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Jamie-Law
Jamie-Law, Solicitor
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I have had considerable problems with the work my builders

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I have had considerable problems with the work my builders have done - it all needs to be re-done and will cost a lot more to do than originally quoted/paid. The company quoted me via an iphone email message using a personal email address and signed Jee FC Construction. There was no other details, no vat, no indication that they were a limited company etc. It wasn't until they were largely through the work that they sent me their first invoice on letter headed paper and asked for payment to be made to FC Construction Ltd. They are a small company and I have been advised that they may not have a lot of assets to claim against them. However, one partner has just died and I am aware that there are assets there from what the remaining director has told me. I have also learnt that their full time employees are registered as self employed and the director who has died has been putting the purchase of goods which were nothing to do with the business through the company accounts. Not only is the work completely defective but they wrongly advised me on the roof construction. I would never had started if they advised me correctly. They would have known the advice was wrong but proceeded with the job regardless - presumably to continue with the work for financial gain without considering the repercussions. Have I any grounds for suing the directors as well as the company?
Assistant: Have you discussed this with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: I thought you were lawyers. What do you mean by HR or a manager?
Assistant: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: I am an employee and belong to unison
Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I have kept almost all my correspondence with the builders including screen shots of texts. I have reports from Gas Safe, NICEIC, an independent building surveyor, and a hazard awareness notice from Environmental Health.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

How long ago was this?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
they started work in January 2017. They more or less left site by early April 2017, but completed the gas work in July 2017 (which Gas Safe condemned in Sep 17 as it was immediately dangerous and was carried out by an unregistered engineer).

OK thank you for your response. Leave it with me for now and I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you as soon as I can. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you

Many thanks for your patience. To be honest it is quite unlikely you can make a personal claim against the directors in the circumstances. I know there are numerous factors which would indicate they had acted incorrectly and even negligently or maliciously, but the threshold for allowing companies against directors to be brought in really is very, very high and I do not believe this will realistically happen here. So your main remedy would still likely be to claim against he company itself, even if it may not necessarily provide a full resolution.

In terms of taking tis further, if a party wishes to pursue another for financial compensation arising out of a dispute between them, they can do so by making a claim in the civil courts. As legal action should ideally be used as a last resort, there are certain steps that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve lawyers or the courts. These can be summarised below and it is recommended the following procedure is followed to try and progress this matter further:

1. Reminder letter – if no informal reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the other party to voluntarily settle this matter.

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but have been ignored, the other party must be sent a formal ‘letter before action’ asking them to resolve this amicably within a specified period of time, usually 7 to 14 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to pursue them for the compensation in question. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.

3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Once the claim form is completed a copy will be sent to the other side and they will have a limited time to defend it. Once they are aware that legal proceedings have commenced it may also force them to reconsider their position and perhaps prompt them to contact you to try and resolve this.

As a final tip, it is always advisable to keep copies of any correspondence sent and received as the courts would like to refer to it if it ever gets that far.

Does this answer your query?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you. It answers part of my query. But I've been trying to get prices for rectifying the work & almost no builder wants to touch it. I have paid them £15,000 to date but it will cost a lot more than that to put right. This has dragged out because I have been trying to find a way forwards with the builder. He accepts the defects but minimises the extent/seriousness of them and offers bodges to "fix" the issues. It took 5 months to accept that he would need to lift the screed which is only 14mm deep in places - it should be 65mm min. This is only 1 issue.
The whole roof has been put on wrong so it needs to be completely re-done. They shouldn't have started the roof at all because I hadn't submitted my planning permission for the loft conversion (including dormers). They insisted that the normal way to do the dormers was to re-slate the roof, then remove the slates at a later stage to insert the dormers. Everyone has said this is rubbish- which the director would have known. They also fixed the roof to extremely rotten timbers. I can't trust them to do the dormers or fit beams into the roof because I have a Party Wall Award in place and I can't risk damaging my neighbour's property. They suggested that I arrange for a carpenter to work with them and they will employ a "proper roofer" this time to re-do the roof. However, no builder wants to work with them because their work is so bad. I suggested that they give me a refund for the roof to break the impasse . The bathroom can then be re-plastered and the boiler and cylinder which had to be taken out could be put back. I have had no hot water or central heating since 22 Sept 2017 because the gas was disconnected.
I paid them almost £6K for re-slating the roof but they said they can only offer me £2K because that is what it will cost them to re-do it. £2K won't touch the roof to strip it right back and re-do the felt, battens, valley, leadwork and tiling.
Everything they have done needs to be re-done. Yesterday I found that the rotten joists which they charged me for replacing weren't removed. They left the rotten timber in place and inadequately bolted pieces of wood alongside the rotten section. They covered up the work without notifying the building inspector. They have also drilled several holes at the ends of the joists compromising their structural integrity. It is possible that the new ceilings need to be removed and the joists completely replaced.
I asked them to provide a time-frame to rectify things and they said they could fit in with me. Nothing was forthcoming. I asked if they were members of a trade organisation and they didn't respond. The NICEIC, is the only trade organisation they belong to so I contacted them with concerns about the wiring. Yesterday the NICEIC did a second inspection of the wiring. Among the long list of faults are things I have been asking to be done since last April (2017).
They have caused so much damage to my house that I don't know where I will live while the ground floor screed is lifted and re-done, the partitions are re-built and walls re-plastered. I am worried about allowing them to do any more work to rectify things in case they cause even more damage. I suggested that we arrange for a third party to oversee the remedial work as a way forward but they weren't keen. I can't let this drag on any more. I need my roof on, and the bathroom made watertight and habitable as soon as possible so that I can be dry and warm this winter.
If I can't sue them as individuals how can I get my money back? £10,000 from the small claims court won't go very far in rectifying things. They are not insured for defective work. Their last accounts submitted to companies house made them look like they had very little in the bank. They had a lot more the year before. Last year one of the directors bought himself a Porsche out of profits from the company. They have been busy all year and are about to finish a big job this week/ next week which they will be paid for soon. Because one of the directors has died the remaining director is avoiding taking on new work because he doesn't want to keep splitting the profits with his partner's widow. The accountant is doing the accounts now to establish what the company is currently worth to enable things to be split. He has talked as if there could be a lot of money currently in the accounts. How can I know that if I claim money won't be moved out of the account to limit their liabilities? Can the builder close the company and remove money to avoid paying me to rectify the work? Could I go to a larger court if there is money there to pay and could I represent myself? I'm concerned about the cost of employing a lawyer to represent me. Do the legal fees get deducted from the company's assets before I would get paid? Can I definitely get the money from them if they have it in their accounts and the court ruled in my favour?

You say the small claims court but you do not have to go there and limit your claim to £10k – going to the County court (which the small claims court is part of anyway) can allow you to make a claim for much higher amounts. For example by making the claim online through that web portal allows you to claim up to £100,000.

The problem with limited companies is that they can always consider going insolvent if there are genuinely no assets or money to satisfy their debts. You cannot pursue the directors even in these circumstances – that is the whole point of limited companies. You have to show there was clear fraud on their part, that they had completely avoided their directors’ duties and run the company to the ground. We are not talking just taking profits out of it, which is normal, but a negligent trading pattern that has resulted in the company failing. But as mentioned it is a very high threshold and very difficult to prove so you need to proceed on the assumption it will not happen.

There are many complex factors which determine the possibility of getting anything out of them so I cannot really cover each and every one of them as that would be impossible. To minimise the potential costs and liabilities you should perhaps consider making the claim yourself and saving on legal fees so that even if you lose and there is no money to pay you, your losses are kept to a minimum.

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question? You can either reply on here with a quick ‘Yes, thanks’, or select 3, 4 or 5 stars on this page. I can still answer follow up questions if needed to clarify anything for you. Many thanks

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I did read your reply but don't understand all of it. Can you explain what is meant by "negligent trading pattern" please?

for example if the director has deliberately run the business to the ground, but really there has to be a malicious or severely negligent pattern of this, not just bad business decisions, etc. In reality, it is very difficult to prove. You really have to assume that the directors cannot be pursued personally, it is a complex legal case to prove otherwise. Does this clarify a bit more?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I made it clear from the outset that I wanted to create a loft extension and that I wanted the dormers to be constructed at the same time as the roof was re-slated. The builders pressurised me to start at short notice despite telling them that I hadn't managed to submit a planning application for the loft conversion. I had no written contract. I met them to discuss the scope of work before agreeing to go ahead, but they had already ordered a skip licence.They put the scaffolding up 6 days later and were about to start stripping the old roof when I panicked because I felt that it was all too rushed. The men who came to strip the roof went away and arranged for the director to discuss my concerns. He assured me that it was normal to put the slates on and then remove them at a later date to insert the dormers and on that basis I agreed that they could proceed with the work - they had already erected the scaffolding. The director would definitely have known that this advice was complete nonsense. The roof will need to be completely stripped back to the ridge to insert the dormers because each slate is nailed on individually. The same is true of the front roof which should have roof lights inserted.
When I discussed the loft with the builders in May 2017 the same director told me that my bedroom ceilings, which they had re-done, would probably crack due to vibration during construction of the new loft floor. Again, he knew this all along but still went ahead and re-did the ceilings.
I have had a survey by an independent building surveyor who questioned why the builders had started the roof before the dormers. This is not negligent advice. It's blatantly false advice. They rushed into starting the work without notifying building control in order to secure the work / fill an immediate lull in their own work programme. Either way, the only possible motivation for pushing me into starting the job too soon, based on assurances he knew to be false, must have been to benefit them financially - it has not benefited me. Everything has been done back to front. The roof which they replaced now leaks and will need to be completely stripped off and re-done, the new ceilings will crack when the loft is done and will need to be re-done, the hall and landing were also plastered against the plasterer's advice, because bringing timber joists and steel beams through the hall and up the stairs will damage the walls, they put plasterboard onto the walls before the new windows were fitted - which do not now line up. The list goes on. (Shortly after they started the director moved onto another job and was barely involved. He left the job to his partner, an electrician, to coordinate.I looked up fraud previously on the internet - it said this:
Fraud by false representation (Section 2)
The defendant:
made a false representation
dishonestly
knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading
with intent to make a gain for himself or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.
I think this ticks all those boxes.
Secondly, when he sent me his quote it was signed Jeff FC Construction and sent using a family email address. He provided no other details of their company, no address, no mention of VAT etc. It was not until they sent me my first invoice 6 weeks after commencing and when they had done much of the work that I discovered that they were a limited company. They also added VAT to the invoice which they had not included on the quote and they added additional payments which should have been included in the original price. They also charged for work they hadn't done.
I would not have used them if I knew they were VAT registered because it would have made their quote higher than those I had obtained from sole traders.
They have not behaved as a limited company should and it seems unreasonable that when defects appear in their work they can fall back on their limited company status to limit their liability. Everything they have done needs to be re-done and it will cost thousands to put right. The director who gave me the false information died recently. His partner knew that he had given me a quote by iphone but did not provide any company details to correct the act. When I met them on site just before they started the work they only gave me a business card, which again said FC Construction with 2 phone numbers on it.
The remaining director told me recently that their employees are "self employed" but they work for them full-time which is also dishonest/illegal.
They do not have professional negligence insurance and their company assets are unknown. The Environmental Health Officer has issued a Hazard Awareness notice and I need to find some way of recouping my losses to rectify the defective work before building control issue an enforcement notice. If I make an online claim can I try to claim from the individual directors as well as from the company?

Based on what you have said, I again stress that it is highly unlikely you will be able to pursue the directors personally for this. There is nothing stopping you from making a claim against them, but be warned that it is unlikely to be successful so whether you go ahead or not is now entirely up to you. But yes, if you claim online, you can also claim against the directors if needed. Does this clarify a bit more?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Please could you clarify your advice?
If I need to go down the small claims line do I claim for negligence and breach of contract? Those won't be difficult to prove. Can I also claim that the director started the job prematurely for financial gain for the company without regard to the consequences to me/ my home? As an experienced builder he would have known that his advice was false and should not have started the work. As a consequence he has caused me a huge amount of distress and massive financial loss. I respect your expertise but please can you explain why this would not be considered to be fraudulent? I appreciate what you said about the bar being higher for this but please can you explain why the judge may consider that this does not reach that bar? Is there even a possibility that the judge may agree that based on the fact that they should not have started the work their actions/ behaviour would be considered fraudulent?
If this was a possibility could I submit a claim based both on:
a) negligence and breach of contract
b) fraudulent practice/ advice
Could I claim against the company and directors at the same time?
What would be the consequence of combining these issues if I was able to do that?
Would the judge be able to accept the negligence part of the claim whilst rejecting the fraudulent advice part? Would the outcome be the same as if I had submitted a claim only for negligence and breach of contract?

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

What else is it you would like to know?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I have requested a refund for the roof so that I can get the dormers done at the same time as the roof which is what should have happened originally. I paid almost £6K (exVAT) for the builders to do the roof but twhen I asked for a refund hey initially only offered £1,500 on the basis that that is what it would cost them to do the work. Since the scaffolding will be a minimum of £1000 that is ridiculous. I listed the items I had paid for to get the roof re-done originally to include skips, scaffold, re-slating etc. almost all of which would need to be re-done and asked them to provide a more reasonable and realistic offer. The said their final offer was £2K. On the premise that it would be a good start to get something back from them I asked them to pay the money back into my account. I received a text back today to say that they will refund the money on the final bill. I have already paid £15K and there are major defects with literally everything. It will cost many times that amount to rectify their work. I have had one written estimate for £86K plus VAT, a verbal estimate of £60K plus VAT, and I'm hoping to get another lower quote back from a loose group of sole traders, all skilled in their own field, most of which are not VAT registered. I am hoping their quote will come out below £40K. However, this is considerably more than originally quoted because almost everything needs to be re-done. There is not a lot I can re-use and they won't even give me back £2K to get the roof done. I am getting to the point of realising that I will have little choice but to take them to court but am worried about what I will be able to get back. This is why I am so anxious to consider every possible option to put me back where I should have been. I am probably not far off being issued with an enforcement notice from Building Control because nothing meets building regs and some structural work is not built according to the engineer's instructions.
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I have also become aware that the builder's full-time employees have paid as self-employed workers which is tax evasion. If I remind the builder of this whilst requesting him to provide a fair settlement could it be construed as blackmail? Would I be party to any wrongdoing if I am aware of this but choose to keep quiet? (I asked the builder if the workers were self employed or employed when he said he was laying them off as I was concerned that if he had to pay redundancy there would be even less money in the company accounts to claim back. he confirmed that they were self employed)

Ok - so what is it you want to ask me?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Please respond in written form, thank you.
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I have already explained what I want clarification on - I'm sorry but I don't understand why you are asking me again what I want to know.

Yes I have read the background. But what is your question of me?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
This is what I had requested clarification on previously - the case seems to have been passed on to you but I haven't received answers on the following:
Please could you clarify your advice?
If I need to go down the small claims line do I claim for negligence and breach of contract? Those won't be difficult to prove. Can I also claim that the director started the job prematurely for financial gain for the company without regard to the consequences to me/ my home? As an experienced builder he would have known that his advice was false and should not have started the work. As a consequence he has caused me a huge amount of distress and massive financial loss. I respect your expertise but please can you explain why this would not be considered to be fraudulent? I appreciate what you said about the bar being higher for this but please can you explain why the judge may consider that this does not reach that bar? Is there even a possibility that the judge may agree that based on the fact that they should not have started the work their actions/ behaviour would be considered fraudulent?
If this was a possibility could I submit a claim based both on:
a) negligence and breach of contract
b) fraudulent practice/ advice
Could I claim against the company and directors at the same time?
What would be the consequence of combining these issues if I was able to do that?
Would the judge be able to accept the negligence part of the claim whilst rejecting the fraudulent advice part? Would the outcome be the same as if I had submitted a claim only for negligence and breach of contract?
I have also become aware that the builder's full-time employees have paid as self-employed workers which is tax evasion. If I remind the builder of this whilst requesting him to provide a fair settlement could it be construed as blackmail? Would I be party to any wrongdoing if I am aware of this but choose to keep quiet? (I asked the builder if the workers were self employed or employed when he said he was laying them off as I was concerned that if he had to pay redundancy there would be even less money in the company accounts to claim back. he confirmed that they were self employed)

If I need to go down the small claims line do I claim for negligence and breach of contract?

1) Yes you claim for neglgence and/or breahc of contract in the alternative.

Those won't be difficult to prove. Can I also claim that the director started the job prematurely for financial gain for the company without regard to the consequences to me/ my home?

Well yes, but that just forms part of your breach of contract/negligence claim

As an experienced builder he would have known that his advice was false and should not have started the work. As a consequence he has caused me a huge amount of distress and massive financial loss. I respect your expertise but please can you explain why this would not be considered to be fraudulent?

Because you are bringing a civil claim. This is not criminal. It appears he was negligent, but that does not mean it is fraud.

I appreciate what you said about the bar being higher for this but please can you explain why the judge may consider that this does not reach that bar?

It would not be a small claim. If you want to plead fraud then it would be multi track. The Court fee just to hear the claim would be £1090 and you would need representation. You are looking at around £25k for this. If, for whatever reason you lost then you would be liable for your own and the other side costs.

Indeed, assuming you won on the claim, but fraud was defeated and that was the reason it was not a small claim, you would be liable for costs. So your exposure is about £50k in costs. Even then you dont get 100% of costs back, due to Court assessment. You usually get around 25%-33% knocked off. So you would only ever recover around £20k

Is there even a possibility that the judge may agree that based on the fact that they should not have started the work their actions/ behaviour would be considered fraudulent?

Possibly, but the bar is high. The Court has to be certain that fraud took place. It wouldnt be a small claim if there is an allegation of fraud.
If this was a possibility could I submit a claim based both on:
a) negligence and breach of contract
b) fraudulent practice/ advice
Could I claim against the company and directors at the same time?

Yes. But again, you are asking to pierce the corporate veil. It wont be a small claim.
What would be the consequence of combining these issues if I was able to do that?

Multi track and huge expense for you. If you bring fraud into it, it can NEVER be a small claim.
Would the judge be able to accept the negligence part of the claim whilst rejecting the fraudulent advice part? Would the outcome be the same as if I had submitted a claim only for negligence and breach of contract?

Yes, see above. I have answered that. You would be liable for Defendant costs of defending the fraud element as that is very serious.
I have also become aware that the builder's full-time employees have paid as self-employed workers which is tax evasion. If I remind the builder of this whilst requesting him to provide a fair settlement could it be construed as blackmail? Would I be party to any wrongdoing if I am aware of this but choose to keep quiet?

So what? That is notihng to do with you. That is to do with the bulders and HMRC

(I asked the builder if the workers were self employed or employed when he said he was laying them off as I was concerned that if he had to pay redundancy there would be even less money in the company accounts to claim back. he confirmed that they were self employed)

Can I clarify anything for you about this today, please?

If not, I would appreciate a 5-star rating for my answer. If you need anything further I am available for a follow up at no extra cost.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you. So it would appear that I really am stuck with getting whatever I can from their existing assets which may not be very much. They are due to be paid for a big job they are about to finish. At what point are their assets assessed for claiming? If I put a claim in today for example and the case was heard within 2 months and the judge awarded me damages to rectify the faulty work, is their ability to pay determined on the day the judgement is made or on the day the claim is made? Is there any way I can get hold of their most up-to-date accounts / can these be requested or would I need to wait until I received a judgement? Can they move money around between the claim being made and a judgement to reduce their liabilities?

Thank you. So it would appear that I really am stuck with getting whatever I can from their existing assets which may not be very much. They are due to be paid for a big job they are about to finish. At what point are their assets assessed for claiming?

If they own property, you can claim on that. If they have £ in bank account you can get a charge on what is in the account.

If I put a claim in today for example and the case was heard within 2 months and the judge awarded me damages to rectify the faulty work, is their ability to pay determined on the day the judgement is made or on the day the claim is made?

No determination is made on the day. The Judge would order X and they would have 14 days to pay. If not, then you can enforce it.

Is there any way I can get hold of their most up-to-date accounts / can these be requested or would I need to wait until I received a judgement?

You would have to wait until Judgment

Can they move money around between the claim being made and a judgement to reduce their liabilities?

No, you could seek to have money returned via a Court order.

Does that clarify?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you. I am a lot clearer now. With regards ***** ***** however, am I right in thinking that the property would have to be in the company name? The company has limited assets - van, computer, tools etc. plus money in bank.

Correct.

Can I clarify anything for you about this today, please?

If not, I would appreciate a 5-star rating for my answer. If you need anything further I am available for a follow up at no extra cost.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you

Thanks. Please do take a moment to rate before you go, otherwise, the site doesn't pay me for the time spent with you! Thanks

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Ok, I will do, but if I have any further questions am I able to do this after I have rated you?

Yes you can.

Jamie-Law, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8630
Experience: Solicitor
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