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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm with 20+ years legal experience
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Hi,I employed a tradesman to do various jobs for me on a

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Hi, I employed a tradesman to do various jobs for me on a rental property - put up 4 kitchen wall units, re- felt a roof, put up some plasterboard. He started work, and every job he tackled he has done badly or totally wrong eg of the 4 wall units 1 has a hole drilled through the door, 1 has the wrong colour side, 1 has the coloured side just stuck on the side. The roof which he told me was finished has around 15 tiles missing from the front, the guttering is still on the floor, the ridge tiles are like a switchback and are not pointed correctly, and the tiles at the back have 6" gaps between tiles. The kitchen is now reduced to a bomb site. He has not been here to work since 20th June, without any explanation or contact. He also constantly requested money, and told many lies. I had agreed (stupidly) to pay for some roofing materials up front (£310), and when a kitchen unit needed replacing, he said he'd get it as he'd get a better deal, and asked for £100 for that. Altogether I paid him £550. I have receipts for this money. He left some of his tools here having asked me to keep them under lock and key - and i dismantled the tower scaffolding and put it inside too as I was going to be away. I complained to the estate agent who had recommended him, and he called him in to tell him to sort it out or give me my money back. The tradesman came round to my house (the rental property adjoins my house) after that and asked for the scaffolding to do another job. I refused to let him have it, pointing out that he had not yet finished my job and had disappeared for weeks - he did not ask for any of his tools. I asked him for the kitchen unit and worktop I had paid for, and a few days later he dropped it round and drove off quickly - because he had brought an oak unit and my kitchen was white so he knew I'd be cross. The unit was new and had someone else's name on it. I have now sent a recorded delivery letter asking for £430 back (I allowed £120 for the worktop and some work he did on the plasterboard). I've also said he will have to pay for the cost of other people to put the building right again. I am obviously losing rental income too as I can't get a roofer in for 4 weeks. What is my position re the tools and equipment he has left and not asked for? The value of them could offset part or all of what he owes me- and if I went to the small claims court, it would save the bailiffs a job. At the moment it isn't an issue as he asked me to keep them under lock and key which I have done, and I haven't seen him, but I need some advice on the whole saga. You (wingrovebuyer) gave me some great advice once before. I have since discovered that this chap has done similar poor work, lied, got money for nothing etc from other people too.

My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help with your question today.
Presumably you are happy to return the property you are holding when the tradesman compensates you for your losses and expenses?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes of course.

You can exercise a lien over his property as security against the debt he owes you. The tradesman appears to be in breach of contract by failing to perform the agreement you had and is also in breach of an implied term to exercise reasonable skill and care as per Sale of Goods and Services Act 1982. There is nothing dishonest about your actions; you can exercise a lien in the same way a car mechanic might hold your car until you pay his bill.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK Thanks. So how do I proceed?

He should get the letter tomorrow or Tuesday (quoting sale of goods and Services Act) - do I have to do something in order to exercise a lien - like put something in writing?

Also is it reasonable to ask him to cover costs of the other people who will have to put this right, and the loss of rental income - because i will be seriously out of pocket by the time I get the place right again?

I assume you are proposing to send a letter of claim.
You must make the following points:
The date and agreement you entered with the tradesman
How much you paid (copy the receipts)
What you expected in return
Specify the breach e.g. Incomplete job, failure to exercise reasonable skill and care
How you have lost as a result of the breach
How much you wish to claim including all your extra expenses and the cost of having the put his work right including loss of rental income
Set a deadline for reimbursement
And that failure to reimburse will result in you exercising a lien over his property
Once he settles his debt to you, you will release his property
Give him 14 days maximum for a response
If you do not receive a response then issue proceedings using Money Claim Online
Charge interest and court fees
Be ready to justify each and every aspect of your claim
Send the letter by email or recorded delivery
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hey thanks for really clear advice. In the original letter I sent, I said I wanted £430 back, and that I would be claiming extra to for the other things. Should I wait for his reply to that (I gave him 7 days) or just gather the information and write this more detailed letter that you have outlined?

No, don't wait. Get your evidence together and send it to him straightaway - but give 14 days from the second letter.
Copy all the documents to him so he can't complain that you held back information.
Keep the pressure on him. Once you have submitted your evidence the ball is in his court. But stick to your deadlines.
You have to demonstrate that you acted reasonably so make sure you state precisely what you're claiming and why and give him time.
If he asks for more information then you should be ready to supply it.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK will get on to that straight away.

Do I need to wait for this to be resolved before I proceed with the work ?

I have taken photos and also got the estate agent round to see what it was like so I guess that could be used as evidence if necessary.

In terms of the equipment - so far I have not touched anything - apart form bringing the scaffolding in, but in order to get the work finished I am going to have to move things - and possibly bring them into my house. I am concerned that he may say I have taken things etc - as he is less than truthful. Should I photograph everything in situ, before moving it - should I make a detailed list? Could you advise? Thanks

It's not necessary to wait until the issue has been resolved before starting work.
But you need to remember that evidence is the key to success: photograph everything in situ.
Then get your new people to start the work and keep a record of that if you can.
Ask the estate agent to make a written record of the state of the property. You may have to call him to court.
In relation to his property - photography is a good idea and an inventory of all the items preferably countersigned by a reliable witness should suffice.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. One final question for tonight. When you say a letter of claim - is that a specific legal format or just a letter laying out all the the points that you specified earlier, and claiming money back, expenses etc?

The list that I set out earlier of the important points will be sufficient to comply with the Civil Procedure Rules. There is no other specific template.
If you would like me to have a look at the letter, you can attach it to a new question marked for my personal attention "Alex Hughes".
Please remember to take a moment to rate my answer. Happy to discuss further if needed.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Alex - very helpful and clear. If it's OK with you I'm going to sleep on your replies, just in case there's something I've missed and then will close the question tomorrow.

with best wishes


No problem. Have a great day.
I received a message to say that you had requested me. Do you require any further assistance? If not please remember to take a moment to rate my answer. Have a good day.
I am following up our conversation to see how you got on with the issue. Please remember to take a moment to rate my answer.
If you need any further help then please let me know - remember I am a qualified UK Solicitor and able to help on most aspects of English Law. I am London based and usually able to respond to your query very quickly.
Alex Hughes
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Alex

Thanks for replies - and apologies for delays in getting back to you - have been very busy with my bees - and preparing the affected building for the new tradesmen. I have been waiting for quotes from other tradesmen, so that I can do the letter. I have those now so will insert that info and send it off.

Attachment: 2014-07-26_060101_li-lm._22.7.14.docx

Just wondered if I should include photos of the problems with the letter , along with copies of the receipts? Have included a draft so you can see if I am working along the right lines. Thanks.

with best wishes


The letter is great.
I recommend that you attach the photographs.
Also if you have written quotes from the new workman you should attach those as evidence of the figures you have given.
Alice H and other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Alex.

I'll get that sent off now, and include the receipts, photos etc.

I am not sure I will ever get anything from him - even through the small claims court. I guess he may just say he has no money.

It's worth giving it a go.
All the best.
Please remember to take a moment to rate my answer.
You can ask for me in future by name if any issues arise.