A PENSIONER says she is going to have to “cancel Christmas” after cowboy builders conned her out of more than £1,000.
Karen Bull paid the dodgy firm to fix a leak and replace the guttering at her home last month but she later found out she had been massively overcharged.
The 69-year-old, from Longstanton, Cambridgeshire, forked out £1,160 for the work, which was substandard and later needed to be redone.
It was also valued at a fraction of the price, leaving her significantly out of pocket.
The former NHS cancer research had originally planned to spend the festive period with friends but claims she can no longer afford presents for any of them so is calling the celebrations off.
Karen said: “I’m going to cancel Christmas. I can’t afford anything more, especially with fuel bills. Money is tight.
“I really hope these guys enjoy Christmas on my money because they’re gonna enjoy it a lot more than me this year.”
Karen said she got a quote from what she thought was a trusted online trading scheme and booked the job for the following day.
Two men agreed to replace the guttering that was leaking – but when they left the dripping was “worse than ever” with water even pouring into her neighbour’s home.
The workmen promised to come back the next back but failed to turn up.
“It was at that point that I was under so much stress that I wanted to curl up and die,” Karen said.
“I really don’t know what made me break my rules and not go with someone I trusted.
“Unfortunately it’s been an expensive month – repairing the car was £700, and other emergency housework.
“I didn’t want to withdraw anymore out of the equity of the house.
“I took away everything I have spare for this year – being on a simple pension and very little from the NHS.”
After complaining about the “trail of destruction” left by the builders on social media, a good Samaritan offered to come and fix it for free.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards told Karen those involved were not part of an officially registered company so they would “not be able to take the case further”.
Jacqui Harvey, head of operations, said: “We cannot comment on individual cases due to confidentiality reasons, but we empathise with those who have been targeted by rogue traders and work hard to take action against these traders where possible.
“We would advise those seeking a trader to take time when making their choice.
“Ask for recommendations from friends and neighbours, rather than using apps or referral sites.
“Alternatively, see if we have a suitable trader on our Buy with Confidence trader scheme.”
She recommended the Buy With Confidence website or calling Citizens Advice Consumer Service – but reminded people to get multiple quotes to ensure the price is reasonable.
She also urged people to turn away anyone who calls at your door uninvited and to seek a written 14-day cancellation notice.
What are my rights if I have a problem with building work on my home?
Under the Consumer Rights Act, anyone who enters a contract for goods and services can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill – and this includes builders, plumbers, decorators and electricians.
It also includes materials, which should be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.
If you’ve fallen victim to a cowboy builder, or had a dispute with your contractors, you should firstly collate all evidence you have, including paperwork, photos, videos, messages and bank statements.
Then, try to resolve the issues directly with the firm, before trying an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme such as mediation or ombudsman services.
If this doesn’t work, contact your bank to find out whether you can recover any money spent using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (if the job cost between £100 and £30,000, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong).
If this doesn’t work, report them to the police on 101.
While the lines between what is criminal and just bad practice are blurred, a contractor could be done for fraud.
It is also important to contact Trading Standards. Citizens’ Advice has an online form to help you do this.
TS will then decide whether to investigate further based on the information you provide and help negotiate a settlement.
Even if it doesn’t, the details may help if anyone else complains about the same firm.
It is also possible to take builders to a small claims court if you have been left out of pocket. However, you run the risk of racking up significant costs.
While most home insurance policies don’t cover building work, it is worth confirming this with your provider.
And you should also, if possible, find out whether your builder holds liability insurance, which would also help.
You can find a full list of issues and your rights as a homeowner here.