Homeowners who have been thrown thousands of pounds out of their pockets by their "cowboy" farmers have revealed the emotional turmoil they experienced at the hands of their designers.
Their accounts come amid growing calls for the government to put in place a legal licensing system that regulates builders and protects customers seeking remedies for poor workmanship.
Claire Paladino, 38, and her husband Leo, 43, from Northamptonshire, wanted to build a two-story extension with a garage on their property in August 2019 when they hired RWMT Building and Landscaping Ltd after seeking multiple bids.
Ms. Paladino, who was pregnant with her fourth child at the time and described her experience as "absolutely horrific," claims she lost the sum of £ 39,000 to a contractor who didn't complete the work, used cheap materials and didn't build it have passed regulations.
Claire Paladino, 38, and her husband, Leo, 43, from Northamptonshire say they were charged extortionate prices for the work that was never completed
The couple say the contractor left litter and trash at the front of his garden and did not complete the planned expansion
The builder assured the couple that they would remove the debris that had been left in their garden, but the couple said it did not
On August 15, Ms. Paladino met the director of Ross Phillips at the construction retail company Travis Perkins Builders Merchants, where he had begun a major contract for driveway blocks, gates, fence panels, and bricks.
A total bill of £ 10,649.06 was paid direct to Travis Perkins.
Ms. Paladino said, “We met him and he had already started this big brick and plaster job and in hindsight I find he didn't need that stuff there and then but obviously you're excited that you think you are it's if you want to get your house ready you don't really know the logs. & # 39;
Work on the house began on August 19, when the builders demolished the existing garage and carried out earthworks to relocate the terrace. However, Ms Paladino said the contractor handed her another invoice for £ 8,650 for labor costs that same week.
Another invoice followed shortly afterwards on August 21st for £ 3,070.
Ms. Paladino continued, “We were put back in a corner and paid her. When things started slowly we panicked a bit because the incoming bills were inconsistent with the progress we saw and we had several meetings with him.
"Me and my husband started saying we wouldn't pay him until he comes over and we still won't pay him because that's silly, but he would go out of here and we would end up paying him the money .
& # 39; It was really awful. My husband always said that he was very adorable, he told you what to hear.
“Towards the end, when we really realized what was going on, we were pretty low on money. We'd spent so much speaking to independent builders who advised us to play cool and get what you can out of it. & # 39;
During construction, Ms. Paladino described how the construction company's backhoe operator severed her water pipe so that she could not use her washing machine for five months and her garden was filled with water.
On another occasion, the dredger caught a gas pipe next to the house and hit her porch as well – all causing damage.
She was told these issues would be fixed, but she claims they never were.
Ms. Paladino also paid an invoice for roofing materials that were never delivered.
In September the company began putting back garden patio slabs, but Ms. Paladino claims she later discovered that the slabs had not been installed using the correct materials, with some slabs missing and others being installed without cementing or sealing
Ms Paladino says the builder agrees that he will clean up the rubble and general waste left in front of her home but will not return
Ms. Paladino continued: “When I say it was bad, I am not exaggerating. It was awful, but we could live in it. We no longer had a washing machine and had to rely on the family. We had a toilet and there are seven of us who live in the house. & # 39;
On September 16, 2019, the company began laying garden terrace slabs. However, Ms. Paladino claims that she later discovered that the panels were not installed using the correct materials.
Some panels were missing, others were laid without cementing or sealing – this caused mold to grow within a short period of time, making them unstable and dangerous.
Ms. Paladino continued through October and November You will receive weekly bills for a range of jobs including £ 1,150 for masonry and £ 2,650 for other masonry and bathroom sanitary ware.
She also received a bill for £ 3,600 for block and joist flooring material – which she believes was never done.
In November, Ms. Paladino and her husband found they were at a dead end and stopped paying for the bills – which they felt was disproportionate to the progress of the work
Ms. Paladino said Mr. Phillips removed the company's equipment from the couple's home and agreed to dispose of the construction waste and general trash dumped outside their home, but it did not.
In December, Building Control visited the property and expressed concerns about the construction of the above-ground floor, the garage floor and said a short drainage run was concreted without prior inspection by building controls.
After several failed attempts to contact Mr. Phillips, Ms. Paladino suggested spoke extensively with an attorney but could not afford to move the case forward after being told it would cost more than £ 10,000.
She also contacted Trading Standards and learned that the matter was being investigated.
Ms. Paladino added, “I am a realist who I know I need to sort this out and I refuse to let it ruin my life.
“My husband works in the food industry, he works 12-hour shifts just to keep our heads above water. He works 12-hour night shifts as overtime.
“And the physical, mental, and emotional impact on my husband has affected me. It was absolutely terrible.
"There is this transition period when you think you are being cheated on, but when you ask people they are like, 'Oh no, don't be silly'.
When we realized we had been ripped off, he signed an agreement with me.
“I was more than generous. I said if he paid me about £ 12,000 I would leave him to go his own way and he agreed to pay me. He agreed that he would pay me £ 6,500 for the next week and £ 200 a month thereafter, but I didn't see a penny from him. Not one. & # 39;
Northamptonshire County Council's trade standards have confirmed that they have received a complaint and are still investigating.
Jane Barrett, 54, of Kettering, was another victim by the same builder who said she was "in a nightmare" after spending £ 32,000 on expanding her two-bedroom bungalow last September.
Mrs. Barrett, who lives with Her partner Andy, her daughter and granddaughter, said she paid £ 10,000 upfront for the building materials, but soon the builder saw that extra payments were being made every week.
She said: & # 39; We paid £ 10,000. He said it was about getting the building materials, and he also explained that it was some kind of start-up so he couldn't see anything but the area he was working on.
Jane Barrett (pictured with partner Andy and granddaughter), 54, of Kettering, says she was "in a nightmare" after spending £ 32,000 on the same contractor to expand her two-bedroom bungalow
Ms. Barrett says the contractor left a pile of rubbish and trash in her yard and didn't collect them
Ms. Barrett says the panels on the roof (left) were unsealed and there was a live wire attached to them. She also noticed moisture seeping through the roof (right)
Waste that was deposited in front of the garden was not collected by the client
“So we took him at his word and gave him the money, and they started pulling down our garage and the extension we had on the back of the house.
"We paid out sums of money every week, so £ 3,000 here and £ 5,000 there, and it wasn't busy."
In addition to the slow progress, Ms. Barrett said the builders dug the foundations in the wrong place and made them pay an additional £ 3,000 for concrete and charged them for block and joist floors – which were never installed.
During the construction process, Ms. Barrett and her partner also noticed that the roof that had been placed on the extension was too low and the floor inside the extension was a foot lower than the rest of the house.
She said, “We have questioned it and are spending all the time paying the wages. We got to the point where we were almost out of budget and we were still just shelled.
“We were supposed to have skylights in the extension, and when his partner put the roof on, he told my partner that we had agreed not to do that, but we hadn't, so we swallowed that too.
“So we had to keep improvising to keep him cute because we didn't want him to go away and not do it.
It took until November and we were still waiting for the folding doors and windows to go in.
“At that point we had accepted that he wouldn't change the roof, so he came in November to do a few bits and pieces and he told us he used our money to get bits and pieces for other areas because he there was a lot of work to do.
At this point we had given almost all of our money. I think we had about £ 3,000 left from our real budget, but he said to us that when you get the bathrooms I will get everything tiled and put the bathrooms in. We bought bathroom, but he never showed up. & # 39;
With an unfinished lot, Ms. Barrett's partner Andy contacted building control. He said the floor was an unsuitable floor slab, and the roof joists were 620mm apart if they were to be 450mm apart – that meant they weren't strong enough to support the roof.
Ms. Barrett said, “The building controller came in and said the concrete floor was fine, but the roof should come off because it was an accident waiting to happen. He said if you have really bad weather it will collapse. & # 39;
After several attempts to contact the builder, the couple borrowed an additional £ 17,000 to try to complete construction.
The couple say the height in their extension was only seven feet because the roof and concrete floor that was laid was incorrect
The roof was not the correct height and was incomplete so the couple had to borrow extra money to complete it
She added, “We couldn't reach him at all so everything had to be put on hold. We borrowed the money to take the roof off and put a new roof back on, and then of course Covid happened, so we're not done yet.
“We had to borrow another £ 17,000 and we're still not done, but mostly because we had to take out everything he did and basically have to do it all over again.
“We have been living in two rooms for over a year now, which has affected my granddaughter a little, she is seven now, and my daughter. It was a nightmare.
“We know we won't get any of our money that is gone, but the reason I speak out is if it prevents someone from walking the same line as us, then I'll be happy with it.
“I think if people are being prosecuted or have issues with trade standards, they shouldn't be able to just start another business.
"It's been like this for years and nothing has changed, so I'm not the first and I'm sure I won't be the last."
Becci Barker, 40, of Doncaster, spent £ 47,000 working on a two-story addition in November 2018, but the construction "ruined" her family's lives and she had to hire another builder to complete the work.
40-year-old Becci Barker from Doncaster spent £ 47,000 on her construction work
After Ms. Barker found a building contractor through the Trust a Trader construction site, Emerald Property Group Llt contacted her and work soon began in February 2019.
Construction started slowly, however, and she continued to encounter a number of issues related to the standard of work, including a failure to complete the work on time and the company not to perform if it failed to meet its contractual agreements.
She later found out that the assembly had lost its membership in the Federation of Master Builders.
Ms. Barker said, “I wanted to file a complaint with the Federation of Master Builders to see if there was something they could do and they told me they had been expelled and couldn't explain why due to privacy concerns.
Then they knocked through my house in November, which they said would take ten days. I was actually away from home for four months. I had to live with my son with my mother in a one-bedroom council flat. My husband had to live on site and my two dogs had to stay with my stepdaughter. & # 39;
As construction continued, Ms. Barker returned to her house one night to find that a gas leak had occurred on her property.
Cadent inspected the leak and said there was a significant leak at the point where the gas stove had been removed.
When Ms. Barker confronted her contractor about the leak, she found that the company had not hired a gas-operated plumber.
She continued, “I came in one evening thinking I could smell gas, rang the gas plate, they came out and found that the builders hadn't locked the gas stove. They had used the wrong session and it had been taken out two weeks earlier.
“So I had a gas leak in my house for two weeks. The gas authority condemned it and turned off the gas and reported it to the health and safety officer because of danger to life.
Construction began slowly and Ms. Barker encountered a number of problems. She says the builders laid a floor in their kitchen that wasn't level
Ms. Barker says the builders left her very little space to access her garden from the front and that her neighbor kindly gave her the rights to a piece of land so she could have more space
Despite assurances that they would be ready by 2019, the kitchen was still in complete condition as of February of this year
Ms. Barker says there was a gaping hole from above and nothing had been put in place to cover the hole
Ms. Barker says the manufacturer did not cover the radiator cap (left) and that the sockets were damaged (right)
When I contacted the builders they said they didn't know this was the wrong session as the person they used wasn't one Gassafe engineer.
"I said" "What do you do when a regular plumber works on gasoline?" And he stepped back and said we'll sort this out. "
Although Ms. Barker was told in her contract that the work would be completed by May 2019, she said the construction work was still going on at Christmas this year and had put a significant strain on her mental health.
she said, 'I have a mental health history that the builders knew about. The last straw was when they left me with no kitchen or bathroom for the whole Christmas period and my husband had to keep peeing in a bucket and I was staying with my mother. & # 39;
In December, the gas authorities confirmed that the property had been leaked and classified it as "immediately dangerous".
In February 2020, Ms. Barker contacted an attorney who confirmed that the assembly had breached their contract.
Ms. Barker eventually asked other builders to come in and do the job, and asked Emerald to give her the materials she had paid for.
She added, “My friend ended up paying for some other builders to come in and finish the job, and I just cried and said I just want my house back.
“I just asked Emerald for the materials and they owe me a hell of a lot more than that, but I just wanted my materials, which were up to £ 3,350, even though it cost me £ 15,000 to repair and get the damage finished and they assured me i would get it.
I sent the receipts to prove what I paid, what they agreed to. Everything was fine and then out of the blue they told me they weren't going to pay me. That the company had gone into liquidation and that I would have to take on the liquidator. & # 39;
Ms. Barker has reported her builders to trade standards and promotional fraud, but she would like to do more to hold rogue traders accountable.
She said, “You shouldn't be allowed to, it's not fair. You are a limited company and you have limited liability and you can just form another company – this is wrong.
'You shouldn't be allowed to trade. You shouldn't be able to start and trade again.
“This is our life that they destroyed. It's not a quick fix. We started in November 2018 and my building is currently waiting to be deregistered two years later. & # 39;
An Emerald spokesman said they had sent an agreement to supply materials to Ms. Barker and sent a contractor to go there. You said that the outstanding money will be paid to Ms. Barker over the next three months.
They have since sent a settlement agreement to Ms. Barker, which she has not signed.
The group said, “We're not going away. We have made a personal settlement agreement. We agreed that she has a contractor. We paid for them and we also paid for materials. There is just over £ 3,000 left to pay for the materials she faced and we agreed with her.
The builders released a massive drip from the back door into Ms. Barker's garden based on plans they say were inaccurate
Although she told Ms. Barker she only needed to be out of the house ten days, her bathroom was found that way four months later
Ms. Barker says the floor in her son's room has been damaged and does not match
The holes in the garden were covered in plywood (left) and Ms. Barker says she had a gaping hole in the side of her house while she was waiting for a window (right).
& # 39; Obviously because of Covid the deal kind of went, but there is a track record of us paying people and making settlements.
“It wasn't a good time for us. We did not move away from what happened. We were in a pretty dire situation. It wasn't a very good time, but we're doing the moral thing. We have also come to terms with two other customers they are happy with.
“We're trying to do the right thing. I understand the frustration, but there were some issues while we were at work too.
“I want to add that she prepaid us. So she prepaid us the full amount and we still got work done, so it doesn't make any sense because if we were what she's trying to brand us then why leave work and do none of it ? Job.
& # 39; We were very honest, very honest. We went the right way, we tried to follow as many procedures as possible but we had no money at the time so we couldn't be satisfied with anyone. & # 39;
After Ms. Barker tore down a partition, she said she left a mess that remained after she moved back to her home
In the meantime, Gus Digennaro, 51, and Mrs. Barbara Lavarone, 50, of Denton, Greater Manchester, decided to convert their two bedroom bungalow into a single family home by adding an extension when they were in a "nightmare" who tasted them £ 64,000.
A friend recommended a local contractor to the couple in May 2018. The plan was to demolish the garage and convert it into a bedroom, as well as adding an extension on the side and a new roof.
In July of this year, the building permit for the new roof was granted and the couple was informed of this by their owner must be increased at least 1.2 meters to the existing roof height.
Mr Digennaro said in October that the new roof was installed but was left until December, causing rain damage to the family's personal belongings.
He finally Tiled the cross itself with the help of a neighbor to make it weatherproof.
Mr. Digennaro said: “In the end, I had to lay the tiles myself because he didn't lay the tiles. He asked us to move out at this point and obviously all of our personal belongings at the front of the house were damaged and then the problems started. & # 39;
Gus Digennaro (51) and Mrs. Barbara Lavarone (picture) (50) from Denton, Greater Manchester, decided to remodel their bungalow when they were in a "nightmare".
Frustrated with the lack of progress, the couple began slowing their payments as well in November asked an architect to check the roof height after neighbors pointed out that the roof looked higher relative to the house.
Mr. Digennaro said: “At some point, some of my neighbors noticed that the roof looked higher in relation to the house and the builder said it was five inches above the actual drawing and said it allowed flexibility. You have a meter.
“We noticed in January that the roof was not compliant. The council said if we didn't take it down or replace it, they would. So we had the choice of either applying for a new application or a new building permit or changing it.
"So I had to go to the bank and borrow some more money to get another contractor to finish the job and change the roof that they put on incorrectly."
Ms. Lavarone described how the "cowboy" farmer "never thought twice about the consequences".
She said, “We are both very upset and angry about what happened to the family. I never thought that one person could put my family in a position of homelessness and our home near ruin and chaos.
"The contractor has never thought twice about the consequences of leaving a whole family on the street a few days before Christmas and has found a simple excuse to take responsibility for himself."
A June 2019 quantity surveyor report by Don Waterworth later confirmed the contractor had carried out work to an "appallingly poor standard" and said the couple had unfortunately hired a "cowboy" farmer.
Mr Waterworth also said the contractor did not submit a written offer, contractual documents and terms and conditions – which is in violation of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The client also left the house in an "uninhabitable state", with incomplete work and a roof incorrectly ordered by the contractor, the report continues.
In his report, Mr. Waterworth said: "This is a serious mistake by the contractor that will prove costly."
He continued: “At the time of my presence, the property was not habitable. Indeed, there were no elements of the work done by the contractor that could be construed as "completed".
The roof that was placed on the property remained in place for three months and caused rain damage to the family's personal belongings
Mr Digennaro says the roof that the builder supplied was 40 degrees versus the 30 degrees that were approved by the design
A quantity surveyor's report confirmed that the contractor had carried out work to "excruciatingly poor standards". In the picture: the building owner's brickwork
A quantity surveyor report said the couple had hired a "cowboy" farmer
“At the time I was there, it was evident that the client clearly did not have the skills, experience and integrity to carry out this type of work.
"I would advise that the work completed by the contractor should not be more than £ 10,000 worth."
Mr. Digennaro added: “For me this is a delusion. It continued to keep the roof height and we had paid all of the money we had originally agreed to build. So he did not complete the work according to the contract.
"His company was wound up so he could legally hide behind this company without recourse to him unless it is classified as a criminal offense."
Trade standards have since dropped the case, telling the couple that they could not identify criminal evidence to continue the case and saying they must pursue it as a civil case.
The accounts come from figures from the Citizen & # 39; s Advice Bureau which show they received 39,862 complaints about house maintenance and improvement in 2020.
In 2019 there were 46,346 and in the previous year 49,493.
With growing demands for stricter regulations in the construction industry, Isabel Davies, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, is now trying to collect 100,000 signatures to bring her petition to Parliament for a dealer licensing scheme.
Ms. Davies, who was stabbed by a rogue builder herself, said: & # 39; After doing thorough research, I realized that this is such a gray area. I am a teacher but I also study law and we are regulated but builders are not regulated.
“They're not regulated at all and I understand they have the Federation of Master Builders, but that's not under the government.
“I urge the government to introduce a law to change the law and also make it a criminal offense.
“There has to be a law to protect both sides. There needs to be strict rules and controls, and we want to build a company that is run by the government.
& # 39; It would be impartial to both the client and the contractor and would ensure regular reviews are carried out every month and the references are thoroughly checked and available to the client.
“If, after the reviews, an inspector reviews each builder's work on every property they build and finds that it is not up to standard, they have an opportunity to fix the problem. If it is still not fixed, they will lose their license and have to train. We stretch ourselves for this. & # 39;
She added, "Ideally, I'd like to get over 10,000 signatures to take it really seriously, and then I'd like to think that as a community, like the people who have suffered terribly, we can get together and actually go to House of Commons and say what we want. To say that things have to change. & # 39;
Sylvia Rook, an executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said the organization can only prosecute cases that violate criminal law.
She said, “I think it is important to identify that there are two kinds of laws. There is civil and criminal law, and trade standards can generally only be incorporated into criminal law. Hence, there must be a violation of laws enforced through trade standards.
“When a consumer has an issue with bad work that is a civil contract matter and the consumer has the right to bring a claim in civil courts under the Consumer Rights Act because the work was not done with reasonable care and skill.
"Generally, when the consumer turns to Trading Standards and this happens in relation to poor workmanship, they will be given advice on what to do and the matter will be on record but no action can be taken as it is is a civil matter. "
Ms. Rock said those affected by poor processing should place a call to Citizen & # 39; s Advice Consumer Helpline first.
She continued: “In the first phase, the consumer has to complain to Citizens Advice's consumer advice service. They are advised on their rights by trained advisors, and all complaints submitted are accessible by trading standards so we can see complaints about all traders.
“This gives us a chance to see if there is a pattern of trade and if there are certain issues that trade standards can address because if we can, we will certainly do so. It's all about having our hands tied to the limits of the law. & # 39;
She added: “As for the consumer, all he needs to do is provide all the details of his complaint and everything else will be governed by commercial standards.
“There are a number of areas where we can get involved, such as where the correct documentation is not available or where the contractor misrepresents the work they have done and the consumer in these circumstances may have to testify and possibly as a witness appear in court.
“If it's all about the job not being done well or not being completed in a timely manner, the consumer must take their own action, either through civil courts or through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). . & # 39;
Ms. Rock advised those looking for a contractor to look for those that are part of good dealer systems and look for independent websites for reviews.
She continued, “Ideally, you need to get quotes from three different builders, preferably recommended by family or friends. If you cannot get a referral, there are a number of "good trader programs", such as "Buy with Confidence" and "No Rogue Traders Here," which have traders screened before they are allowed to join.
Look for companies that have good reviews on independent review sites. However, be aware that there are some websites where merchants can pay for membership and remove bad reviews. For this reason, it is best to get a personal recommendation.
"Get the offers in writing so that you know exactly what is being agreed. They know what your schedules are so there are no nasty surprises during the job.
“If the builder says there is more work to be done when they are with you, they should make you a new offer so you know exactly what they say you have to do and what you agree to.
"Not only does it make everything clear to you, it also helps trade standards if there is anything in writing that could potentially be used as evidence rather than just a verbal exchange."
Attorney Joshua Dubin, who specializes in property law at 3PB Barristers in Oxford, said one of the major threats to the construction industry is the lack of a system for dealers to demonstrate their expertise.
He said: “The most important of these is the 2008 Unfair Trade Regulations for the Protection of Consumers. They punish people for engaging in unfair business practices. You cannot do things that distort the economic behavior of the average consumer.
“For example, you wouldn't ordinarily go down the street to the ATM with someone and pay them £ 10,000 cash to fix your gutter. Why do some people do this? That's because the villains used commercial practices that distorted their behavior.
“In some areas, craftsmen have to regulate. However, there are other systems that are not fully regulated but can provide us with some level of security, such as Trust Mark, the Federation of Master Builders, the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and Confederation of Roofing Contractors.
“When you go to a lawyer or attorney, you know that in practice they have professional insurance if something goes wrong.
"This is perhaps one of the most important dangers for the construction industry as there is no system whereby people in the construction industry have to prove their competence and, before they can offer their services, take out insurance."
He added, “With the construction industry, you will have good builders willing to join the professional associations, but if you are a sole proprietorship, and especially if you are dishonest, you will not want to spend the time and money on the process if you are Get the job done without having to prove you can.
“A lot of the people we employ will have liability insurance. But the villain won't, and if something goes wrong there is nothing to prove sue them in civil courts. & # 39;
When addressing why there were no regulations, he added, “I suppose the answer is, like all these things you say at the beginning, that there should be a voluntary code; and then you get a voluntary code and it doesn't work well enough and then the government has to step in. & # 39;
To sign Ms Davies' petition visit: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/
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