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Would you take a builder to court in these circumstances?

(13 Posts)
ignatiusjreilly Sun 19-Nov-17 20:18:20

We had a ground floor extension added to our property at the start of this year. The builder was recommended by a friend of a friend who had worked with him. We checked out all his references, went to see his work, etc. and his wasn't the cheapest quote by a long shot, so we felt fairly confident he was a good choice.

Unfortunately, he turned out to be a cowboy. We had no end of problems during the build, but the real problems started post-build.

We discovered all sorts of problems which have cost us nearly £10k to put right, including:
- not fitting the drains under the new kitchen properly, plus fitting the manhole at the back of the property the wrong way round. Within a few months of his men finishing, we had sewage floating up into the garden and had to pay a drains specialist £6k to fix it. This involved taking up the kitchen floor and digging down through the underfloor heating which was a huge job.
- refusing to provide the gas & elec safety certificates. We had to pay a plumber and an electrician to come and inspect the work; neither could believe the poor standard of installation and we had to pay over £1k more to bring it up to regulation standards.
- didn't waterproof our neighbour's roof properly (terraced row) meaning we had to get a roofer in to put it right.

We've tried to contact the builder repeatedly but he's totally ignored us and changed his mobile number.

I have sent a Letter of Claim to his email address, home address and his new mobile number (kindly offered up by one of the references he used who was horrified to hear what had happened). I took screen shots on Whatsapp to show that he had read the message informing him of the Letter of Claim, but of course he promptly blocked me and didn't respond within the 14 day deadline.

I was all set to press ahead with the legal claim until I realised how high the fees would be. It will be £415 to submit the claim, then more at each further stage to pursue the debt. I'm confident we would win the case but I worry we are just throwing more money away and will never get it back. It could be as much as £1k in fees and we may never get a penny out of him. He is Polish and his wife and kids live over there so he could well disappear back home, although to be honest I would see that as a good result as I'd know he wasn't still here doing the same thing to other people. It has been incredibly stressful for us and I hate to think of him moving on to the next poor sucker.

We know that he is still in the country and working as he has recently done some work for one of the references we contacted. We think he may have moved house though, as we have been to his address a few times but can't see his car or van.

I'd love to know what others would do in our situation. Would you just draw a line under the whole thing and write the money off, or would you want to take him to court and hopefully stop him doing this again?

Thanks for reading!

ignatiusjreilly Sun 19-Nov-17 20:20:37

Sorry, I should have mentioned that our contract was with him personally, not a business name, so am I right in thinking we have more chance of recovering the money than if he was operating as a limited company?

greendale17 Sun 19-Nov-17 20:23:00

I would definitely go after him for all the money. Small claims court, bailiffs, high court everything

greendale17 Sun 19-Nov-17 20:23:43

You have an excellent chance of getting your money back as you can go after him personally. Put a charge on his house

SingaSong12 Sun 19-Nov-17 20:36:42

You mention requesting a gas safety certificate. Whether or not you go to court have a look at Gas Safe Register to see if he is registered or should be to legally do the job he did. If he is registered get in touch with them.

I don't know if there is an equivalent gor electric work.

prh47bridge Sun 19-Nov-17 21:30:43

As your contract was with him personally he cannot escape by winding up the limited company (if he has one). He will be personally liable for the debt. That doesn't mean you will see your money, of course. As you say, he may go back to Poland without paying.

Don't forget to add the court fees on to your claim.

ignatiusjreilly Mon 20-Nov-17 09:57:56

Thanks for all the replies. It's really useful to hear what others would do in our situation as DH and I have different opinions.

Our plumber recommended we report him to the Gas Safe Register people so I'm hoping they'll follow it up. He wasn't registered.

greendale 17 - unfortunately he's only renting so we can't put a charge on his house. He did have a very nice car and work van though, so hopefully he has some assets! On our contract he confirmed he had liability insurance so he may be able to use that to pay us (unless he was lying).

user1487194234 Wed 22-Nov-17 22:06:38

Always best to avoid litigation if at all possible
IME it is normally expensive , time consuming and expensive
Main issue is likely to be how easy it will be to recover from him,with no house to fix charge on it might be tricky
Suggest you get solicitor to write to him with you claim and see if you can get some sort of settlement out of him

Thiswayorthatway Wed 29-Nov-17 10:37:15

If you get a County Court Judgement against him (limely if he continues yo ignore you) he will find it difficult to rent or get credit

ignatiusjreilly Thu 30-Nov-17 17:46:58

Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply. I have been doing a bit more investigating and managed to find somebody he did some work for last year. She thought he'd left the country and was surprised to hear he was still here. She said he was living hand to mouth and really struggling and she actually ended up lending him money...! He did eventually pay her back but only after a lot of persuasion.

She thought it was very unlikely I'd get anything back from him via small claims as he was clearly in a very bad place financially.

So we've decided not to pursue it as it sounds like we'd just be wasting more money. I'm disappointed as I wanted to go for it (DH wasn't keen) but at least we can put it behind us now and move on.

Paperdolly Thu 30-Nov-17 17:57:40

Sorry but he ripped you off with bad workmanship. He has in effect stolen your money and taken further advantage of a softy of a woman who believed his son story. Doing a job properly and safely wouldn't have cost him. I'm not falling for this.

Paperdolly Thu 30-Nov-17 17:58:14

Sob not son

ignatiusjreilly Thu 30-Nov-17 22:46:16

It's not out of sympathy for him that we've decided not to take him to court! I don't care what kind of mess he's got himself into through being negligent and dishonest. I'm furious with him and would love nothing more than to make him pay.

We're just being realistic... we'd most likely be throwing good money after bad if we went ahead with the claim.

I am thinking of reporting him to HMRC for tax fraud - knowing what I do now about his business practices, I think it's highly unlikely he's filling in tax returns. I've made sure all his references won't recommend him anymore, reported him to the relevant gas & elec authorities, and left a warning online for others... if anyone knows of anything else I can do to stop him working here again, please let me know!

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