Tradesmen- aaargh!Where am I going wrong?

(19 Posts)
whataboutbob Wed 13-Jan-16 13:43:05

I'll try and be concise and would really appreciate comments on where I'm going wrong/ advice. Long story short I manage my Dad's student flat via power of attorney, he is very ill. It had become run down and 2 1/2 years ago I contracted a builder to do a refurb. I don't live in the same town, I found him through Which? local. Since then various plumbing problems have emerged, one big bathroom leak 2 years ago, and another one this autumn. I had lost faith in builder so found a plumber through a neighbour of Dad's who recommended him. He lost no time in lustily telling me everything the original builder had done wrong (I'll spare the details, but I'm planning on taking him to small claims court). Promised to remove old shower and plumb in new one, that was late Nov. Since then he has done bits of work in dribs and drabs, downed tools to attend to "emergency jobs" and still hasn't finished. Every week there are reassuring texts saying it'll be finished by Friday, and every week it isn't. I paid £1000 upfront for materials and his plasterer mate to put a new wall up (old one was so sodden from leaking pipes behind shower head it had to come down). Maybe that's where I went wrong, I should have withheld more money.
Please if anyone can comment on this and give advice so tradesmen don't take the piss and finish the work to a good standard and in reasonable time I'd appreciate it.

LIZS Wed 13-Jan-16 13:53:16

Have you given them a deadline? If the property is unoccupied and you aren't there breathing down their necks they may not appreciate the urgency. Put a deadline in writing and request to meet them onsite for snagging.

whataboutbob Wed 13-Jan-16 13:57:50

Thanks yes I did not specify a deadline, he was quite a talker and bamboozled me and frankly I was grateful he took it on as it was a semi emergency, with water seeping into the floor (luckily concrete floor so no leak onto property downstairs). The students will be back most likely this weekend. The shower is in but not 100% boxed in and there are a load of materials hanging around.

Julieb85 Wed 13-Jan-16 14:24:46

I've been stung by a bad builder recently...lost a fortune! I'd agree a clear deadline and let them know your not paying anything else until the job is finished. I'd even go as far as saying even if they do finish you'll be reducing the payment for costs incurred due to late finishing...

I wouldn't take any prisoners these days. Good tradesman won't be fazed, a bit one will get their back up!

whataboutbob Wed 13-Jan-16 19:52:00

Yes Julie like you i am coming round to a take no prisonners attitude. I wonder whether women get ripped off/ fobbed off with poor work more often than men, maybe because men go straight in with a more businesslike attitude and the tradesmen sense that. Whereas maybe we are more emotional about our homes?

Julieb85 Wed 13-Jan-16 20:07:01

My husband got pretty emotional with ours, but in all honestly men pose more of a physical threat...if your tiny like me I needed to threaten them with intelligence. Maybe drop trading standards name in, or mention your getting the place surveyed after the work or the likes.

Also suggesting other tradesman will be in can often help...they don't seem to like other tradesman judging their work! I also asked for minor works certificates etc to be produced for the work (I never saw the guy again after that)! Make it sound like you know what your talking about 😉

Your perfectly within your right legally to withhold any further funds so don't worry if your pressured/threatened in that aspect.

BlackGirlAndRobin Wed 13-Jan-16 20:12:48

From experience paying someone upfront gives them no incentive whatsoever to complete a job.

I've just got rid of a guy who "lost" £300 given to him for materials, didn't turn up to do the job but happily managed to arrive for his money at the end of the week. I felt likens was dealing with a petulant 5 yr old!

Op put your foot down, and don't take the excuses I guarantee you're going to hear. Best one I heard, was that his cat was dying in hospital.

whataboutbob Thu 14-Jan-16 13:09:24

Blackgirl so far i've had "banged my head on the window ledge" (me very sympathetic), "a chip of tile got in my eye and i had to go to A and E"(still sympathetic but starting to wonder) and the big guns "my mum's had a bad reaction to her chemo". Sadly by then I don't care. I also have very ill relatives and soldier on. And years ago my dear mum was ripped off by a serial conman builder (now behind bars, the court case mentioned he always used the excuse "my wife is ill with cancer"- for about 20 years).

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 14:01:12

Everything is relative but I would have thought £1000 is a hell of a lot for a replacement shower in a student flat.

I'm just basing that on a mental image of a shower cubicle and the sort of really basic/economy fittings that I've experienced in student lets - rightly so too because students are sometimes not the most houseproud of tenants.

If he's had the £1000 I would guess he's had more than the job's worth - he has no incentive to come back and finish anything - I presume there's no more money promised when finished or is there?

If the students are back this weekend and he's left all the materials - I would give him one last go - phone him up, tell him the students are back on Friday night/Staurday morning and they will need a finished shower or will not pay rent.

Ask him bluntly is he intending to finish it by Friday afternoon OR if not, you will get another plumber in and would not be able to recommend him to anyone else.

Don't waste your life threatening him for money back - you'll never get it and you'll stress yourself to death.

If there are enough materials to finish the job there, try and get another plumber - lots of people mistrust it but I have found Checkatrade okay for very local people - or ask if anyone on Mumsnet can recommend a plumber in whatever area you are in.

whataboutbob Thu 14-Jan-16 14:08:04

Thanks buddy. The work he did included removing all the old shower, fitting in a new shower, new piping, and getting his carpenter mate to remove the piece of wall (about 7 feet by 2) the shower head was on and replacing with a new wall, doing the tiling.
The estate managers' contractors wanted £1700! So I thought it wasn't too bad.
My experience with posting costs on forums is people often come back and say "gosh that's expensive" yet (for me at least) it's usually impossible to find tradesmen to do the job at prices on forums suggest are reasonable. Which again makes me wonder where i am going wrong. I got 3 quotes for this job and none were less than £1000. Are they taking the piss because I'm female?

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 14:20:27

I don't think it's because you're female - tradesmen take the piss because they can and they do it to everybody - do take some comfort from the certainty that it's not just you.

To be fair (and like you say everyone on forums says that's so expensive) nobody in the virtual world can fully appreciate the extent of the work being done by the tradesman.

We all live in a world where you buy a new shower fitting for £100 or less, probably a new cubicle for a £100 or less and probably £100 worth of tiles and grout and bits.

Materials could be easily 50% of your total which makes it seem very reasonable.

BUT the problem is, no matter how reasonable the cost - he hasn't finished the work - what are you going to do before the students return and start spraying water all over your new wall again?

To some extent, you have to put the vale for money/am I being ripped off side of the argument to one side and work out - how am I going to get this finished before the students come back and wreck it?

You need to contact the tradesman and totally unemotionally state the circumstance and their urgency and then ask if he can finish the job and if not say fine, I have to get someone else - leave it and move on with life and get the problem off your back and mind...

At least, that's what I would do... I'd be pissed off but I'd still want to get to the end of it.

whataboutbob Thu 14-Jan-16 14:23:49

everybuddy I agree with your outlook. Apart from anything i have too much on my plate (amongst others a Dad who is very ill and about to go into a care home) to afford to get emotional about this. I will treat it purely as a business matter and if he's not coming back will get someone else. TBH I think probably DH could finish the boxing off.

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 14:42:59

I think you have to look at things that way especially if you can get your DH to do the finishing off.

We have an aged relative and like you, have to organise lots of work on their house - (why is it their houses always seem to go feckin wrong!?)

At first we were totally tormented about getting her the best deal, making sure she wasn't being ripped off, yada yada... I suspect you totally feel this stress...

Now, after a couple of years of this... we've had to cut ourselves some slack otherwise we'll be dead before her and then we'll all be fecked!

As long as people seem reasonable we don't bugger about anymore.

We (and she) are lucky. She's not hard up and to save stress all round we have now stopped bargain hunting on her behalf.

We were wasting our lives trying to get great deals for her that she didn't understand, appreciate or even want or care about.

So now, even if it's more money than we would ever pay for stuff for ourselves - we don't angst about it - we just do it - pay more for peace of mind - get people with good reputations and so on (that's not to say the most expensive are the best!)

Live your life - don't save them money at the cost of your time/stress/life - it's not worth it - they'll be gone but you'll never get this stuff back

whataboutbob Thu 14-Jan-16 14:52:35

Thanks everybuddy you sure seem to understand. I felt with Dad as he's already been so unlucky with his health I don't want him ripped off too. I chase around for every rebate available on bills, joined Which to find tradesmen, get 3 quotes etc. Sadly he has dementia and while he was an epic penny pincher previously, now he has no concept of money and I do need to remind myself not to get too wound up trying to do things perfectly.
I think elderly people's homes need so much doing because they have neglected them for years. There were many many things Dad should have done with the student flat but he didn't, he couldn't bear to spend the money and when I tool over the reins it was on thing after another.

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 15:18:56

It's awful too because you hate yourself for criticising them for the problems they've left you.

With ours, you could never do anything right for her when she was independent - it's a kind of carrot / stick method that they program you with - always moaning, never grateful.

The more they are unhappy or the less gratitude they show - the further you make yourself go to please them - at least that's what I've done - you find yourself hoping that one day you'll make them happy - but the reality is you never will - mainly because they don't consciously have any awareness of their behaviour and their effect on others.

Some people who'd have told her to feck off and grow up and they would probably be right - but the time for doing that for any benefit has gone now.

It's like having a child that will never grow up - permanently stuck in tantrum stage and that's a depressing realisation - to think you can never change or affect their behaviour.

Back on the tradesmen stuff - I don't know what it is with these guys - like you I really struggle.

It seems to be a mentality.

You would think it serves them as badly as it does their customers.. but clearly not.

It's so hard to find people you can trust/rely on for jobs you will happily pay them to do.

It's like going into a supermarket where everything is in bags with no labels and you'd have to trust the staff to tell you what was actually in each bag but you can't find out until you open it at home - the you realise it's not what they said it was and when you go back they say they didn't tell you that, or it wasn't them or you should have picked a different bag.

Bugger me you'd think we'd have found a better way by now!

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 15:24:00

I've found with the last builder and electrician I got from checkatrade that they really wanted the feedback forms filled in - I always try and wait a week or so in case something goes wrong with the work.

They were okay workers - people I would use again - once they get a lot of reviews they really don't want a negative messing with their scores.

Saying that, I know lots of peole don't rate checkatrade anyway and that it's a flawed process - I think it is - but they've been okay so far - and it's a bit of leverage when you say you found them on checkatrade - it means they know you know that you can leave a bad review.

evrybuddy Thu 14-Jan-16 15:25:19

I'm in Kent and they've linked up the Council's trading standards/trusted tradesmen with checkatrade which is an interesting development

lalalonglegs Thu 14-Jan-16 15:49:19

I think you have posted about this flat before (I seem to remember details - student flat, father ill etc, apologies if I am mixing you up with someone else). It seems to be causing quite a bit of grief and I think rather than taking it on yourself, you would be much better off having an agency manage it for you. easyProperty is now offering a fully-managed service with repairs done at cost for 3%. I don't know if they cover all locations but, if you shop around and haggle, you should be able to get something for 8%.

I'd write this particular job off and get someone else to finish it off if he refuses to come and do it himself in the next few days (insert deadline of your choice).

whataboutbob Thu 14-Jan-16 17:23:00

Thanks LaLa yes it's probably me. The flat is actually fully managed but I have tended to find their quotes excessive and that's why I try and find tradesmen. But now it is starting to feel slightly masochsitic so I will be more inclined to just let them take car of stuff from now on.
The full package is 12% which I am realising is pretty high. Is it possible to negociate downwards with the agents?
Evry I have also found some elderly relatives became pretty blinkered and wrapped up in their own issues and unable to see other family members' perspectives. It can be pretty grueling when they become dependent. Others such as my grandmother stayed positive and engaged with others till the end. I agree, after a point you have to protect yourself and simplify how you deal with burdens as much as possible, if you can't shed them.

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