Forum Home » Consumer Rights

Builders took money, left job unfinished, our letters are undelivered - what next?

New Post Advanced Search

Coronavirus: The latest from MSE


The MSE team is working extremely hard to keep the info we have about your travel rights, cancellation rights, sick pay (and more) up to date.
The official MSE guides: UPDATED MSE Coronavirus Guides

NEWSFLASH


New, free ‘Academoney’ course from MSE and the Open University launches
All the key areas of personal finance are covered, so that you can master your money decisions


Builders took money, left job unfinished, our letters are undelivered - what next?

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Consumer Rights
9 replies 2.5K views
SpaceisthePlaceSpaceisthePlace Forumite
40 posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Consumer Rights
Hello, like many on this forum my partner and I have fallen foul of builders. I'll try and be brief...

3 months ago a building company quoted to re-landscape our front garden, including putting steps in to make it safer (as we're on a steep slope). Seemed like professional friendly knowledgeable guys. The company owner wanted a deposit up front before work could start which we duly paid. They turned up, did some basic preliminary work, but then disappeared. This was mid-December.

For 2 months our garden has been a building site, left in an unsafe state (deep hole in the ground) with no access to the front door. Partner has tried to contact the company owner several times by phone, text and email with no response. They've also left some of their equipment on our property. We've been looking into getting another contractor to finish the job as we've lost faith that they'll ever turn up again, and we want them to get their stuff and refund us part or all of the deposit (over £1k).

We called Citizens Advice who told us to write a formal 'breach of contract' letter and send it recorded delivery. We sent one copy of the letter to the business address as stated on the company's website, and another to the residential address where the business is registered according to Companies House.

The first letter went undelivered for a week before we investigated, turns out the address the company gave on their website is false. The industrial estate where they claim to rent a unit has never heard of them.

The other letter has not been signed for, it is at the post office awaiting collection from a 'while you were out' card. If it's not claimed and signed for in a couple of weeks I believe it will be returned to us undelivered.

I called Citizens Advice back and told them this, but the advisor said that seeing as we don't have a valid address for the builder, that this is probably 'the end of the line' as far as our complaint against them goes. They said they'd make a referral to Trading Standards but that there was no guarantee it would get followed up. (I have to wait 5 days to see if they'll contact me). They said that without a valid address for the builder, there would be no way to make him pay up or retrieve his stuff so trying to go to court is pointless.

Is this true? Is there really no recourse for us to pursue a claim against this guy? It is going to cost us more to have the mess he left put right and the job finished than he quoted us in the first place, so we're going to be down a few grand. I'm really struggling to accept that this man is going to get away with giving false information, getting money from us and disappearing.

Any advice on what we should do next would be very welcome.

Thanks in advance.

Replies

  • cono1717cono1717 Forumite
    755 posts
    Tenth Anniversary 500 Posts
    ✭✭✭
    What was your method of payment?

    Is it a professional email? I.e [email protected] moneysavingexpert.com ? If so then someone owns that .com domain do a whois lookup http://who.is/whois/moneysavingexpert.com replace moneysavingexpert.com with the bit after the @ sign.
  • Hi cono1717,

    My partner made a direct bank transfer to the builder.

    Yes it was a professional email - thanks for that link, I just looked up the company url and the address is almost the same, slightly different to what we found on Companies House. Interesting.
  • Any advice on what we should do next would be very welcome.
    You need to be clear exactly which company or person your contract was with.

    If it was a company you should send you letters to their registered address and get proof of posting but do not ask for signed delivery. If you decide to take legal action you should send all communications including a "letter before action" to the registered address (and again keep proof of posting but do not ask for signed delivery). The legal system basically works on the assumption that correspondence sent to a company's registered address is received by them. (This last sentence is a bit oversimplified but you are best not asking for proof of receipt only proof of sending - since receipt can be refused. Also if the company has given you an incorrect registered address that is their problem. Send correspondence to the registered address they gave you.)

    However your biggest problem will be if the company has no assets. Then even if you win you will almost certainly not get paid.
  • Hi naedanger. Thanks for your reply - it's really helpful. Although my partner agreed to the quote by sending a text message to the builder himself (i.e. a person), the quote is from the company, and the builder is not a sole trader, he is listed on Companies House as a director of a limited company. So am I right in thinking the contract was with the company?

    That's great advice about the letters. We will send another letter to the registered address non recorded and with proof of postage. I'm assuming this would also count as formal notice for him to come and pick up his stuff, should we need to prove that after we inevitably eventually sell it or give it away?

    That's really unfortunate about not getting paid. I've no idea whether the company has assets. However after doing a bit more research on the Companies House website we've found that this particular individual has been the director of 4 different companies including the present one, all registered at different addresses, 3 of which have been dissolved. It does suggest that he has done this before.
  • hollydayshollydays Forumite
    19.6K posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    If you want to private message me the information I'll look research them for you
  • edited 15 February 2016 at 7:12PM
    SpaceisthePlaceSpaceisthePlace Forumite
    40 posts
    edited 15 February 2016 at 7:12PM
    Thanks hollydays, I've PM'd you.

    EDIT: as a new forum member I can only send 1 message every hour so please bear with me.
  • edited 15 February 2016 at 7:29PM
    naedangernaedanger Forumite
    2.3K posts
    edited 15 February 2016 at 7:29PM
    Hi naedanger. Thanks for your reply - it's really helpful. Although my partner agreed to the quote by sending a text message to the builder himself (i.e. a person), the quote is from the company, and the builder is not a sole trader, he is listed on Companies House as a director of a limited company. So am I right in thinking the contract was with the company?
    If the quote was from the company then that is almost certainly who your contract was with. Who did you pay?
    That's great advice about the letters. We will send another letter to the registered address non recorded and with proof of postage. I'm assuming this would also count as formal notice for him to come and pick up his stuff, should we need to prove that after we inevitably eventually sell it or give it away?
    I have posted a link (on another thread), but in response to you, that explains more about how to serve papers.
    That's really unfortunate about not getting paid. I've no idea whether the company has assets. However after doing a bit more research on the Companies House website we've found that this particular individual has been the director of 4 different companies including the present one, all registered at different addresses, 3 of which have been dissolved. It does suggest that he has done this before.
    Yes, that does not look a good sign. Sorry.
  • If the quote was from the company then that is almost certainly who your contract was with. Who did you pay?
    I thought as much. The bank details that my partner transferred the money to were on the quote, which was from the company. It didn't make explicit whether the bank account was the builder's personal account or whether it was the company's business account, but the implication is that it was the latter. There was no name attached to the bank details, it was simply bank name, sort code and account number - printed on the bottom of the quote.
    I have posted a link (on another thread), but in response to you, that explains more about how to serve papers.
    Yes that's very helpful, thank you!
  • Thanks hollydays, I'll reply to your PM when the site lets me. The address on that link is the same one as we got from searching Companies House, and we sent a copy of our 'breach of contract' letter to it, however the letter was not signed for and is currently at the post office awaiting someone to claim it.
This discussion has been closed.

Quick links

Essential Money | Who & Where are you? | Work & Benefits | Household and travel | Shopping & Freebies | About MSE | The MoneySavers Arms | Covid-19 & Coronavirus Support