A couple in Kent claim they have lost £44,000 after a builder damaged their home’s foundations during a botched patio build, before he stopped turning up to work.
Sandra, 63, and Stephen West, 62, hired the builder to remove old decking from their home in Benenden, Kent, and install a new patio for their garden design. They found the builder through an online recommendation.
But after the works went wrong, the builder put the issues down to ground movement rather than any dodgy workmanship, refuting the couple's claims.
What work were the couple hoping to have done?
The Wests asked the builder to turn their old decking into a patio area after buying the house in January 2021. They found a builder on neighbourhood website Nextdoor and he started work in June 2021.
However the couple alleged they immediately noticed issues with a wall he had constructed and just a couple of months later it collapsed because of drainage issues.
They claim the builder stopped turning up to the property on days he had promised to work, and stopped coming at all in December 2021. They also claim to have paid for materials that have not materialised, although the builder claims they were never delivered to the property as there was no space for them on site.
Sandra said: “Once a week he would ask me for £2,000 for this, £5,000 for that, with more amounts and reasons all the time. It wasn't until I added it up that I was absolutely appalled.
“I couldn't sleep, I've been to the doctors and he put me on antidepressants, and I'm still on them now. We paid a lot of money and it's been left in a worse state than before it started.”
How were the house foundations damaged?
In February 2022 they hired a loss adjustor and a structural engineer to assess the damage. The structural engineer said there are fissures in the land.
The builder says the damage to house foundations was caused by ground movement and the loss adjustor says the builder has tried to claim on his insurance.
Sandra added: “The house is 20 years old and there have never been signs of issues before, he's damaged the foundation.”
The builder said he tried to claim on his public liability insurance, but the claim was denied and he is now waiting for a decision from the insurance ombudsman.
Now bad weather could make it worse
The experts the Wests hired say the property is exposed to the elements, which could lead to problems further down the line.
“They said it's safe for now, but harsh weather could make it worse,” Sandra added. “Rain, snow and bad weather has washed away the ground even more and caused landslides.”
Pictures show the wall around the patio cracked and in pieces, as well as the exposed foundations of the home.
How do I avoid cowboy builders?
It is not known if the builder in this story is at fault for the damage to the home, but the fact remains that cowboy builders are out there.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to weed out the bad actors and avoid costly and stressful consequences when having work done on your home.
For example, if a builder gives you a quote that makes you think “wow, can it really be that cheap?” then the answer is probably it’s too good to be true. And be wary if a builder is ready to start work straight away – you sometimes have to wait months for reputable builders to be available.
If you're looking to find a builder, it's worth checking out our guide on cowboy builders beforehand.
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.