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Dealing With Cowboy Builders

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 14 Nov 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Builders Construction Rogue Traders

Cowboy builders are the bane of the construction industry. There are, on average, at least 100,000 complaints every year about them. They ruin things for perfectly reputable builders, and for all the talk about them, they’re in the minority – it just happens to be a minority that gets a lot of publicity.

Cowboy builders are simply rogue traders, of course, often with little or no knowledge of building, so you end up with a botched job – that’s if it’s finished at all.

Protecting Yourself From Cowboy Builders

The best thing is to learn to spot the cowboy builders early, so you can turn them away – it saves a lot of trouble later. The first tip-off is if they asked to be paid in cash, or cash-in-hand all with a promise on no VAT to be paid. No legitimate business will work off the books like that.

If they say a contract isn’t necessary, watch out – it’s vital in a business transaction like this, and without it, your legal position is nowhere near as strong. Most rogue builders don’t carry insurance, either, which again could work to your detriment if an accident occurred.

Are they willing to provide a written estimate and costings for the job, as well as a time frame for each stage of the work? A proper tradesman would, quite gladly. Where they do offer a quote, it could be unusually low, and they might offer to begin work immediately.

Do they have references? Do they have premises and a landline number, or simply a van and a mobile?

All of the above should raise red flags. You can protect yourself by having everything in writing and ask for a guarantee. Check references, talk to the people who’ve had the work done, and look at the work if possible. Ask your family and your friends for recommendations. Get several estimates and remember, cheapest isn’t always a savings.

It’s a help, too, if the builders and members of some trade group – although check that as well, since cowboy building firms have been known to fake membership. Finally, never pay in cash, and certainly never upfront – you should only pay for work that’s been completed.

What To Do If You’re A Victim Of A Cowboy Builder

Sometimes, though, the cowboys do win, and the building work is a shambles. What should have been wonderful construction work is a mess, and the builders have moved on. What can you do?

What they’ve done constitutes fraud, so you should complain to the police, giving them as much information on the builder as possible. Also complain to Trading Standards, which takes a very harsh view of rogue traders.

If you can track down the cowboy builder and he refuses to refund your money, take him to court. In the event of a small job, small claims court will likely suffice, and won’t cost you much. In the event of a big job, though, you will be looking at some hefty legal bills.Either way, it’s a lot of problems, and you still need to employ a proper builder to do the work correctly. The best solution, always, is to take the time and find someone who’ll do it right the first time.

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We had few builders doing different things. Extension was done approx 2years ago. You can see straight away how badly windows were installed, bifolding door had to be taken out and re-installed. Windowsill are wonky. Extension roof is leaking. Plastering was done by small child, it could not be professional. I cannot look at ceilings at all. Plaster is coming off from all the plasterboards screws, leaving holes. Electric underfloor heating was put wrong (we had professional company to Complete survey), we have infrared photos of how badly it was installed, for example mats are overlapping or big areas are not covered at all. My “fav” is underfloor heating mat was put exactly under the toilet pan. Painting and decorating was done so badly I have no words to describe it. I can see patches made from brush, who is painting walls with brushes? Wrong paint was used to paint bespoke furnitures. Kitchen was installed in best case mediocre. Non of skirting boards or arches are finished. Tiling in toilet downstairs was done so bad it looks like tile was bite not cut. Vanity sink cupboard was installed touching the door frame, although there was plenty of space to move it away from it. I am in the edge. Carrying big stone on my chest. Never experience such a stress and helplessness. Its not even about lost money, but lost trust. Its just surreal how people can be blinded by money, and how they will do anything to get it. Leaving you with hole in chest filled with rubble from your home....
B.no - 14-Nov-19 @ 10:58 AM
We had few builders doing different things. Extension was done approx 2years ago. You can see straight away how badly windows were installed, bifolding door had to be taken out and re-installed. Windowsill are wonky. Extension roof is leaking. Plastering was done by small child, it could not be professional. I cannot look at ceilings at all. Plaster is coming off from all the plasterboards screws, leaving holes. Electric underfloor heating was put wrong (we had professional company to Complete survey), we have infrared photos of how badly it was installed, for example mats are overlapping or big areas are not covered at all. My “fav” is underfloor heating mat was put exactly under the toilet pan. Painting and decorating was done so badly I have no words to describe it. I can see patches made from brush, who is painting walls with brushes? Wrong paint was used to paint bespoke furnitures. Kitchen was installed in best case mediocre. Non of skirting boards or arches are finished. Tiling in toilet downstairs was done so bad it looks like tile was bite not cut. Vanity sink cupboard was installed touching the door frame, although there was plenty of space to move it away from it. I am in the edge. Carrying big stone on my chest. Never experience such a stress and helplessness. Its not even about lost money, but lost trust. Its just surreal how people can be blinded by money, and how they will do anything to get it. Leaving you with hole in chest filled with rubble from your home....
B.no - 14-Nov-19 @ 10:00 AM
Don’t have Sean Livesey of Cateright plumber to do any work, he asks for money up front and when you ask for the materials to be brought to site it never happens. Never works more than 4 hrs per day and very little progress or he doesn’t come at all. When you complain he says you are always pecking my head. He always has an excuse why he can’t get on. He tells you what he will install and then you get something different but you must not complain. Don’t use this poor excuse for a human being
Fishman - 13-Nov-19 @ 10:47 PM
Jimkins.I have had the same problem with this builder.Nightmare.
Gpt - 9-Nov-19 @ 7:47 AM
Summary of events regarding building work carried out by WDJ Landscape & Garden Design ltd later part 2017, despite name services provided are comprehensive, issues during work being done, completed work, superficially, best described as OK, not great, I guess I had resigned myself to accept that this was as good that he could manage, can I mention during this period had health issues and since. After a couple of months had problems with water ingress, I took a closer look at work done and found numerous faults/defects, spent months contacting builder tocome back redo which he not Decided to use small claim court, paying claim & hearing fees costing hundreds of £'s, leading up to hearing, court required expert evidence of quality of work, single expert instructed by both parties jointly, his fee to be paid equally, arranged surveyor to carry out inspection, report stated materials unsuitable, poor workmanship, crudely applied, this report along with otherdoc's to produce at hearing and sent other side who never acknowledged to receiving. Correspondence sent by defendant that stated WDJ had ceased, no longer viable and insolvent, this is not true Day of hearing defendant did not attend, Judgmentin my favour, defendant ordered to pay amount of claim plus costs and fees, which he ignored, I never received penny, transferred CCJ to high court via court enforcement for fee a plus after a period of compliance another fee added to other cost for defendant to pay, court enforcement officers visit his premises which he is informed of prior, helpful to him, in the 15 minutes spent at property found no assets of any value, I passed on to them reg plate no of vehicles of company to find out who owns them, not heard from them since and despite repeated requests by surveyor for payment of his fee, defendant has also ignored, although I paid my half of fee, surveyor now me to pay other half, because appointee and client jointly and severally responsible to pay. The whole processof going to court has been a complete waste of time, financially and huge amount of time, from work beginning to this point is nearly two years, Judgment/order document a worthless piece of paper I complied with all that was required court but i am the loser, other side has lost nothing, courts cannot force money owed to be paid, system benefits those at fault and in the wrong, but everyone else is making money with fees, you cannot take director/owner to court unless you have evidence to fraud or misconduct. By chance I found discovered Mr William J Kitson owner/director of WDJ also has another company, Jwk building & landscaping operating from same address and same registered office address, he seems to run them in tandem, Jwk can be found on both tradeand stone supplies web sites both companies are active on Companies House web site, any assets that are in his personal name and not in company name means he's not liable company debt, from what I can see he's untouchable, t
mic - 7-Nov-19 @ 3:55 PM
Steer clear of waheed hussain butt of wb infrastructure limited Birmingham he took out 2 Chimneys in my house left me without a bedroom for 3 months. Had to get another tradesman to complete the floor boards, he left holes in the roof so I had to pay for that to be repaired. Now I'm having to pay for a structural engineer to come out to assess the safety of the property. He asks for money up front and lies about purchasing the materials. BEWARE!
Caz - 4-Nov-19 @ 7:28 PM
Joseph buckley of wood landscapes near Bristol did half a job and then disappeared stating that he had a crisis and then no communication. He asked for money upfront and the labour and materials did not match the work done. I am now taking to small claims court.Avoid.
Karma - 2-Nov-19 @ 2:11 PM
Hi, I had a Builder called David WELSH for renovating my house (Kitchen Renovation, New shower and installing the French Door by removing the window in the Lounge), he is a CowBoy Builder. He took all the money upfront (£8000.00) saying that he need to buy the materials. He came and did some work and he walked away by leaving all jobs in the middle. When I call him he will never pick up the phone. After calling him so many times he picked up the call, when I asked him will you come and finish off the work he will say yes, I will come tomorrow, then he will never turn up. Is there anyway to get my money back from him. please suggest me. MY HUMBLE REQUEST TO EVERYONE PLEASE DON'T TRUST HIM. IF YOU FIND HIS NAME IN ANY BUILDER SITES PLEASE DON@T CONTACT HIViji - 31-Oct-19 @ 11:43 AM
Please stay clear of kolin kesson possibly Newcastle or South Shields area and Lee Watling of South Shields area.we found them through my builder paid them up front for work they never done, so basically lost all of the money. All of this was done through my builder, but as kolin kesson gave a false address to my builder there's nothing much we can do. If anyone has any advice it would be much appreciated.
Jimkins - 25-Oct-19 @ 3:29 PM
Just wondering why these cowboys jobbers could not be stopped by legislation. Got defrauded by one Shaun Caspall previously Shaun Lomax and just blatantly blanked me after getting 23k for an extension with just the walls done without cavity insulation to show for it.Had my back garden messed up with waste and excavates from the foundationon my back garden.etc
Ben - 20-Oct-19 @ 10:47 PM
Avoid Andy Sewett - he is a true cowboy builder! He left us with a building that has so many problems that we had to take it down. He is very nice in the beginning then becomes threatening when he "THINKS" he is owned money for a sub-par job! It is quite scary!
Lisa - 14-Oct-19 @ 1:05 PM
SA BUILDERS.ARMENIAN BUNCH OF UNSKILLED WORKERS. THEY SAY THEY DO EVERYTHING FROM GAS TO ELECTRICS. NOT A SINGLE TEST CARRIED OUT AFTER ADDING TO EXISTING CIRCUITS! ROOF LEAKED AFTER A LOFT CONVERSION. DIDNT WANT TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL ROOFER REPAIR IT.STILL OWES ME FOR THE REPAIR. ROMFORD.GOES BY THE NAME ARBEN OR BEN
Brogsy - 11-Oct-19 @ 2:12 PM
Steer clear of Luke and Daniel Ray near Reading. Patio work overpriced. Payment demanded with threats to property. They may be in roofing now. No receipt, no guarantee, no VAT, no final bill. Further action taken.
Henry - 8-Oct-19 @ 8:21 PM
I got highly recommended by a manager, Richard, of a secondhand furiture and electrical shop, in Derby, to employed one of his workers called Mr Micheal Adams, he was my handyman.He worked removing rubbish from my derby house and doing jobs inside and outside my derby house,he put a internal door up side down in my derby house, it did not look very professional, he found one job after another, I had arson which burnted my garden fence, police got involved, I than found out my handyman,s surname, which I felt he did not want to part with his surname to me. Than the same month as arson happen, to my fence, someone thrown a large brick into my small toilet roof, it damage my toilet roof,Micheal Adams handyman wanted the toilet roof job, he went to is mates house in derby to get secondhand plastic roof sheeting, for my toilet roof, the handyman wanted money up front to do the job. I taken photo,s of the damage toilet roof, than, took photo,s of the beginning to the end of the toilet roof job, the completion of the toilet roof looked a mess.My sister looked at my toilet roof, she said it looked a mess and property options derby ,said the same.I looked at my builder, on the internet, I found a roofer called Jason Walters, a local roofer in derby, to put a new slate roof on my toilet roof, I told him what happen, him and his workmate said I paid double for the roof job, I am out of pocket with it.I lucky, the house been empty for 6 mths, I got a new tenant into my derby house, so I am getting a rental income coming in now. I looked at the photo,s of the toilet roof, I notice Micheal Adams-handyman broken my cluttering on the small toilet roof. So I got to get that sorted out before winter sets in. My handyman Micheal Adams did cash in hand jobs, he tried to hide is surname, I tried to claim on all the buildings work done on my derby house, Micheal Adams said he is self employed ,he said he getting his accountant to write the quotes out,for me, it was written on plain paper, not on legal paper, It had M.A and his company,s name, with no address on it,it did not look very prosfessional. S.Moreland-landlady.
Susan Moreland - 8-Sep-19 @ 9:57 AM
Trading Standards would be my first port of call with as much info you have about them and a list of other victims. Then I'd give the same to the police.
iANa - 7-Sep-19 @ 10:53 PM
I started to get work done on my back garden In july, the firm called jj landscapes turned up at 5pm one night stayed 2 hours then left and then the night after they came again for a further 2 hours an left. They asked for a deposit of £1900 for materials and since receiving this they havnt been back since, we told them we want to cancel the job and would like our money back. Since then I have been contacted by a further 4 people to say the same has happened to them all been ripped off, I'm looking for some help as In what to do next I have a baby due in November a back garden that is in a mess and I am £1900 down. Feeling very angry and ripped right off cod any one help
David - 6-Sep-19 @ 4:41 PM
I was done out of tens of thousands of pounds by Neil Antony Packman and Zad Leonard McLeod trading as Smooth Transformations Limited in the Watford / Hemel Hempstead area of London. They demanded more money to complete my job after full payment had already been made and then refused to give me a refund when I refused their new demand. I am in the process of taking them to court for building works not completed but fully paid for. These scumbags spew so many lies to get your hard-earned cash and then they run off expecting no consequences...there is a special place in Hell reserved for them.
IJA - 6-Sep-19 @ 4:10 PM
Just wondering if others know about the 'way back machine'? It is a website that let's you look at old websites ( archives) - how the website looked when you read the trade advert ie what logos and service description they gave when you hired the person. They might have changed it recently, but you can access, print a screenshot as evidence.
Denny - 21-Aug-19 @ 11:41 PM
Hello, House insurance legal protection can pay for legal fees/ expert reports if had some sub- standard professional advice and it caused problems afterwards. We used it to sue our surveyor who failed to advise properly. There is a limit for how much you paid for the service rendered- ours was 6grand limit- so that meant we could use house insurance to pay for legal fees and get justice. Good luck.
Kkim - 20-Aug-19 @ 10:59 PM
Like many contributors on this page, we fell victim big time to a rogue builder, leaving us with a financially crushing situation. Case going through the court process but builder has weaved his scam web so that he would eventually claim not having assets or insurance for us to claim against.All advice most appreciated. The post by Southwood [- 6-Aug-18] if of particular interest if it is possible to get in touch for advice about choosing a Forensic Building consultant.
Cheri - 28-Jun-19 @ 1:16 PM
Hi,my elderly friend had work done on her house,fitting of a canopy above back door and new brick steps done at back door.The canopy was a simple £50 from Argos requiring just 4 bolts into wall and steps are just 2 bricks high,width of the door.She was charged £4000 for the work which I believe to be far to much? When I raised concern she contacted the builder and he agreed he would do extra work for her(admission of overcharge if you ask me?). However he claims be be ill and not able to do anymore work,I feel she should be entitled to a partial refund,having received quotes from others builders for £1000 (top quote) to do the work. Could you advise on options she may have thank you.
Maccatm - 6-Jun-19 @ 9:21 AM
Hi I had work done by a builder but building regulations failed his work due to a contravention and failing to follow the technical drawing. We've paid him in full and trusted him but now we don't have the final certificate sign off and he is being anything but cooperative. Please advise?
Adidas - 21-May-19 @ 8:45 PM
Hey guys so we have been let down a number of time by our gardner who's taken almost 2000 pounds of us and not finishing the work what can we do in this case? Hes also deleted his Facebook page and dont response back our messages or text? Hes not only taken money off us but also the neighbour and not finished there work either please shed some light as to what I can do. Thanks
A.patel - 3-May-19 @ 1:01 PM
I had a conservatory by a local builder in August 2017. It leaked on many occasions so decided to get a solid roof. I had another builder look into it in late 2018 as I wasn't happy with my original one. To our horror, we found the walls and frame had suffered severe damp and puddles under our wooden floor. We sent a letter and photo evidence to the original builder along with the new builders report. He accepted it was his down to his work, gave it the sob story of being skint and we would have to take monthly payments which we had to agree on. He offered to fix the conservatory but we didn't want him working as his work was so poor. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that reasonable care and skill must be used while working. He clearly didn't. Also, we had pulled down the conservatory as the current builder said he needed to start work on the new footings. We were also informed that we actually needed planning permission as our house is a new build. We were unaware. We trusted the original builder who claims to have 30 years experience to have this knowledge. A week later, he claims to have spoken to 2 solicitors and that 'we didn't have a leg to stand on' as we didn't have an Engineers report and the conservatory guarantee expired after 12 months. We have tried Citizens Advice, Trustatrader who we found him through but with no success. The only way is to go legal but would we win? I have spoken to several solicitors and it's costly just to get them to review our case and that's before hiring a barrister etc. Having googled 'cowboy builders', he ticked all the boxes. We paid in cash which I'm sure he didn't declare to the taxman. Do we write off £20k. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Molesy - 9-Apr-19 @ 2:00 PM
Lat year in August we engaged in creating an extension on the advice of Flintshire Care And Repair as there was nothing they could do. I am a registered disabled man needing for my house to be modified to give me better accessible property. This was to include a downstairs bedroom all downstairs floors levelled and a wet room. I then set about looking for a suitable builder. I used several sites to recommend a build r and several meetings and quotes from many builders. We set our sites on a builder through a site dmcalled Book a Builder who recommended several builders including the one we chose. The builder was called DMC from Manchester as he was the most cooperative and understand our plight and requirements. In Mid August last year he started work. He turned up regular over a 7 week period but with very few employees. Then after this period he requested an advance payment so as he could get more labour and catch up as he had fallen behind. I agreed making my first mistake.Lat year in August we engaged in creating an extension on the advice of Flintshire Care And Repair as there was nothing they could do. I am a registered disabled man needing for my house to be modified to give me better accessible property. This was to include a downstairs bedroom all downstairs floors levelled and a wet room. I then set about looking for a suitable builder. I used several sites to recommend a build r and several meetings and quotes from many builders. We set our sites on a builder through a site dmcalled Book a Builder who recommended several builders including the one we chose. The builder was called DMC from Manchester as he was the most cooperative and understand our plight and requirements. In Mid August last year he started work. He turned up regular over a 7 week period but with very few employees. Then after this period he requested an advance payment so as he could get more labour and catch up as he had fallen behind. I agreed making my first mistake. To cut a long story short we were told to contact Citizens Advice as they were the legal point of contact and informed that contacting Trading Standards was not allowed and had to go through Citizens Advice. We were told in the first instance to write a recorded delivered letter to the builder making all the references that were advised. If a reply was not received in 14 days to get back to them and they would start the next stage which would be to get the current stage of build assessed and then to get the legal side of it started through them. This would include getting the total monies for the complete build refunded or the builder to complete the project. We did not get a reply from the builder and made the follow on phone call to Citizens Advice. This time another person answered who showed no interest and told us to read thier site and use thier documents and go through the small claims court. This was a huge change in approach and felt upset by this approach. The small claims court woul
Victim - 10-Jan-19 @ 12:54 PM
I got done by this rogue builder.He said he noticed my gutters were full and he would do them for 40 quid.He said he would be back at 9am the next morning.11:30 he turned up and said he had done them at 6am and it is now 160 quid.One question my dog never barked at that time and I was having breakfast so is there the possibility he took money for something he never carried out?This took place on 1 November and I am still annoyed that I have been taken for a ride.HOW DARE THEY TAKE MONEY OFF DECENT HARD WORKING PEOPLE?
Alibongo - 23-Dec-18 @ 5:18 PM
I’m an absolute layman Next to my house was a car park , a builder built a maisonette attached to my wall , there was a third party wall agreement including installing lead flashing where The houses met The work was signed off by a surveyor, I trusted them . Some years later I have severe damp ,otherbuilders have looked at the work and said there is no lead flashing, how can I proceed Regards Paul
Paul - 17-Dec-18 @ 1:23 PM
After 2 years litigation and many thousands of pounds chasing a cowboy outfit who ripped our mother off for £42,000, today we find that they have gone into liquidation, despite their still very active Facebook page showing all their new commissions, in fact we just rang their number and asked if they indeed still build - and the receptionist said yes, she knew nothing about their liquidated status - all lies...
Sam - 16-Nov-18 @ 12:49 PM
My husband and I hired a roofer for my elderly Father who has taken £10,000 of my Dad's money and completed a tiny amount of work and had a couple of pallets of tiles delivered. We have not seen or heard from him for over a month. He has also moved house without telling us.Is there any way we can find out where he lives now so we can try and recover the money through the small claims court? Or, as my Father is elderly/vunerable, should the Police help us?
Amanda - 25-Sep-18 @ 1:08 PM
A rogue roofer has fleeced my father in law out of 7500.00. It is part way through a job that is only worth £2000 unfortunately he did not tell his daughter until cash was paid. He was meant to turn up a couple of days ago when police would have been called while he and I were there. Police are now investigating. Please if you are asked to keep paying cash for work, do not and don’t feel embarrassed to seek help from the family or the police if it happens to you. Let’s get these guys off the streets.
Sparky1967 - 27-Aug-18 @ 2:34 PM
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