Two furious Fareham neighbours who employed contractors Resin Drives South Ltd to upgrade their front drive, were left with a combined massive £30,000 hit in the bank balance and nothing to show for it than a hole in the ground.
Phillip Goodbody and Stuart Vincent’s conjoined drive makeover turned into a complete shambles, leaving it worse than it was before the work started.
They signed up with the firm at the beginning of 2018, after Phillip had been given a convincing sales pitch the previous July at the New Forest Show by the man who ran the company, Hugh David Holmes.
Phillip splashed out £10,000 upfront and Stuart £3,000, after being charmed by Mr Holmes into believing the work came with a 10-year guarantee, 200mm (8 inch) resin bonded surface, and completed in about a fortnight.
The firm’s groundworks team arrived in mid April, and proceeded to dig a hole in the garden, filling it with cement, and laying edging bricks around the driveway.
But it soon became evident to the two neighbours they’d become victims of a rogue trader and the firm’s workforce were a bunch of incompetent cowboys.
Retired Phillip 69, said: ‘After we complained about the abysmal quality of the workmanship, company boss David Holmes started playing hard to get, blanking our calls.
‘Finally three months later he sent one of his staff around who claimed he was astounded at how bad the work was. and he’d get it sorted.
‘He’d been told to replace a few bricks, but said most of them would have to be re-laid, and all the concrete on the drive would have to be drilled out and replaced as it was in such a bad state it would be impossible to overlay with resin.
‘When he left we tried to contact Mr Holmes for confirmation, but he’d started screening our calls in an elaborate cat and mouse avoidance game.
‘After a further three weeks of being messed around, and my neighbour Stuart taking two days off work to meet up with him, we received a call out of the blue from a sub-contractor who said they’d been assigned to fix any problems with our driveway.
‘After looking at the job they said it was so bad they couldn’t cope with it. They were so disillusioned they just cleared off and it was the last we saw of them as well.’
Resin Drives South then went to ground and their voice calls, texts, and emails remained unanswered.
At the end of August the neighbours finally caught up with Mr Holmes and reminded him of his website 100 per cent money back satisfaction guarantee.
They told the no-show trader they were taking him to court for a return of their money. His terse final response was to laugh, followed by a brusque ‘see you in court.’
Subsequently a district judge in the Southampton County Court ordered Resin Drives South Ltd to repay both victims the cash it took upfront but failed to deliver. Far from seeing them in court, Mr Holmes didn’t turn up and the judgements remain unsatisfied.
When they called Streetwise in we soon found that both complainants had been far too trusting and easily misled by a convincing conman who’d hung them out to dry.
Phillip admitted with the benefit of hindsight they’d been taken in by a plausible rogue and warning lights should have started flashing from the outset.
The company’s registered office in Regent Street London, turned out to be a maildrop, and the showroom on the firm’s website was nothing more than a stack of business cards at a garden centre in Dorset.
The firm had only been in existence since late 2016 and unaudited abbreviated accounts filed in August 2018 indicated it was £36,121 in the red.
Director David Holms, 67, had been at the helm of two other companies, both of which were shut down by Companies House regulators for failing to file accounts.
He’s known to Citizens’ Advice and Trading Standards and has been seen cold calling and touting for business at local markets.
Of immediate concern, we discovered last September he’d set up yet another limited driveway company, Resin Drives Dorset Ltd.
When Streetwise asked Mr Holmes for an explanation and comment about the way he just ignored customer’s complaints and court orders, no response was forthcoming.
Phillip said that perhaps what had annoyed him most was what he believed was the lack of consumer protection and having to pay an additional £800 to try and obtain justice which just went down the drain.
He said: ‘What came as a disappointment was when we went to Trading Standards and Citizens’ Advice they could perhaps have done more. We fed them with so much information but they didn’t do anything with it.
‘They advised us to take the firm to court, but what they didn’t warn about was we still might not get our money back.
‘Our mislaid trust in this rogue has been devastating and my wife is taking ages to come to terms with our great loss.
‘So much so it has badly affected her health, and owing to our age we cannot replace our hard-earned money.’
Streetwise spoke to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting agency about the activities of slick talking con artists, and how sensible intelligent people like Phillip Goodbody felt shattered at being so easily taken in by fraudsters.
‘People quickly fall for their charm and outgoing personality,’ a spokesperson said, ‘but when you’re a victim of a con you can also feel ashamed and embarrassed because you were blind to what was happening. Even the ultra wary and switched-on can be taken in by a scam.’
We warned Phillip that his guard slipped when he didn’t insist on a written contract with Resin Drives South spelling out precisely what work was to be done and the materials to be used in a specified timeframe.
Crucially, the contract should spell out payment would only be made in stages on completion of satisfactory work.
People are in the driving seat at the time of placing an order for home improvements.
They should research a trader’s background before signing up, check whether they’ve been vetted by trading standards or Checkatrade, and decline to do business if they’re asked for unacceptably large deposits.
Searching online for negative reviews, paying any initial deposit by credit card, and not being deterred from taking the initiative to haggle or walk away from any aspect of a deal they’re unhappy with is the ultimate protection.