Small claims court - builder has moved(19 Posts)
I am just starting the process of taking a builder to court over a whole heap of problems I had when he renovated my house. He owes me just over £7k, which has left me financially very hard up (single parent, work full time, not a big earner).
During the works, he moved house and never gave me his new address. I've sent correspondence to his old address which he picked up (he says it is still his business address) but that was a while ago.
My question is, if you don't have a person's address, how does this work if you want to take them to court?
Do I need to find his new address first?
He is well aware of my intentions to pursue it through the court, as I was open with him about it. He left my house in a terrible state, and I have had to get much of his work redone, as well as find and pay for new contractors to finish the outstanding works. It's been a nightmare.
I've posted in property as well.
Have you triedputting hisname into google? Theres a site called 192.com which tells you peoples addresses for about £2. Youll know if youve got the right guy as it will lust his previous address too.
If it's his business address he has a legal responsibility to keep it updated. Look on companies house for his "business" - beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/
the company name may be his name, or surname or something entirely different.
though, I very much doubt he's actually registered for a business and he may just be lying to you as you say he knew of your intention for court action and is infact a sole trader, which will mean he is personally liable.
Be aware, if he is trading as a limited company, he could have closed down the company and started a new one, in which case you can't get anything as far as I understand. However, if you can offer evidence that he was a sole trader at the time he worked for you then he would be personally liable.
Do you have quotes / invoices from him with some sort of name / company name and address on?
Try this - put his name into google inbetween quotes, and the postcode of his rough location:
"John Doe" AB12
Uhm, I mean, he may not have moved at all but just be trying to make it difficult for you to dissuade you from suing. Don't be put off. Also, the citizen's advice will help you loads.
Thanks drummergirl. I've since discovered that he has now set himself up as a Ltd company, from 8 April. And his son is registered as a director at his 'old' house address.
I have his invoices which are dated before he became limited. In other words, he was invoicing me as a sole trader.
I now have to check whether this means I can pursue him as a sole trader, or if the court route is now pointless because he can simply shut his company down.
If I can, I will pursue - it seems utterly wrong that he can do what he has done and escape with no liability.
If he was a sole trader on the invoice your contract is with him, the LTD is irrelevant if it happened after the contract & invoice took place, he is PERSONALLY liable for the debt so you may in fact be better placed.
GO GO GO GO! But wait.
If you can prove (by way of invoices, home phone number, etc) he was indeed a sole trader at the time the work was carried out then that's all you need!
Off top of my head I'm not sure about small claims limit - is it 10k? But afaik, you can do it online with just a £35 or so fee.
However, don't just jump into it, the court will want to see that you have tried to sort things out - write him a letter telling him what you'd like - for him to put it right, for refund of the costs you've incurred putting it right (this may be tricky as you probably didn't ask him to fix it before you went and got it fixed elsewhere) and don't forget to oadd a bit on for stress caused by his actions.
If you got someone else to do it, why? what needed doing? do you have a report from the person who did the work and why?
Basically gather as much evidence as you can. lots of photos..
In your letter - a "letter before action" state that you are open to talks (maybe even through an obusman if necessary) but insist on getting your payment.
I think the CAB have a model letter before action on their website for you to use. Lots more to write but no time atm!
Also, be prepared for him to dispute your lies. He did his work to a satisfactory standard and he is insulted therefore he is counter-suing you for whatevers
Issue a statutory demand
Cost to you basically nothing, fill it in yourself and post to him recorded delivery
Could hand deliver via a process server if you like but will cost you some cash
Statutory demand gives him 21 days to settle and if he doesn't you could if you like go to ccj or bankruptcy route - generally statutory demands have the desired effect
As for the correct address - go for the home address, is it owned by him? Check on land registry for £3/£2
Side product of land registry check if you sue him you can get an order against his property if needed
Just make his life difficult for now by chasing him down
Even send pre action letter to his new limited company
Basically hound him
He may already be bankrupt if he isn't a director of his own company as an undischarged bankrupt can't be a company director. Is he the shareholder of the company and what does the PSC Register of the company state?
Even if he is bankrupt you can still pursue him, bankruptcy only wipes the debts accrued prior to be declared bankrupt - it's not a get out of jail free for life card.
Issue a stat demand. If he is canny his wife may be the registered owner of their home with the Land Registry, but if they have a joint mortgage that's unlikely.
Thanks very much everyone. I spoke to two different solicitors today, via the free half hour arrangement, and yes, drummergirl, you are right - the fact that I was dealing with him as a sole trader, and that his invoices were issued on that basis, means that the court would treat him as such, NOT a limited company.
A good result - although it obviously doesn't guarantee that I'll get my cash back, it does mean that the court route is potentially worthwhile.
According to my buildings insurance, I also have legal assistance as part of the cover. I don't think this will be quite the same as having a top law firm on my side (!), but they might cover my court fee.
Feeling slightly more optimistic, now, so thanks to everyone for responding.
Off to research statutory demands now.. potentially it looks like a bit of a cul de sac, as if he ignores me, I have to petition for his company to be wound up, which is quite expensive to do.
Can you have it both ways tho If he is a sole trader in respect of your contract can you treat him as a Ltd co re getting his company wound up Genuine question
Your legal insurance policy will normally require a judgment to be made as to the likelihood of success so that should be your guide
In the circumstances it is probably easy enough to get decree but potentially very difficult to enforce
I.e. To actually get any cash
Legal fees can quickly escalate so make sure you keep an eye on what you are spending against what you might receive
You can start the fast track online which costs I think £35 and you fill in a form. You don't need a solicitor and can self-represent. The judge - who's there to get to the bottom of the problem - will ask you questions as well as the builder (think judge judy rather than the british equivalent). He may have representation with a solicitor. If he does that doesn't mean you need one. The judge has a duty to be fair, so the representation of the builder can't hoodwink the judge. He will also give you the benefit of the doubt in some situations (but that isn't all situations)
However, like I wrote before you must show how you tried to remedy the situation. Write down now everything. The problems, what you did - did you ask for part refund, what did he say etc. The judge will not be happy if you just rock up with a problem and haven't bothered to try to solve it out of court.
Research the small claims court - look at the max allowed compensation (I think it's £10 - £10,000) and look online about the process.
You can serve a stat demand on an individual and if they don't pay up you apply to have than made bankrupt - the official receiver gets involved. Stat demands are not only for serving on companies.
Thanks all. I've been fairly careful so far, and have hopefully ticked the necessary boxes pre-action. I've written to him twice, one as a clearly identified letter before action which set out his original written quote, with what had been completed and what hadn't, plus details of the defective works (e.g a plastic consumer electrics unit fitted when Regs require metal etc so all fairly clear cut examples) plus costs supplied by four different contractors as to the estimated cost of repair and completion.
I sent the LBA letter recorded, as well.
Plus I have taken lots of pictures, and I reckon I could get the replacement electrician, who is NICEIC registered, to confirm his electrics were dodgy.
I feel armed and ready!
To claim back £7k, which is the figure I have requested from him, costs a fairly hefty £410 in court fees. I will double check though.
You can claim back expenses if you win, including court fees (afaik), plus expenses. If you call this electrician as a witness, he can claim expenses too I believe for work time lost. do read the guidance notes though.
My advice would be collect together all the evidence you can including details from this electrician, and then go to see another solicitor for 30 mins and ask if able/good idea to proceed.
as judges are real people, don't forget to explain your circumstances - single mum, work, finding money tough and this made it harder to balance the books. Don't get too hammy though!
Be prepared though for him not being able to pay the fee you want, so either the judge will ask for a payment plan to be undertaken, where I think builder pays the court, and they forward it on to you, or another solution may be reached. ask the solicitor about possible outcomes.
also, if he has done work not to spec, then make a point of it - how it puts your life in danger / whatever. put that in your evidence and show solicitor. If it's happene to you, it could be happening to others ('could', not 'is' as that would be a strawman argument). he could have separate fine / legal action against him started if he's dangerous.
Great advice, drummergirl, thank you. I think that's a good idea, to gather it all up, then run it past someone to gauge how decent a case I've got.
Thanks to everyone who has responded to me, it's been a real boost to get such helpful comments.
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