Elderly couple victims of shoddy builder

Posted: 25th February 2015

ConstructionIn an example of consumer protection laws being wielded by the state to protect the vulnerable, an elderly couple who fell foul of an incompetent builder – who claimed an expertise he didn’t have – at least had the satisfaction of seeing him punished.

The couple had employed the man to carry out some structural work on their home after he described himself as a ‘good builder’. He quoted a price of £2,000 for the removal of an internal wall to create an open plan living space. He completed the job over three days before saying that he was finished.

However, the couple were by then suspicious and a chartered surveyor was called in by the local authority to inspect the work. It emerged that the builder had removed the wall and replaced it with two steel supports on poorly laid brickwork. The job should have cost £1,200, if properly done, but would cost £2,460 to put right.

The builder was later jailed for 12 weeks after he admitted engaging in a commercial practice which contravened the requirement of due diligence, a rarely prosecuted offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. He had represented that he was capable of doing structural work which he was not in fact qualified to perform.

The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal overturned his immediate jail term and replaced it with a suspended sentence. The Court noted that his offence did not involve bullying or aggressive behaviour towards the couple and that his conduct fell short of being fraudulent.

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