‘I HOPE he never forgets what he did to us.’
These are the words of a family forced to fork out £6,000 to repair damage to their dream home by a cowboy builder who was initially called on to fix their cat flap.
‘Incompetent’ Lee Hopkins, owner of building firm Papillon CCM, used unfair commercial practices to convince Christiaan and Jennifer Hudson that their mid-terraced house in Bramshott Road, Southsea needed extensive work to repair ‘rotting’ rafters and a main crack in the beam, described to the couple as ‘dangerously unsafe’.
Fareham Magistrates’ Court heard that Hopkins, of no fixed address, told the couple – who had a seven-year-old son and a baby on the way – that a bad storm was due that weekend and could see them lose their roof, or worse still, collapse and kill their son in bed.
But a court found he was ‘clearly wrong’ to suggest any risks.
By Christmas Eve 2013, the Hudsons’ house was flooded with water pouring through large holes in the roof caused by Hopkins’ firm’s poor workmanship, forcing the couple to spend more than £6,000 paying another builder to fix the problem.
Hopkins, whose firm Papillon CMM operated out of Shelford Road in Southsea, has now been ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation to the Hudsons after being prosecuted by Portsmouth City Council’s trading standards team.
Mrs Hudson said: ‘We didn’t think we would ever get any money.
‘But that result means it is something that he will never be able to forget.
‘I hope that he never forgets what he did to us.’
She said that Hopkins’ actions pushed them into debt, a situation they had never been in before, and they were forced to borrow money from friends and family.
They also spent all their savings on his work, as well as money set aside to decorate their new home.
Mrs Hudson added: ‘It was heartbreaking. Every single room had mould and damp in it. We had to hire dehumidifiers. To think we had a little one coming into the world and coming home to all that damp. It was awful.’
The Hudsons commissioned builder Hopkins after they bought their Southsea house in October 2013 and their survey highlighted minor jobs needed to be carried out. Once Hopkins had fitted a cat flap and plug socket, Mr Hudson asked him to lay loft insulation.
It was while carrying out that task that Hopkins said he discovered wet rot -– which had damaged ‘23 or 24 rafters out of 27 beyond repair – and a three-and-a-half inch crack in a wooden beam.
He also claimed the gable wall needed replacing, as it was made of Victorian bricks, which were missing mortar, due to the water ingress.
When communication broke down with Hopkins, the Hudsons began to fear the worst and by Christmas Eve their house was flooded, with water pouring through their son’s ceiling, through a hole made by one of Hopkins’ worker’s feet.
They eventually sought help from Citizens Advice Bureau, which referred their case to Portsmouth City Council’s trading standards team.
Oliver Wellings, prosecuting, said: ‘He is entirely incompetent as a tradesman.The standard of workmanship was so appalling that he should never have been undertaking this work in the first place.’
Hopkins was sentenced for four counts of unfair commercial practice and one for falsely displaying trade marks.
He had pleaded guilty to two counts of unfair practice and displaying trade marks and not guilty to the other two counts of unfair practice.
‘A sense of panic and urgency was injected’
LEE HOPKINS ‘panicked and shotgunned’ the Hudson family into agreeing to work being done on their home, a court heard.
Oliver Wellings, prosecuting at Fareham magistrates, said: ‘Hopkins said “If it was my child I would not let him sleep in there (the house)”.
‘On his own admission there was no emergency risk to someone sleeping in there that night.
‘It was clearly wrong to suggest that risk.’
Mr Wellings said that during the quotes for work ‘a sense of panic and urgency was being injected’ by Hopkins.
He added: ‘They were being panicked and shotgunned into making a decision by him making those claims.
‘The claim the roof needed to come off in its entirety was plainly wrong. Notwithstanding that the defendant took more than 300 photos and a video of the works, not one showed evidence of this wet rot.
‘These were grossly excessive works which were gradually expanded over time. There was false information given to suggest that major works were needed, when all that was needed were minor works.’
Simon Moger, defending Hopkins, said: ‘He was asked what the worst-case scenario was and he gave it. Bad weather was forecast – what was he meant to say?
‘Presumably he could have been sued if it were the otherway round and if he had said there was nothing to worry about.’
Cllr Rob New, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for environment & community safety, said: “I am very pleased the council’s trading standards team has been successful in prosecuting what is an example of cowboy building at its worst.
‘Residents should always take care before agreeing to building work. It’s important not to be rushed, obtain several detailed quotes and preferably use members of schemes that are approved by trading standards such as Portsmouth Square Deal.’