Bursledon reader Carol Pritchard signed up to a £10,600 contract to revamp her drive which including relaying and cleaning.
She was cold called by Britannia Property Solutions Ltd of Fareham in February 2017, and the work was supposed to be finished the following month.
But Carol said the drive upgrade turned into a nightmare after she discovered the work was sub standard. The firm abandoned the job and went to ground almost two years ago and she can’t get her money back.
‘Britannia director Jimmy Maloney came and knocked on the door,’ she said. He claimed they were doing a lot of work in the area and tried to sell us a complete new driveway.
‘We insisted we didn’t want that but would be up for having the driveway lifted and re-laid, using the bricks we had. I was told they could start a few weeks later and that was fine.
‘Stupidly I handed over some money a few days after the work started which a persuasive Mr Maloney claimed was necessary to pay for wages and materials. It all went downhill from there.’
With the top part of the driveway laid but unfinished, it became obvious it contrasted sharply with the entrance pathway surfacing at the bottom.
Carol accepted it would look a bit shabby and spoil the overall appearance and finish.
The firm offered to resurface it with road standard bitumen at an additional cost of £2,000 but within two days of completion the surface began to break up and it immediately became obvious the work wasn’t up to an acceptable standard.
Instead of the specified bitumen bonded gravel it had been treated with what looked suspiciously like a kind of black paint.
Despite being put under pressure for further stage payments, matters went from bad to worse when the workforce unexpectedly failed to show up to complete the main driveway.
Carol returned after being out for the day only to find the brickwork sanding infill hadn’t been completed and the driveway sealed.
After she got on the phone and registered her displeasure, she was told they’d be back on the first dry day, but that turned out to be another no show.
In the meantime she spoke to her builder dad about it, and it soon became apparent it was an overpriced cowboy job.
To her dismay it was discovered that the bricks had just been re-laid on a mixture of pre-used and new sand.
The foundation hadn’t been renovated in accordance with industry standards. The hardcore base hadn’t been restored, the weed control membrane was missing and no compressed scalping stone sub-base had been used.
To add insult to injury her swimming pool cover was ruined after it had been used as a tarpaulin to dump a sand delivery.
A furious Carol then became embroiled in a game of hide and seek as telephone calls, texts, and messages to the firm were all ignored.
She finally got through after using another phone which finally resulted in Mr Maloney re-appearing with what turned out to be another empty promise to get the matter sorted by the first week in March.
Exasperated, Carol asked Streetwise if we could help track down the firm and advise her if she had any options to pursue.
But our enquiries disclosed no good news for the 57-year-old businesswoman, and she had to resign herself to a massive hit in the bank balance.
Ironically, a Companies House search revealed Britannia Property Solutions Ltd had only been formed on the very day they started work on her driveway.
On turning up at the company’s Fareham registered office to speak to the current listed director, Mr Joseph Maloney, it turned out to be just a postal address.
We tried to ring both directors, but their phone lines had been disconnected and the company website had been taken down. We finally tracked down a Belfast address for Mr Jimmy Maloney who wasn’t available to speak to us.
Further enquiries with Companies House elicited regulators were about to pull the plug on the company and shut it down for failing to produce accounts during its two-year lifespan.
Carol was resigned to the fact that she’d been far too trusting and taken in by beguiling doorstep sales patter.
She admitted: ‘I know I was totally stupid for doing what I did, but I’m one of those people a bit old school, and I treat people the way I treat them. They were here working and it all looked fine. You learn the hard way. I feel such a fool.’
We advised her to register a complaint with trading standards, and we’d be pleased to hear from anyone who may have had similar problems with the firm.
In the meantime we urge readers who are considering any building or home improvement work to be wary of cold calling traders. Before commissioning any work take on board the following guidelines:
Always insist on references and viewing examples of the contractor’s work.
Obtain a minimum of three quotations before placing an order.
Never pay any money up front.
Good contractors are in demand. Beware of any who can start the job immediately.
Spell out in detail the work to be done, and what materials are to be used. If necessary employ the services of an architect to draw up a schedule.
Alterations to the schedule while work is in progress should be agreed in writing.
Never allow work to proceed without a written contract. Free contract templates can be obtained online from https://www.formsbirds.com/free-contract-for-building-and-repair
The contract will set out the total price for the job, any agreed stage payments, when the work will be started and completed, and specify the responsibility for the removal of any construction spoil or rubble.
Insist on retention of up to 5 per cent of the total cost of the work to rectify faults and only make a final payment on signing a satisfaction note.
Ask the contractor for details of any public liability insurance they hold against injury or damage to a third party or their property.