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AIBU to think I'm being scammed by this builder?

54 replies

NamedyChangedy · 31/07/2017 11:57

Slightly time sensitive so posting here for traffic.

We're due to start work on our single-storey extension tomorrow, knocking through to get a bigger open-plan kitchen / diner, and I suspect the builder we've hired might be pulling a fast one.

We hired him as his prices were a bit more reasonable than the other quotes we'd had, and he seemed competent. It turns out that he subcontracts the building work to someone else, and just project manages. Which I'm fine with, in principle. We paid him a 20% deposit. However, he's just called and said we have a problem...

He (PM) paid a large deposit to Builder A to start work tomorrow. Builder A has done a runner gone back to his home country for a month so is now not available, so PM has found another guy who he's worked with before (Builder B) who can do the job for a bit more money. PM says that he is willing to swallow the difference between the two prices so that we only pay the amount on the PM contract, HOWEVER, Builder B needs a deposit of £15K if he's to start work tomorrow. PM can only cover £8K of it, so we'd need to pay the remaining £7K if we want the work to go ahead. The overall amount we agreed with PM would stay as is.

So... do we pay him another £7K on top of the £20K+ deposit we've already paid, which has apparently gone AWOL, and just trust that the rest of the process will go smoothly? We have a small contingency but this is basically our life savings we're talking about here. If someone else told me this story I'd probably have advised them to cut their losses and just ask for their deposit back (although if he's having cash flow problems it doesn't seem like he's in a position to give us that either).

In the meantime, the house is in chaos as we've had to clear everything out ready for demolition tomorrow.

What would you do??

(Also, yes I know it's ridiculous London prices etc etc, that can't really be helped, unfortunately Angry)

OP posts:
ceecee32 · 31/07/2017 11:59

I would try to speak to Trading Standards to see if they have any reports of him.

domesticslattern · 31/07/2017 11:59

Have you signed a contract?
Is your builder registered with the Federation of Master Builders or similar?

Huskylover1 · 31/07/2017 12:00

I'm not sure why you have paid anything, before they have even started work? I think I'd get your deposit back and start over.

mrscropley · 31/07/2017 12:00

Sounds like a scam. .

Huskylover1 · 31/07/2017 12:02

Btw, ALWAYS pay with a card. NEVER send a bank transfer. Card transactions are protected and reversible under the charge back scheme, if anything goes wrong. Bank transfers are not protected AT ALL. (Ex Bank Manager here)

MudGolum · 31/07/2017 12:03

If he's project manager it's all his problem. Money back and ideally go with someone with recommendations.

araiwa · 31/07/2017 12:05

You gonna swipe that card in the builders bum.??

The way i used to set up jobs is that i paid for materials etc and then agreed a payment schedule for work being done. I never paid a deposit

MyLittlePickleBoo · 31/07/2017 12:07

Did you check references and look at work they've done previously? If they can't provide any then I'd get your deposit back and go with someone else.

SittingAround1 · 31/07/2017 12:11

I wouldn-t pay any extra before works have started. How do you know if the first contractor is even coming back.

I agree contact trading standards.

FruitBadger · 31/07/2017 12:16

Partly depends on the value of the work being done, so how much is £20k / £27k as a %age of the work being done? Gut instinct is that no, this is the Project Manager's problem to fix and that is why he has a job and you're not PMing yourself.

UnconsideredTrifles · 31/07/2017 12:17

I wouldn't. I run a small building firm, and we take payment for labour and materials a week in arrears. If we subcontract labour then we arrange a price and take it out of OUR agreed labour total. If they get more expensive that's our problem, not yours. And if a subcontractor beetles of with a £20k deposit, that's a really big problem - but there's no way we'd ask for £7k up front from you to deal with it.

LaurieFairyCake · 31/07/2017 12:32

He's run off with £20k of YOUR money and you're considering giving him more Shock

Who's to even say that it's true? You have HIM the money, it's him you need to get the money back from. You really need to talk to a solicitor- do you have proof you gave him the money?

Anecdoche · 31/07/2017 12:34

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NamedyChangedy · 31/07/2017 12:35

Thanks all, seems it's unanimous. That really helps. My gut feel was that we shouldn't go any further with this, no matter how inconvenient it might seem right now. As they say - if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The work he's done in the past & references we followed up all seemed genuine, but I wouldn't be able to sleep thinking of everything that might go wrong.

We've signed a contract, and the big £20K payment was the first instalment, to be followed by 6 others during the project. Unfortunately it was a bank transfer, so I need to find out how that affects all this (thanks husky).


OP posts:
Booboobooboo84 · 31/07/2017 12:36

Sounds like a scam. Don't give him anymore money. Ask for a refund if he is unable to honour original contract

Dancinginthemidnight · 31/07/2017 12:37

Don't give him another penny and ask for the £20k back.

Gobbolinothewitchscat · 31/07/2017 12:38

What on earth? We've done loads of work on this house and are about to buy another big project on Friday.

Our builder has never asked us for a penny up front. He had a trade account at the builder's merchants and orders on that and we usually only start paying (and in pretty small amounts) after about 30 - 40 days of work. He pays all the other tradesmen. Only person I pay separately is the electrician for spots and plugs so I can choose how many.

That is shocking. Don't pay another penny and I would actually consider calling the police as I think this goes beyond s civil matter. This is fraud which is a criminal offence

Hissy · 31/07/2017 12:39

What does the contract say about cancellation? If they have not started and are changing the terms of the contract then you should be able to cancel.

Take him to small claims if he does not return your money

bigbluebus · 31/07/2017 12:43

I'm so glad I live where I do. We had a £50k building project done a few years ago and more recently a £14k project. We didn't pay a penny up front for either job - seems to be the norm to invoice on completion around here - and in fact not unusual to have to chase for the invoice! We do not live in an affluent area.

Definitely don't pay a penny more to this guy OP until he has completed the 1sr oart of the work as agreed in the payment schedule.

Dadstheworld · 31/07/2017 12:46

You are trusting he'll come up with 7k later along the line, to essentially pay you back. With 20k already sunk in I'd be VERY wary of sinking more money into this man. It makes no sense for him to pay that amount of labour upfront.

Deux · 31/07/2017 12:48

Agree with everyone else and I've never paid anything upfront.

I think you need to draw a line under it and don't throw more money at it.

What has the PM done with your money?

Unfortunately I think you need to ask him these difficult questions and focus on getting your money back. Can you get an appointment with a solicitor ASAP?

I would be suspicious that your PM has already spent the £20k already for his own cash flow.

Sorry you're going through this.

DangerMouse17 · 31/07/2017 12:48

This is crazy. I've paid for some materials only and then the work is paid upon completion. It's not your fault he's chosen to work in this way and subcontract jobs out to aren't his "float" account!

20k bank transfer....goodness me

araiwa · 31/07/2017 12:52

The way he does not 100% mean it is fraud. Some do operate this way and are trustworthy

Kahlua4me · 31/07/2017 12:54

Sounds like he wouldn't have the money to give you back anyhow if he is struggling to find the money for the builder b. There is a risk that asking him for the deposit back may push him into bankruptcy and then you won't get anything. You could try saying that you haven't got it yet is what would he suggest?

Have you discussed your concerns with him? How is he planning on getting the £20k back? You would think that he would be furious with builder a and doing all he could to get it back.....

We run our own trade firm and only ask for money up from occasionally, and then only from big companies if we need to buy lots of materials. We certainly wouldn't ask for money from general public.

Tatlerer · 31/07/2017 12:57

Hi OP.
An alternative view- we are having circa £400K of work done at the moment. The builder we appointed, and the two that we considered appointing before we made our final decision, all work on a payment schedule of instalments which is tracked against the progress of the work. We did pay a deposit, also £20K, and all by bank transfer (lol at the swiping a card in a builder's arse comment!). So, I don't think any of this is unusual. However, I agree with the poster above that if work is subcontracted and not delivered, that responsibility sits with the overall contractor. Something about this is fishy. I hope you get a resolution.

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