Last January Gloria Green was mulling over whether to proceed with some essential maintenance work on her home, when by chance a flyer dropped through her letterbox from Appledore Roofing and Building Contractors of Fareham.
It claimed specialising in all roofing and building work including wall rendering, plumbing, and bathrooms, with everything in one place and no sub-contractors.
She believed it was the answer to her dilemma, and at the end of January signed up with the firm’s boss Nick Hutton after obtaining free estimates and advice.
Gloria first engaged him to do some external rendering, then agreed to splash out £3,190 on the bathroom renovation after he told her he could do a good job, and the work would be completed in two to three weeks.
She didn’t receive a written contract specifying precisely the work to be done, the materials to be used, and a formal completion date, taking what she’d been promised on trust.
But three advance payments and almost four months later alarm bells started to ring and she was finally driven up the wall when the work still hadn’t been finished.
Despite the promise of no sub-contractors, it turned out Mr Hutton had employed someone else to do the basic bathroom upgrade.
It wasn’t as if it was a difficult job. No plumbing was to be rerouted, just straightforward replacement of outdated bathroom furniture and fittings.
However, an angry and exasperated Gloria, ended up calling in another firm to look over the job who found it riddled with faults.
‘It was absolutely dreadful’ she said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life.’
‘Tiles were sliding down the walls, because they’d been installed on thin hardboard, the bath and shower was in the wrong place, and the extractor fan hadn’t been fitted correctly.
‘The plumbing hot and cold was on opposite sides, the wall over boarding hadn’t been installed properly and the wrong product was used on the floor.
‘The list had 20 different snags which needed sorting.
‘Not being tech savvy, my son, daughters and even granddaughters phoned and texted Mr Hutton, giving him multiple chances to communicate, finish the job, or even just explain what had happened.
‘But he just kept blanking the calls and messages. Every time they tried to get in touch he claimed he’s been on holiday, it was inconvenient and needed to meet at another time, or just ignored them.
‘It just went on and on and on. In the end it was so bad I was forced to put a stop on the job and let the professional tradespeople in to get the bathroom stripped out and done again.
Fortunately I held back £700 but I still lost out by more than £2,000 which is why I believe it right to warn others.’
Granddaughter, Chelsea, 23, was so distraught for her nan that she put the bathroom disaster complete with photographs up on her Facebook page. She said she was determined not to let it happen to anyone else.
Subsequently it was discovered her grandmother wasn’t the only one. Other people had complained about the firm and hadn’t got an answer which is why she decided to get in touch with Streetwise.
Tradesmen are required by law to be competent and professional, and complete any work within a reasonable time.
We were satisfied from the evidence that Appledore Roofing and Building had left the bathroom in a complete shambles and called boss Nick Hutton for an explanation.
He denied he was responsible for the work not being up to scratch and blamed his installer. When we reminded him of his no subcontractor assertion, he said he was a roofer, so he’d got a friend to do the job for him.
‘It’s still an ongoing thing,’ he claimed. ‘It’s a dispute between them and Paul, the guy who did the work, and Mrs Green is trying to attack me. It’s a bit of a vicious circle at the moment.
‘I didn’t even see the bathroom,’ he added. ‘I looked at it in the beginning, and never saw the end because I’d been locked out of the house.’
When we pointed out he’d taken Gloria’s money, and she was the victim of a dodgy deal it left no room for doubt he was responsible. It rested fairly and squarely on him to get it sorted.
Mr Hutton agreed to look into the matter within an hour or so and call us back, but the call was never returned despite sending a follow-up text reminder.
We then tracked down and spoke to the installer Paul. He was at pains to stress contrary to all the independent evidence, his workmanship was of the highest order, and blamed Mr Hutton for not paying him and abandoning the job.
It soon became clear Gloria had no chance of getting any money back. She’d been shamelessly left at the centre of a Punch and Judy blame game for complaining about shonky workmanship.
By taking far too much on trust she hadn’t noticed the warning lights flashing when the unsolicited leaflet arrived through her letterbox.
It contained no business address or contact details apart from two phone numbers. Reputable traders have no need to seek work by doorstep leafleting or cold calling, since their standing for quality workmanship ensures they have a steady stream of new and repeat customers.
Gloria understood when we gave her the bad news that there was little alternative other than to chalk the matter up to experience.
She said: ‘Thank you for your support. I accept I should have known better and I’ve been far too trusting - but not any more. I know I’ve got to count my chickens, as some people have had a far worse experience than me.
‘People should be made aware of how easy it is to be taken in and left in the lurch with no customer satisfaction or conscience about it.’