I think the opposition now is that you need to get at least a couple of independent assessments of the quality of the work, the repairs or remedial work needed and the value of those. You need to put this in hand as quickly as possible. It's likely that these quotations will cost you money – but if you proceed with this and if you win – and very importantly, if you manage to enforce judgement, you will be able to recover these costs.

I'm pretty certain that we are looking at well over £10,000 – so well over the small claims limit. I'm afraid this introduces new risk factors as I suggested above, if he defends and if you lose. If you go about this carefully, then even if he defends, you can scarcely lose – although some traders are dab hands at delaying and protracting the litigation.

You certainly should investigate his assets. You may know his residential address but have you ascertained that it belongs to him and not to a member of his family? Are you dealing with a limited liability company? Is the limited liability company recently established? Is there a history of limited liability companies – each one folding after two or three years only to be replaced by another. This is called "Phoenixing".

 

Did you get other quotes for the same work from other builders or is this the only one you talked to and gave the project to?

Do you have any building experience in your background – as an amateur or professional?


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By the way, in terms of naming the builder, as long as everything you say is factually correct – and in particular if you have evidence to support it, then there is absolutely no risk of a defamation action. You may get angry threats that they will be meaningless. You seem to be aware that a defamatory statement has to be an untrue statement – as well as calculated to cause damage to somebody's reputation in the eyes of right-thinking members of society

Also, on the issue of the safety certificate. Who issued it? Did he issue it for his own work? I think when you get your independent quotes you would be well advised to get another electrician in to cross check and to confirm the validity of the certificate


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The limited liability company was set up in May 2018 and the director has no previous appointments. With regards to his assets, I have no idea how I would even begin to find  that kind of information out.

 

We got multiple quotes for the job. This was a mid-range quote and the builder came recommended (believe it or not).

 

I've no building experience whatsoever, this has partly been the reason we've ended up in this mess. In hindsight, I should have employed someone to PM the job and oversee the builder and the work. 

 

With regards the cost, I don't think from what the new builder has said that it's going to be 'well over' £10,000. I would expect the final cost to be around £6-7k.

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Well asset tracing is very difficult – but if you have a residential address then you could start off by visiting the land registry and get the report relating to that address. I think it cost you 10 quid. Of course I suddenly realise that now you are dealing with a limited liability company, then even if the address is the owner's own residential address, it won't be accessible to enforcement.

Also, you could go to https://www.trustonline.org.uk/ to see if there are any judgements against the company or individuals related to the company.

 

I suppose none of this information will be especially helpful – but it's better to be informed than not informed. For instance if you find a swathes of unsatisfied judgements then it will give you a better idea as to whether it's worth continuing.

I certainly think that you need to set about finding out the value of any claim you might have to make and you would do this by getting the independent assessments that I suggested above
 


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Thanks. We have someone coming round on 17th Jan to finalise their quote however based on your advice I will also seek another for comparison. 

 

 

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Finally got a response from the builder today.

Following advice from his solicitor, he's asked for images of the work we have issues with and the waste allegedly left on site. 

 

So I've sent him 48 pictures and one video alongside descriptions with everything on there and given him seven days to come back.

 

Would you agree that getting any kind of response at this stage is a positive?

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Yes it is encouraging to have any response from the builder – and even more encouraging, I suppose, that they say that they have received advice from a solicitor – which may be suggest that they are taking you a little bit more seriously than their failure to respond had originally suggested.

You say that you have given them seven days to come back. And after that what?


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If no response received I was going to continue down the route that I was previously going which would be seeking legal advice and potentially to small claims court.

 

Am I going about this the right way?

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Well I would say firstly there is never any point in setting a particular deadline if one doesn't have a very clear idea of what one is going to do if the deadline is exceeded. Otherwise you are simply saying that if you don't reply within seven days then I'll huff and I'll puff .... and then ... errr....

I've already pointed out that it is likely that you were talking about a claim far in excess of the small claims limit of £10,000. Tell me if you think I'm wrong. But on the basis that I'm right, then there is no possibility of you going to the Small Claims Court.

Secondly, you say that you are going to seek legal advice. Of course you are opening the door to a situation where you will be required to pay fees and you will begin the process of an exchange of correspondence between you and the builder and then the builders solicitor which will become costly and won't necessarily produce anything.

 

At the moment, you have come to us and you may as well stick with us because the advice we are giving is completely free – and I think that the next thing you should be doing is you should bring in independent experts to assess the quality of the work and what is needed in the way of repairs or remedial work and the value of that.

If you get to independent quotations then come back here and tell us what they say. We can then take you forward. Even if you go to a solicitor, the solicitor will need to know the value of the dispute. I think I have already suggested this to you on 7 January. Have you done anything about it?


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I'm wondering whether there might be a way of legitimately dividing a potential claim into several small claims – each of which might be less than the small claims limit.

Presumably there was wiring work. Has an electrical safety certificate been issued? It might be worth having the quality of the wiring assessed separately and if it is substandard then get a quotation for that. Is there plumbing involved? – Same thing. Separate quote.

See if you can divide the work into separate categories and although it might be a bit cheeky, it might give a basis for making some smaller claims partly to test the water but also to reduce your risk. This is the kind of advice that you will never get from a solicitor.


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I do think that the work required would probably come in under the small claims limit of £10,000. 

 

We have a another builder coming round next week to give us a quote. 

 

We received the electrical safety certificate but still have concerns around this as the kitchen lights flicker and there are plug sockets that don't work. We have another electrician coming round this weekend to assess the work. 

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From what you had been saying I had gather that it was so catastrophic that it would exceed £10,000 easily. If it does come in under £10,000 and that is very good news and you can be far more aggressive about pursuing the matter.

Get the quotes.

In particular get the electrical system checked. If defects can be identified then get it in writing and we will treat that separately. I think it would be a very serious matter to install a faulty political system and then to issue a certificate. I think that we could make that a separate issue – and the seriousness of it might well be used to leverage a greater degree of compliance from the builder.

You won't get that advice from a solicitor either.


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