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  #1  
Old 30th August 2008, 10:30 AM
Drolgerg Drolgerg is offline
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Default Ripped Off by a Cowboy Builder

My wife & I have had a terrible experience in Birmingham with a nasty but clever cowboy builder, who I probably can't name for legal reasons - although I would very much like to as a warning to other potential victims.

We hired him for a kitchen refit in early August 2007. He broke down the job into small units & submitted separate estimates for each job. Despite initially promising to finish everything by the end of August by then only 1 estimate had been completed, which we paid for.

After that he averaged 2.4 man-hours per day, while we were trying to use a dangerous unhealthy worksite as a kitchen. When talking to him didn't work, on September 20th we requested in writing that all the work should be finished by October 26th. We repeated this later making "time of the essence".

Nothing changed & on October 13th he engineered an argument over payment as an excuse to walk off the job. At 7pm on a Saturday while we were trying to eat our dinner he aggressively demanded immediate payment of 10 invoices / charges he had submitted the evening before. He had just finished work on some of them, 1 was not finished, & 2 were where estimates had not been signed as the price had not been agreed.

I pointed out we couldn't sort it out straight away as we were trying to have our dinner, & said we would sort out payment when he returned on Monday. He refused & said until he had cleared funds for all his invoices he would be doing no more work.

Over the next week in correspondance we posted cheques for 5 invoices, he withdrew 2, leaving 3 in dispute.

On our return from holiday in early November we found a legal claim against us for the 3 invoices. We responded with a defence & counterclaim for the signed etimates which he was refusing to fulfill, & the extra cost to us of having to find alternative tradesmen to finish the work & for damage he had caused to our original Victorian floorboards.

When the builder's evidence arrived 6 days before the Hearing it was full of forgeries & fabrications. A copy of my signature had been added to the 2 estimates where we didn't agree the price, my signature had been removed on other estimates, estimates we had never seen with a copy of my signature on them appeared, & letters which he had never sent had been written, including a "Terms of Commencement" with a copy of my signature added. It was a comprehensive fit-up job.

These "Terms of Commencement" included payment terms where he stated that work on a new estimate would not commence until invoices for previous estimates had been paid in full. We then understood why he had insisted on separate estimates.

Whenever he submitted an estimate, if we agreed it we would sign it, photocopy it & return the original to him. We had unsigned originals of the estimates we didn't agree. We had copies of estimates containing his & my signature for work he had not done.

We were confidant therefore that because he could not produce original documents with my signature on them for these forgeries that we could prove that our documents were genuine & his were faked.

However in Court he alleged that - at least for the disputed invoices - I had given him photocopies of the estimates & kept the originals. The Judge bought his story hook line & sinker & ruled against us on all counts! This guy is a very good talker & apparently presented his case better than us - we expect he's done this before. He had also told is his Dad is a retired Magistrate, so we wonder if strings have been pulled - it now appears we never had a chance.

We did everything we thought we could to verify in writing everything that happened. We took digital photographs of all the work done every day. We kept a record of dates & times of exactly who attended & what they did. We kept a record of conversations & copies of all correspondance.

We kept copies of all signed estimates, we had unsigned originals of estimates we did not sign which he claims we did.

Despite this he was able to produce blatant forgeries, present them in Court as evidence, convince the Judge that they were genuine & use them to extort money from us.

What more could we have done? What's to stop clever psychos like this making up any document they like to rip off innocent ordinary people like us? We have been left feeling violated, angry, shocked & badly let down by a legal system we thought we could trust. We are looking at the appeals process but if 1 Judge has already ruled against us how do we know another won't also? This guy has been given a blank cheque to extort money from anyone he likes.

We thought we had done all we could to protect ourselves. but we clearly hadn't. If anyone can advise what we could have done differently we would be very grateful, & it would help anyone else who finds themsleves in the same predicament.


"Art is an Enemy" - Roger Taylor

Last edited by Drolgerg; 30th August 2008 at 11:39 AM.
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  #2  
Old 30th August 2008, 11:04 AM
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It is actually very difficult to forge signatures and a handwriting expert would be able to give expert evidence on this matter. This would provide grounds for appeal and the builder could be charged.

You are obviously very angry which is understandable, but I would recommend weighing up the costs of proceeding with an appeal against moving on. I am not just talking about money, but the emotional impact this can have on you and your family over a long period of time.

Best regards,

Tony
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  #3  
Old 30th August 2008, 11:14 AM
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Default Ripped Off by a Cowboy Builder

Thanks Tony - my wife has just given me more or less the same advice! Yes I am angry & I want to take action but not if the cost in time, money & stress is too great. I expect a handwriting expert would be costly. Also I think he's copied & pasted my signature from letters rather than forged it directly - hence his covering argument that I returned photocopied rather than original estimates to explain why he can't produce signed originals.

I plan to request an appeal & if that is successful take it from there. We feel that we weren't allowed to present our case, & the builder was allowed to flout the Court's rules with impunity so we are also considering a complaint to the OJC about the Judge.

"Art is an Enemy" - Roger Taylor

Last edited by Drolgerg; 30th August 2008 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 30th August 2008, 11:46 AM
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It must be my feminine side. Had a quick Google and found this - looks reasonable: Services & Fees

However, if they have been cut and paste then surely the fact that they are identical would also make them dubious.

Let us know how you get on

Best regards,

Tony
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Old 30th August 2008, 11:48 AM
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Builders, as a rule are utter scoundrels...and I can sympathise with the post above given the problems that I nhave had with ASB Construction in Southampton.

Even being a member of the Federation of Master Builders wasn't enough to ensure the quality of the work we had carried out and I have no idea as to how to stop these cowboys...

If anyone has any suggestions...I'm all ears!
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Old 30th August 2008, 12:01 PM
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"However, if they have been cut and paste then surely the fact that they are identical would also make them dubious."

Thanks again Tony - I'll have a look at your link.

There may be a direct forgery or 2 but I think where's he's copied my signature it's from letters I've sent him where I have only a printed copy from my computer, rather than a photocopy of the letter actually sent that does have my signature. He seems to know what he's doing. There were a number of documents he presented in evidence that he has never sent us copies of, despite our numerous requests. I suspect these letters bearing my signature are among them so I haven't been able to check.

Significantly he has not copied my wife's signature anywhere - we don't think he had a copy of it. This despite his Witness Statement claiming she signed the "Terms of Commencement" but the copy which he supplied in evidence which was supposed to have been signed by her bearing no signature other than his.

It might be worth doing a thorough check, but again it comes back to cost vs. benefit. I'll wait to see if our Appeal request is successful. I think we'd feel better even if we were just given leave to Appeal & didn't - we'd at least feel a little vindicated!

"Art is an Enemy" - Roger Taylor

Last edited by Drolgerg; 30th August 2008 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 30th August 2008, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicola View Post
Builders, as a rule are utter scoundrels...and I can sympathise with the post above given the problems that I nhave had with ASB Construction in Southampton.

Even being a member of the Federation of Master Builders wasn't enough to ensure the quality of the work we had carried out and I have no idea as to how to stop these cowboys...

If anyone has any suggestions...I'm all ears!

Thanks for your support - we've felt very alone in all of this & it's good to know from you & from this forum that it's not just us!

It's worrying that even a FMB member can be dodgy - that's 1 lesson we'd thought we'd learnt, to only use members of trade organisations. We used a builder from the Trustmark scheme to finish the work & they did a great job, so they're not all bad. They said to us "If you don't like anything we're doing just shout at us & we'll sort it out"! It was refreshing! The reality was slightly different but overall they were true to their word & we would use them again.

Have you tried complaining to the FMB about ASB? We didn't have that option as our cowboy's company isn't a member of any trade organisation, as far as we know - despite his putting the letters "MIOC" after his name in his letters to indicate he was a member of the Institute of Carpenters, when it turned out he'd just passed a couple of their GCSE-level exams! We were hoping that this would prove he'd already falsified his own documentation but the Judge didn't allow us to present this evidence.

"Art is an Enemy" - Roger Taylor

Last edited by Drolgerg; 30th August 2008 at 01:18 PM.
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  #8  
Old 31st August 2008, 04:03 PM
GlasgowGirl GlasgowGirl is offline
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This is a terrible story and I really feel for you. While I'm afraid I don't have any advice on what to do now, except to echo Tony's sensible words, I do know of a couple of websites that might help others avoid this situation.

One is Rate My Trade which allows users to post jobs that they need done and receive quotes from contractors. Users can post feedback on tradesmen, so if they don't do a good job, future potential customers can be warned.

Recommended Tradesmen is a similar site that allows you search for local tradesmen and read reviews from people who have employed them.

Both of these sites are a bit like a tripadvisor.com for contractors, which seems like a useful idea. The downside is that it only works if people have rated contractors in your local area, which I have found is not usually the case.

Best of luck though, I hope it works out for you.
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Old 31st August 2008, 07:23 PM
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Good advice GG as usual. I think the best advice is to use someone who has been personally recommended - this is what these sites are trying to replicate. However, always get three quotes.

Many local councils now have an assured trader scheme too - The Office of Fair Trading: Network members

The people who run these schemes will I assume monitor complaints from Consumer Direct.

Tony
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  #10  
Old 1st September 2008, 09:53 AM
Drolgerg Drolgerg is offline
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Thanks (again) Tony & Glasgow Girl - we appreciate your support

We are new to this area (northern Birmingham) & didn't have anyone we knew we could trust. We get on well with our neighbours but their recommended contractors weren't available. Even so we got our cowboy from a local directory of 'recommended tradesmen' - who recommended this company I don't know! It's now in the bin.

I've since successfully used which?local which is a similar peer-review site such as the ones Glasgow Girl mentions - which I've bookmarked.

My main lesson is that I would never ever again use a contractor for major work who isn't accountable in some way - particularly to a trade organisation. We thought keeping copies & keeping everything in writing would give us the protection the legal system is supposed to give us, but we were wrong.

I would love to name my 'Enemy' to warn off other potential victims but I probably can't for legal reasons


"Art is an Enemy" - Roger Taylor

Last edited by Drolgerg; 1st September 2008 at 10:03 AM.
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