Cowboy builder leaves trail of destruction for St Albans couple
PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010
A COWBOY builder has left an elderly St Albans couple high and dry after refusing to finish the job he started. Tony and Janet Szymczak, who live in the Camp area, were first approached by the builder, who never revealed his name, earlier this month when
A COWBOY builder has left an elderly St Albans couple high and dry after refusing to finish the job he started.
Tony and Janet Szymczak, who live in the Camp area, were first approached by the builder, who never revealed his name, earlier this month when he rang Mrs Szymczak to offer her a free quote for weatherproofing the house.
Mrs Szymczak, aged 78, said that she couldn't help but trust the man: "He said he was from the same company that weatherproofed our house 10 years ago and that he simply wanted to check everything was still okay. He was a real charmer and certainly had the gift of the gab."
She added: "I should have been suspicious when he came round because he sent me off to make a cup of tea whilst he assessed the house.
"I think he chipped away at the wall when I was making the tea and when I returned, he insisted that parts of our back wall needed to be re-weatherproofed."
Mr and Mrs Szymczak reluctantly agreed to have the work done and, without signing a contract or receiving a receipt, they paid the builder £2,200 in cash before work began last Thursday, October 22. The builder didn't return to the Szymczak's house and instead sent two foreign workers to start removing the top layer of the back wall.
Mrs Szymczak said that she was shocked by the quality of the work: "Only the corner of the back wall was damp and perhaps in need of repairs but, much to my disgust, the workers stripped the whole wall right up to the upstairs bedroom windows. What's more the constant chipping noise drove us crazy so we sent them home last Friday."
On Monday Mr Szymczak received a phone call from the builder, who demanded an extra £1,800 to finish the job. Mr Szymczak, who turns 90 next month, said that he was outraged: "I couldn't believe it and refused outright to give him the extra money. I said that we had a verbal agreement to keep it at £2,200, but he said there was no proof of that."
Mrs Szymczak, who has reported the incident to the police, said that the experience has devastated them both: "We haven't heard from the builder since Monday's phone call and the back of our house still remains in an awful state.
"I know that we were stupid to trust him and that we only have ourselves to blame but I can't help feeling upset and used."
A Trading Standards spokesperson said that he sympathised with the Szymczaks and added: "Unfortunately, almost all of the actions taken by Mr and Mrs Szymczak were wrong. A genuine trader will be more than happy to give you a written estimate to confirm the exact price and you should never pay in full before the work is done."
For more information and advice, call Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.