The 68-year-old pensioner from Widley, placed an order with a Cheshire firm St Andrews Home Improvements in September 2018 for a modest lean-to conservatory.
She decided to splash out £8,000 up front from her savings and give them the order rather than use a local firm because it included the 10-year no quibble warranty.
‘What really influenced placing the order with them was a reassurance that I was covered by the warranty should anything go wrong,’ Betty recalled. ‘They claimed they had a customer-first policy, and local tradesmen were on hand to carry out any warranty work.’
‘The construction overran by weeks, and the workman kept coming and going leaving the garden in a mess piled high with sand, bricks and shingle.
‘They’d just walk off the job for days, and then after I complained the tradesmen would re-appear without warning and restart where they’d left off.
‘Then they’d disappear again, and just turn up when it seemed to suit them. It was incredibly frustrating.’
But Betty’s optimism and relief turned to dismay when the conservatory was finally completed and it turned out to be a bit of a cowboy job.
She recollects within months she was onto the firm numerous times complaining about problems with damp penetration and electrics, and to fix problems with a leaking roof.
‘The build was finally completed just before Christmas so I was thankful for small mercies,’ she explained, ‘but just a couple of months later on one of my son’s visits, he expressed concern about the standard of workmanship.
‘He called the home improvement company the following March, and insisted they should strip and re-plaster the back wall, and deal with an electrical wiring fault with a socket which kept causing the downstairs mains supply to trip out.
‘They promised to come and promptly get it sorted under the warranty, but when no-one turned up after three weeks, he rang me to say he had been onto them again.
‘Within a few days a plasterer finally turned up, followed a week or so later by an electrician.
‘On stripping back the plaster, the wall appeared to be excessively damp, but the workman insisted it was simply a snagging issue he would fix and did what appeared to be a satisfactory re-plastering and decorating job.
‘Just three weeks later I came down one rainy morning and went into the conservatory only to find a huge wet patch had appeared right across very same wall. It was so bad that the water had condensed on the smooth cold surface and formed small droplets.
‘Son Peter has a friend who is a surveyor and they both came down the following week end from Northampton. After inspecting the conservatory roof where it had been attached to the back bedroom wall they discovered the construction was faulty.
‘They told me a cavity tray hadn’t been inserted in the outer wall above the conservatory roof so rainwater was able to penetrate the outer brickwork and find its way under the lead flashing.
‘The job had been bodged which was why I’d been left running about with towels wiping down the moisture as best I could every hour or so.
After four months of hassle and frustration, a permanently leaking conservatory roof was the last straw.
Angry former teaching assistant Betty sent a full survey report to the firm pointing out the construction didn’t comply with the building regulations.
She insisted the problem was immediately rectified, but didn’t receive a reply. Despite phoning and emailing, she found the company impossible to contact.
As a last resort she decided to ask Streetwise to step in and investigate.
Company background investigation uncovered that St Andrews Home Improvements was a subsidiary of another firm called Entu (UK) Plc which had abruptly folded with debts in excess of £5m.
Administrators had been appointed and the much vaunted conservatory guarantee was about as worthless as a chocolate teapot. The firm had so many outstanding creditors there was no chance she’d ever be compensated.
A devastated Betty had no alternative but to shell out the best part of another £1,700 for a local builder to sort the problems with her conservatory out.
She said she wanted to speak out to remind people of the importance of doing their homework before placing orders for building work with firms and paying out large sums in cash.
She said: ‘I now know how silly it was to hand over all that cash and believe the claims for the security of a warranty if things go wrong.
I’d just like others to know just what can happen through no fault of their own and to be on their guard and get advice before commissioning home improvement work.
‘I was far too trusting and placed reliance on what I was told. A warranty is only good while a firm remains in business.
‘I accept my unfortunate experience could have been a lot worse, but if it warns others not to be complacent when their hard-earned money is a stake then perhaps some good will have come out of it.
‘I can’t thank Streetwise enough for investigating and sorting the matter out on my behalf.’