Gosport builder leaves families in misery after taking the thousands of pounds and not finishing jobs

Devastated Portsmouth couple Sophie and Jon Mondey splashed out £21,000 on a kitchen and bathroom extension, and expected the work to be completed in a matter of weeks.

By Richard Thomson
Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 4:00 pm

But they’ve been left battling for a full refund after the work ground to a halt and structural engineer and building control reports confirmed the project was significantly below construction industry standards.

Facing an eye-watering £30,000 to get the work completed and up to standard, the couple accused bricklayer Garry Ludlow, proprietor of Gosport based Black Cat Building Services, of doing very little work, leaving their home with a leaking roof and in a dangerous chaotic shambles.

Anguished mother of two Sophie, 38, said they’d put their trust in the builder but they’d been let down badly. She explained they’d contacted the firm in early September following tracking down potential home improvement contractors via the Rated People website.

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Sophie and Jon Mondey Pictured: Sophie and Jon Mondey with their son Hudson, 6 months Picture: Habibur Rahman

Subsequently they received a quotation for the work, but no formal contract. They paid a £5,000 deposit on signing up and were told it would be completed in six to eight weeks.

Despite agreeing a schedule of finished stage payments, they claim Mr Ludlow made repeated requests for more money to get on with the job resulting in them paying a total of £20,000 up front but with little to show for it.

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Husband Jon, a senior recruitment consultant, confirmed they’d met him 10 weeks down the line in a futile attempt to resolve matters. However, they were astonished when he insisted the firm didn’t have the money to complete the job.

Sophie and Jon Mondey with their son Hudson, six months Picture: Habibur Rahman

With Christmas looming and no access to kitchen facilities for thee months, they were advised by Citizens’ Advice there was little alternative but to appoint another contractor to take over their dream home improvement project.

Relations had finally hit rock bottom when to the couple’s distress and anger, British Gas was subsequently called in to investigate and rectify problems with a new boiler they’d bought and paid for. Engineers discovered it was uncommissioned, and hadn’t been installed to regulation ‘gas safe’ standards. The repositioned original boiler was found to be leaking toxic fumes potentially putting the whole family in danger.

To add to their misery, the windows and bifold doors Jon had pre-ordered and paid for also failed to materialise, and he was unable to obtain any proof of purchase from the firm.

A stressed but determined Sophie listed all the defects they’d been saddled with.

The work completed by a different builder, Brymwell Southern Ltd. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I’ve a new born baby and a seven-year-old in a house that’s full of dust and freezing’ she said.

‘We had a big hole at the back where the bifold should be, but Garry claimed he’d given the money to a guy who did a runner on him.

‘The supporting roof steels weren’t welded together just left balanced and the nuts and bolts were left hanging out of the wall. The roof was the wrong pitch so water was coming in the ceiling and it will have to be replaced.

‘It’s now emerged the back wall will have to come down. He left all his rubbish over the house, wrecked the garden, and there’s a large hole in the garage.

‘He said he had a settlement proposal to put to us, but didn’t get back. Now he’s blocked our telephone, and won’t speak to us. We will never let him in our house again.’

Margaret Crowley, another Portsmouth victim of Black Cat Building Services, is glad to see the back of 2020 after cowboy work on her home improvement project came to a standstill leaving her without kitchen facilities for seven months.

Introduced to Mr Ludlow by a friend, the 63-year-old retired nurse says she agreed a £2,000 50 per cent upfront deposit last May for a modest home upgrade to integrate her conservatory and kitchen, plus £800 for windows.

There was no written contract, but not exactly flush with cash she trusted the firm to deliver on their scheduled promise.

The work got off to a promising start, but progress went rapidly downhill when two windows were found to be the wrong size and both internal and external brickwork was left unfinished and unplastered.

A kitchen window couldn’t be fitted because of unfinished loose brickwork and the old one had to be held in place by two planks of wood to fill the gaping hole in the wall.

Mr Ludlow arranged to replace the windows and pay for their installation but on pleading financial problems she agreed to advance the final payment of £2,000 if he promised get the job done.

But warning bells began to ring following a litany of excuses when Margaret complained the work was still some way from being finished.

She said: ‘Trying to get hold of him became a nightmare. He initially said he’d come round to sort the windows and finish it two weeks running, but never turned up. Whenever I messaged him he never replied or the message wasn’t read. I suffer from ill health and the stress of trying to get everything done has made me feel worse.

‘He came over well at the beginning but I realise I was far too trusting. The job has been condemned by building control officers, and I’m now facing more bills to make my home secure and get the job finished.’

Streetwise asked Mr Ludlow to respond to the complaints but our request for a comment was initially firmly declined.

‘The matter is currently in the hands of my solicitor’, he said. ‘Both my solicitor and barrister have advised me not to say anything.’

When we intervened further for an explanation he asserted the complaints were misleading and without justification. As they were virtual carbon copies and conspicuously consistent we invited him to provide specific evidence to substantiate his claim but there was no response.

Reluctantly we had to advise the Mondeys and Margaret any hope of financial compensation was likely to be futile.

Streetwise continues to stress that an unwary approach to engaging builders repeatedly results in people becoming authors of their own misfortune. Jeff Howell, former South Bank University construction lecturer and Daily Telegraph builder agony uncle, says the problem is all down to the lack of adequate regulation.

‘The British domestic building trade is notoriously unregulated,’ he explained. ‘Successive governments have refused to deal with the issue. Apart from gas, electrical, and heating engineers, there’s nothing to stop any untrained, unqualified Tom, Dick or Harry from describing himself as a “builder.’’

‘The average householder wanting a new extension or loft conversion, or needing refurbishment works in their property, should not be engaging builders directly. Instead, they should engage a building surveyor, who will advise them what needs doing, draw up a specification of works and put the job out to tender with a number of contractors. The building surveyor should then draw up and administer a contract with the chosen contractor, and approve stage payments. There should be no reason for any client to negotiate directly with a builder.

‘People often seem to think that engaging a construction professional to act for them is this way is somehow a “waste of money”. But in the long term it can actually save money, by helping them avoid unnecessary or damaging building work, and stopping them being ripped-off by incompetent or unscrupulous rogue traders.’