We paid a respected builder £50k upfront for an extension – he tore down our home and disappeared…we made a rookie error | The Sun

A MUM of two who says she lost £50,000 to a builder who “went away and never came back” after tearing down her house has told of her “nightmare”.

Chloe Sweden claims that her builder abandoned the job after he demolished the front and back of her home.

A photograph showed her back garden resembling a battle field with a large water filled hole surrounded by mounds of mud.

At one point Chloe says labourers who worked for the absent builder "screamed" at her after she refused to hand over any more cash to them.

The busy mum, who runs her own business, said that she then had to hand out another £80,000 to a new builder to finish off the job.

Chloe, who lives in Hertfordshire with her husband Scott, 42, and their children, Taylor, eight, and Lana, 10, said her family was left "stranded" in a house that looked "like a building site".

In 2018 the couple decided to extend the front, back and side of their 1960s era home.

A builder who was recommended by a friend quoted £100,000.

The couple then agreed to pay £50,000 up front in cash, a decision they came to regret.

Chloe, chief executive and founder of sustainability business Lowr,said: "He tore down the front of our house and he tore down the back of our house.

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"Then, he went away and never came back – we were totally stranded in what looked like a building site."

She claims that she contacted the builder on multiple occasions, but he failed to respond.Chloe's “nightmare” had then begun.

Chloe said: "We tried contacting the police, but because we paid in cash, they said there was nothing they could do really.

"It was awful because we had people on site, and they were saying, 'You need to pay us,' and I was like, 'I've paid your boss'.

"They didn't believe me, and they started screaming, and told me I'm never seeing that money ever again."

The successful businesswoman was then forced to find a new builder who would be responsible for completing the troubled job.

She said: "We had to find a builder who was willing to finish the job, which a lot of builders did not want to do.

“It really dragged on – we were living in a building site, with two quite young kids, we just had to create a shell of what we were going to build.

“We also realised we weren’t going to be able to afford to furnish it.”

After the build was finally completed six months later, costing another £80,000, Chloe had to furnish two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining area and a playroom.

She explained: “We went online every day to try and find things – we repurposed everything we could get our hands on – we even have an old bin as a side table.

“We did whatever we could do to get things cheaply.

“Literally everything in the house is second hand – we spent around £1,500 on furniture, but I think we saved up to £20,000 as we had to get beds and sofas which tend to be the most expensive.”

Chloe also feels like she has learned a lot from the drama but admits that the ordeal has eroded her trust in workmen.

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She said: "I know now to haggle, shop around, tell my story, and ask where things come from.

"With a builder, we've had bits and bobs done around the house since then, but it's really hard to find someone – you can't always go off recommendations – I think it's important to trust your gut."

What are my rights

Under the Consumer Rights Act, anyone who enters a contract for goods and services can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill.

And this includes builders, plumbers, decorators and electricians.It also includes materials, which should be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.

If you've fallen victim to a cowboy builder, or had a dispute with your contractors, you should firstly collate all evidence you have, including paperwork, photos, videos, messages and bank statements.

Then, try to resolve the issues directly with the firm, before trying an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme such as mediation or ombudsman services.

If this doesn't work, contact your bank to find out whether you can recover any money spent using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (if the job cost between £100 and £30,000, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong).

If this doesn't work, report them to the police on 101.

While the lines between what is criminal and just bad practice are blurred, a contractor could be done for fraud.

It is also important to contact Trading Standards. Citizens' Advice has an online form to help you do this.

TS will then decide whether to investigate further based on the information you provide and help negotiate a settlement.

Even if it doesn't, the details may help if anyone else complains about the same firm.

It is also possible to take builders to a small claims court if you have been left out of pocket.

However, you run the risk of racking up significant costs.While most home insurance policies don't cover building work, it is worth confirming this with your provider.

And you should also, if possible, find out whether your builder holds liability insurance, which would also help.You can find a full list of issues and your rights as a homeowner here.

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