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Block paving job - installer refusing to complete job or refund deposit


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Sorry this is so long...
 

I hired a local person to install block paving on my existing driveway and garden. He insisted on a large deposit (about 5k) which was roughly 2/3 of the quote, before even starting work. He came on the day we agreed and dug off the garden and old block paving into 2 large piles. This was on a Friday, and the following Monday when he was due to come and take the piles away in grab lorries. However he didn’t come and said he felt really ill and his son was ill too. He later said he had Covid symptoms and had been told to isolate. We had no drive to park on and access to the house from the street was a mud bath, with the kids treading mud everywhere when they came in, and postman and other people visiting the house to do work (moved here July and house needs lots of work) were slipping all over the place.  
 

He got a postal Covid test done around the 2nd or 3rd day of his illness and was isolating until results came back. As he hadn’t contacted me whatsoever, after a 4 or 5 days I was chasing him up to see when he was expecting to be ready to work again. If he’d tested positive then of course I would not have expected him on site. If he’d tested negative then isolation would have ended and he would’ve had no reason to not come back to finish the job I’d paid for. However there was a 2-3 day turnaround of test results at the time, and after 10 days I was still none the wiser about his results or plans. My employer expects me to call HR on my 1st day of absence from work, before my shift starting time, and then provide daily updates, including an estimate of when I will be returning to work. I realise being self employed gives you some freedom in this respect, but to ignore a customer for 10 days is totally unacceptable in my opinion. Especially when he knew what state the drive was in, and that we had other jobs booked in straight after he was due to finish.

 

We had some big jobs booked in after the drive was due to be finished, involving scaffolding front and back, and I was trying to juggle these jobs around him being here, and minimising numbers of people on site due to Covid. 

After about 11 days he must have got his test results (he never did tell me when or what the result was) as he contacted me to say he would be there the next to do the grabs. However the next day was another no show, so I asked him why and he then said the grab lorry had failed its mot and could not come. He then had to contact a different grab lorry company and it was rescheduled a few days later. I had made him aware we were on holiday at half term, and so that week was out and the following week due to double glazing with scaffolding front and back, were not possible for anyone to work on the house. He then contacted me about 3 days before we went on holiday to say he’d be there the next day, and confirmed my holiday dates back to me. I said it was ok to make a start, but he would not be able to work whilst we were away due to no access to power or water (the house being all locked up and neighbours being at work so we couldn’t leave keys). We also didn’t want him around when we weren’t here and couldn’t check what he was doing. 
 
He then had a hissy fit and said he’d have to come back 2 weeks later, and that no other customer had ever refused to let him work while they were away! I wouldn’t want anyone doing such a big job while I was away, and don’t know anybody else that would be happy either. The day he was meant to come back, he didn’t show (again) and he said it was because someone at the grab company’s  wife had died and couldn’t do the job. I have no idea if true or not as his excuses were so random and continuous by this stage. I asked him to use another (locally well known) grab firm with more than 1 lorry and more than 1 driver and he agreed. However he later contacted me to say this particular firm were too expensive and he would be going back to the original firm who let him down (mot failure). 
 
They let us down again on the day agreed, so my wife got the grab firms number and gave them a call. She was firm and to the point with them (no shouting, swearing or abuse) but told them to be here the next day no excuses as they had caused us so many delays. They actually turned up and did the grabs the next day and brought 18 tonne of stone. The trader was happy my wife had phoned them as he said we were backing him up, and had done what he couldn’t by getting them here. We were then told later that the driver had been spoken to ‘like s***’ by my wife and would not be working with the trader again. Very bizarre. 
 
Anyway the trader agreed to start the job a few days later but failed to turn up (again). We had had enough by this stage and texted him to see where he was. No response. We called several times and he didn’t answer. He eventually texted to say his van had been taken away by the insurance company weeks earlier and he was out looking for a new van, and that he had an online course that which he couldn’t cancel. We said this wasn’t good enough (we were now on week 6 of no driveway and the entire front of the house looking like an abandoned building site). He then told us to find someone else to do the job as he was sick of us telling him what to do!

As he is now in breach of contract, we are trying to get our deposit back, less the dig, the 2 grabs and the stone delivery. We estimate these costs to be less than 1k. He is refusing and saying we owe him money! He is also saying we have to have the blocks which he has ordered, despite the driveway being nowhere near ready to lay them, and us having nowhere to store them. He wanted to dump them on the pavement and I had to tell him he couldn’t do this as it was illegal!
We’ve been advised to take him to court to get our money back, and have sent him a letter by recorded mail to advise this is what we will do in 14 days if we don’t get the refund we are due.
Are we within our rights to get a refund, as he has refused to complete the job but wants us to pay for the blocks he has ordered? We can’t use these anyway, as no other trader will offer a guarantee on the job with blocks not supplied by them. 
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Please can you give us a timeline over which this happened and the sums of money involved

Also is this person self-employed or working for a firm or what? Do you know where they live? You know if they have any assets?

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54 minutes ago, BankFodder said:

Please can you give us a timeline over which this happened and the sums of money involved

Also is this person self-employed or working for a firm or what? Do you know where they live? You know if they have any assets?

Deposit of £4932 was paid on 03/09. Dig on 04/09. Grabs on 13/11. Job cancelled by trader on 17/11. He has a business name but that is dissolved on companies house, so I am assuming he is a sole trader. All quotes and correspondence were via email so no letter headed paper. Deposits paid to an account in his own name (business account?) I have his home address which is where the recorded letter was sent and signed for by him on 19/11. 

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Well tell us the business name. Don't be shy.
Are you sure that you are doing business with him as a sole trader and not with a limited liability company?
Do you know that he owns his home address?

 

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16 minutes ago, BankFodder said:

Well tell us the business name. Don't be shy.
Are you sure that you are doing business with him as a sole trader and not with a limited liability company?
Do you know that he owns his home address?

 

Definitely not doing that on a public forum, especially when this is likely to go to court!

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Well in that case I'm not sure that we will be able to give you any particularly useful advice.

These factors could be important. There is no disadvantage or prejudice to you by referring to these things on this forum as long as you are honest and straight dealing. We don't have any skulduggery or secret squirrel here.

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15 minutes ago, BankFodder said:

Well in that case I'm not sure that we will be able to give you any particularly useful advice.

These factors could be important. There is no disadvantage or prejudice to you by referring to these things on this forum as long as you are honest and straight dealing. We don't have any skulduggery or secret squirrel here.

I’m not going to name him or his company but I’ll just leave some links below...

 

https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/09575986

 

https://www.facebook.com/mnmpatios2paving100
 

From what I understand, an LLC has to appear on companies house, and this is the only one matching the business name he uses and that he has ever been a director of.

 

I’ve no idea if he owns his home, I suspect it’s rented as it’s a different address to the one on companies house, which was last updated in 2018. The house he lives in now has not been sold on Rightmove records so most likely belongs to someone else.

Edited by labrajaws
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We are living in extraordinary times and based on the information so far, I am not sure anyone would have a definite idea of the way forward.  Is this a rogue trader or just someone who is having many difficulties some of which relate to Covid-19 ?

 

I have heard of many people having problems with various projects, because there have been problems with contractors or supplies of materials/equipment.  And most of the problems relate to Covid-19, with it causing lost work hours, tradesman becoming unavailable or materials/equipment not being available.

 

 

We could do with some help from you.

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12 minutes ago, unclebulgaria67 said:

We are living in extraordinary times and based on the information so far, I am not sure anyone would have a definite idea of the way forward.  Is this a rogue trader or just someone who is having many difficulties some of which relate to Covid-19 ?

 

I have heard of many people having problems with various projects, because there have been problems with contractors or supplies of materials/equipment.  And most of the problems relate to Covid-19, with it causing lost work hours, tradesman becoming unavailable or materials/equipment not being available.

 

 

I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that all the other jobs we’ve had done during COVID have gone ahead either as planned or without significant delays. When he refused to complete the job this week, it had got to the point where me and my wife could not take it anymore due to the toll on our mental health and weeks of sleepless nights worrying about the situation. Instead of trying to persuade and beg to him return and finish the job, we took his advice/instruction to “find someone else to do the job” at face value and accepted that he had breached the contract and we would pursue a refund of work not undertaken. We found someone else to do the job (supplying their own bricks and materials). It cost slightly more for them to finish the job (8k) than his total original quote (7300), but they had a team of 8 people that completed the job in just under 2 days. They pulled out all the stops to help us get sorted, as they could see what a mess we’d been left in for so long. They were incredible and we couldn’t fault them or their workmanship. They had a very high feedback score on trust a trader and other sites so this is why we used them.

Edited by labrajaws
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So clearly you can't have been dealing with that limited liability company as they were dissolved well before you got involved in this contract.

So assuming that this is a sole trader, it's pretty important to ascertain whether or not there are any assets. It's easy enough to bring a court action and to win – but the problem will be with enforcing the judgement if either you don't know his address or if he has no assets.

You can search his addresses here https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry and see whether he is an owner. That would be very important information.

What address where you proposing to send a letter of claim two and also to issue proceedings against? Don't be shy about that either

Andrew Moss MNPatio & Gdn Services Ltd.pdf

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30 minutes ago, BankFodder said:

So clearly you can't have been dealing with that limited liability company as they were dissolved well before you got involved in this contract.

So assuming that this is a sole trader, it's pretty important to ascertain whether or not there are any assets. It's easy enough to bring a court action and to win – but the problem will be with enforcing the judgement if either you don't know his address or if he has no assets.

You can search his addresses here https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry and see whether he is an owner. That would be very important information.

What address where you proposing to send a letter of claim two and also to issue proceedings against? Don't be shy about that either

Andrew Moss MNPatio & Gdn Services Ltd.pdf 20.7 kB · 3 downloads

The address on companies house is owned by a lettings company, and his current address is owned by a housing association. The latter is where I sent a recorded delivery letter to this week and it’s him that signed for it, so I know he lives there. I got his current address from a hospital admissions form that he sent me a screenshot of, as another of his excuses for not turning up was that his son had been ill and visited hospital that day. I didn’t ask for this proof and was gobsmacked he had sent it me as it is has a child’s personal information on it. However it was useful to get the address from.

 

the letter I sent this week was suggested by a CAB advisor, who said I had to give 14 days for him to remedy the situation (as he has breached the contract by refusing to complete the job) before sending the pre-court letter, and then waiting another 14 days before starting a small claim. I did change the wording in my letter to request a refund with proof of his costs to date, rather than a remedy to return and complete the job. 
 

this was CABs advice:

Under common law, when you enter into a contract, both parties are bound by any terms and conditions that have formed part of any pre-contract negotiations. 
If nothing related to your issue is included in the terms and conditions, or, the trader is not following terms included, you may be able to hold the trader in breach of contract. You may be able to seek a refund from the trader for a breach of contract by repudiating the contract; this means bringing the contract to an end. Alternatively, you may request the trader honour the contract as agreed and seek damages; damages could be for a monetary amount you feel is reasonable to compensate for the breach. The burden of proof is on yourself as the consumer, therefore you will need to provide evidence if the trader is not complying with the terms and conditions. 


Chloe: 

Follow the trader’s complaints process. If they don't have a complaints process then we advise to write to them. Explain what the problem is, how you'd like them to sort it out and set a date for them to reply to you.

If you use webchat, it's a good idea to save a transcript of the conversation.

If you complain by post, send the letter using a recorded delivery service. This lets you track the letter, and prove it was sent and received.

An example of a recorded delivery service is Royal Mail Signed For. You can do this in any Post Office.
We advise to give them a deadline of 14 days to get back to you.

You can get help writing an email or letter by using the templates on our website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/template-letters/letters.
Edited by labrajaws
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Thanks for this. It's all very standard stuff. The advice from CAB is broadly correct except that they are quite wrong about the burden of proof falling on your shoulders because you are the consumer. The burden of proof falls on your shoulders because you would be the claimant.

You are looking to claim quite a chunk of money and I have to say that although your chances of success are pretty well 100%, I'm a bit worried about your chances of enforcing the judgement.

This means that you could get your judgement quite easily but then not managed to get back any of your money including the costs which you have spent out on obtaining the judgement which I expect would be in the region of about £250 or £300 – the cost of the claim, the cost of the hearing fee – if it went that far – and then the enforcement cost which would be done by the High Court enforcement officers and which would cost you about £66 although this would only be recoverable if the enforcement was successful.

I think it might be an idea to send him an initial letter to let him know what might happen and then make a decision from there.

Please monitor the thread for an additional reply tomorrow

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This is what the trader is claiming his costs are, and so far has refused to provide any proof in the form of screenshots, emails or receipts etc:

 

Complete dig off of 120 square metre area garden = £900

2 mixed material grab loads away £500.
20 Tons of stone = £900.
5612 block paving blocks Various colours are brindle,charcoal and buff =£2220.
Other costs of £700
Total: £5200
 
I know that the dig would cost £250 maximum (mini digger plus operator 1 day hire). His diggerman was only here for 2 hours.
Grabs cost £180 each (x2 = £360). I have checked this with the company he actually used.
18 (not 20) Tonnes of stone were actually delivered - I have checked this with the company he actually used. Cost @ £14 a tonne = £252.
So his total costs for work done and materials supplied to date = £612
 
He is saying that I have to pay for the blocks and take delivery of them, even through he refuses to lay them and has cancelled the job before it is anywhere near ready to lay them. They have been ordered from his supplier and delivered to his building yard.
 
Is he right?
 
Edited by labrajaws
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I'll respond later

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I'm very concerned about this for a couple reasons.

First of all I think there is going to be serious trouble enforcing a judgement. This means that this could leave you with a judgement – but out-of-pocket even though it would leave the defendant with a judgement and a damaged credit file which will remain that way for six years. However, this may not be important to him. He may well be that his credit file is already in deep problems.

We have already seen that he had a business which folded about two years ago. He has now been operating as a one-man band – and not very well so far as I understand from you. The signs are that he lives in a housing association home and that may tend to indicate that he doesn't have a lot of means and very few assets to enforce against.

I'm also troubled by the fact that he was innocent enough to send you a photograph of details referring to his own child in order to give you evidence of some illness and dealing with somebody who was naïvely innocent as that tends to suggest that this guy is not an evil rip-off merchant but  is a person who is seriously in difficulty managing his life.

I'm not trying to say you should feel sorry for him, but I think that we need to understand who we are dealing with. I suppose I had better say right now that I'm not really impressed by your own rather rash way of dealing with this person by handing over a large chunk of money without having secured any guarantees and before any work had commenced.
I don't want to say that you have been complicit in your own misfortune – but I think it could have been handled differently.

On that basis I'm wondering whether your interests would be best served for the moment to try and do some more research about who he is and where he is – and this could even mean going to his home and visiting him – but not for a confrontation – but to invite him to sit down to discuss all the problems and the fact that he has your money and how might it be paid back.

You may well find somebody who is quite regretful of the situation and doesn't know how to handle it and would like to work with you towards producing a settlement. You should certainly not allow yourself to be persuaded to part with any more money – or at least not to him. However, from the sounds of it you have got a mess on your hands and you are going to have to fork out some money to get it sorted – whether or not you can get any of your money back from the trader.

Clearly he is doing himself no favours by confronting you in respect of materials which have apparently been ordered and for which he wants payment. Let me say right now, that you are under no obligation to pay any of this. Furthermore it is clear that he has breached the contract so fundamentally that you are released from all obligations.
That's fine as a legal principle – and you could litigate on that basis if you want and get a judgement – but none of that gets you your money back.

I think it might be worth trying to reach out to this man to find out what a situation is. To form your own impression as to whether he is simply a reasonable man who has got himself into deep trouble which he can't manage and may be by some dialogue you can help him out of his trouble and at the same time rescue your own situation.

The alternative is simply to litigate, get a judgement – and then have to accept the very likely possibility that you won't be able to enforce the judgement – or if you do, it may only be for a very limited sum.

Of course the final alternative is simply to walk away – but I certainly wouldn't want to do that without knowing a lot more about this trader and his circumstances.

Of course if you found that actually he was simply trying to rip you off then you should become relentless in your pursuit of him – and of course we would help you.

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Yes, I have definitely learnt my lesson about paying deposits upfront to someone I don’t know. I thought it sounded plausible at the time when he said he needed money to pay for materials and money to pay the digger man and grab man. 
 

He has spoken to the block supplier and it is likely he will be able to return the blocks but there will be a handling charge. To avoid this dragging out indefinitely with little chance of success, I may just agree to pay the handling fee on top of the other work he has done so far.

 

Thanks

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Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you give up on it – but simply that it may be your own economic interests are best served by understanding exactly what the problem is and then deciding what action to take.

As I said, getting a judgement against him is extremely easy – and pretty well assured. It simply that there may be a more certain way to getting a satisfactory resolution for yourself with less risk

Please keep us updated

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Here's another thought. I think you should consider reporting the matter to the police. Although the police might initially say that it is simply a civil matter – to a great extent it has the hallmarks of an offence of dishonesty and it would be useful to get a crime reference number.

However, before doing this I think – as I suggested above – that you should attempt to have a dialogue with the guy – but if the dialogue starts to break down then you should indicate that your next port of call might well be the police as well as issuing a legal action. Once again, only if the dialogue breaks down, he should then understand that once you get the judgement you will instruct the sheriffs and that their fees could add a couple of thousand pounds to the cost of recovery of the judgement sum.

 

Even if he is not fazed by the idea of a judgement – may be because his credit file is already badly damaged and he knows he has no assets, he may well be troubled by the idea of being visited by the police.

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