Tuesday 29 April 2008

Dodgy builder

My 86 year old mum, highly alert though she is, has been taken for a ride by a dodgy builder. She was thoroughly fooled by his plausibility and charm.

She lives in this big old house in the London suburbs and has constant problems finding competent tradespeople to do odd bits of maintenance.

So when this pleasant middle-aged chap rang her doorbell one day saying he knew a friend of hers and wondered if she needed any work done, she jumped at the chance.

He was ready to do all those fiddly little things other people weren't interested in, at a reasonable price, and straightaway. My mum was suitably impressed.

To begin with, he seemed to be doing exactly what she wanted, to a high standard, and he turned up precisely when he said he would.

Not only that but he brought her little snacks, gave her lifts to the shops and changed her inaccessible light bulbs. He was all kindness and consideration.

However slowly but surely this promising start turned into something less satisfactory.

He became unreliable. He would turn up at any old time then suddenly disappear again. The standard of work slipped and he started to use shoddy materials. Garden tools went missing and he refused to give invoices or receipts. He never answered the phone and got more and more evasive.

Mum was losing sleep worrying about it all and wondering what to do. She felt increasingly at the mercy of this unpredictable man she seemed to have little control over.

I was alarmed myself at the way he had taken advantage and betrayed her trust. Okay, just get rid of him, I said, and if there's any trouble call the police. Don't indulge him a moment longer, he's simply after a nice stream of ready cash.

Hopefully she's done the necessary.

Even wise old birds like my mum can still fall for these smooth-talking shysters.

PS: Partly because of this unfortunate experience, mum has finally decided to sell the house and move into a sheltered flat. I'm sure she'll be glad to drop the burden of maintenance and let other people do the worrying.

I'm awarding the Excellent Blog Award to Fate's Granddaughter for a brilliant blog I just have to read regularly. She's always interesting, honest, revealing and thought-provoking. She's a caring, compassionate soul trying to better her life - and other people's - in the face of all the usual obstacles and setbacks. Go take a look.


  1. That kind of story makes my blood run cold. When someone starts out as seemingly plausible, then takes the vulnerable and elderly for a ride. My mum has has had numerous similar experiences where the family has had to step in to stop her being conned. She has my sympathy.

  2. Hulla - Sorry to hear your mum has had similar experiences. There are plenty of these tricksters lying in wait for the unwary and the innocent.

  3. It's a practice too common the world over it seems. My house was actually built by a shonky 'cash only' kind of builder and it's structurally rubbish but it's made me very wary of builders and tradespeople. No Gold License, no go. Sadly I think the elderly enjoy the company of someone banging around the house and are often easily taken in. I hope she enjoys her new digs. (That photo looks a bit like Thriftcriminal!)

  4. The Gold License, what's that? If it means the builder comes up to a certified standard, that's excellent. We could do with something like that in the UK. The government keeps talking about a certificate scheme for tradespeople but it never happens.

    Sorry, Thriftcriminal, the duff builder isn't you, honest.

  5. Mr. M was taken in by a roofing guy when we lived in Kansas. The damn shingles were blown off the roof from the constant winds. He gave him a check to fix it and the guy took off.
    Never got the money back.
    People who prey on elderly women should be beaten to a pulp.
    Sorry for your mom's distress, Nick.

  6. Medbh - Of course we all know the golden rule, never give someone money before the work's been done, but people can be so persuasive. Yes, preying on the elderly is particularly nasty.

  7. I hope that builder gets everything that's coming to him. I am not a vengeful soul, but I can't stomach people deliberately taking advantage of those who they percieve to be vulnerable.

    Thanks again for the award and such high praise - I'm speechless (which would be a first)!

  8. FG - If he's been doing this sort of thing for a while, I'm surprised the authorities haven't jumped on him yet. He must manage to keep one step ahead of them somehow.

    Quite justified high praise. Of course the award's only from me but it's a special mark of appreciation!

  9. God, Nick that's rotten. Sorry to hear that your mum has been driven to move out of her home by this con artist. Awful stuff really.

  10. Thanks, Red. I wouldn't say he's driven her out, she's been thinking for some time she hasn't the energy to look after such a big house and garden any more. But I think he was the straw that broke the camel's back.

  11. I would have to agree with Medbh. Beat them to a pulp.

  12. You bloodthirsty lot. Some frustrated vigilantes here! I'd be happy just to see him named and shamed and prevented from luring anyone else into his net.

  13. Gee, this is weird, Nick as I blog from the road: I just posted about an elderly aunt who died today and has been driven from her lovely little cottage by a break-in that terrified her.
    Now I read about your mum being driven from her house too by an unscrupulous fraud artist.
    My blood boils over, beaten to a pulp is too, too compassionate.

  14. www, very sorry to hear about your aunt. Break-ins are traumatic enough for anyone but particularly for elderly people living alone. Re the blood lust: Tell you what, I'll find out this geezer's address, then you can all go round and sort him out. Don't forget to take photos....

  15. I stayed with an Irish colleague when in London for about 6 months and he was having work done on his flat. Everyday I came home from work the 2 builders would be sprawled out on the couch drinking tea and reading the paper with little sign of progress. a 4 week job spiralled into a 4 month saga! - beware the cowboys and always get a reference and second opinion!

  16. Quickie - It seems to be a statutory part of the job to drink tea and read the paper. And for one person to be permanently watching the others and giving the odd bit of advice. And for someone else to be out somewhere getting a vital bit of equipment (only available at the betting shop). The builders have just moved in next door to Manuel - full details of the trauma on his blog.