Consumer Rights: Our builder is charging us for work we've done ourselves

The latest bill for a long-running house renovation contained a nasty surprise for one reader

Q: We have been renovating our house for the past few years and there's now light at the end of the tunnel. However, we've just had a run-in with the builder over the latest bill. They've added-in materials that we've actually bought and paid for and have charged us for some jobs, such as tiling the utility room floor, that we are doing ourselves. The whole job has taken so long and there have been so many problems that we've lost all trust in them and just want them out of our sight. But this row is threatening to prolong the agony. We've calculated that they're overcharging us by about £5,000 but they refuse to budge. I'm worried that if we make too much of a fuss they won't finish the job and we'll be left high and dry yet I don't feel that I can let things go as it will seem as if we're accepting their version of events. What's the best way forward? TR

A: Building work always takes longer, is much more messy and stressful, and costs more than anyone imagines. Are you sure the builders are deliberately trying to charge for things they haven't paid for or done?

You will have been given receipts for materials you've bought and if you don't have them, unless you paid in cash, you should be able to look through your bank accounts and credit card statements to track down the relevant amounts. If all else fails ask the companies you bought from for copies. Gather all the relevant paperwork and ask for a meeting with the main person on the job. Be polite but firm but don't set out to apportion blame. With the receipts in front of you go through the bill, item by item, and reiterate the jobs that you are intending to do yourself. At the end of the process many of the points will have been cleared up. Any problems that are left outstanding should be easier to resolve because you've had a reasonable discussion. You may find that trust is restored and the job can be finished with no further disagreements. Make sure everyone knows what they're doing and who is paying for what.

If the relationship doesn't improve and you feel that you don't want this particular firm to finish the job make sure they're paid for the work they have done and materials they have bought. If you have overpaid and are owed money you will need to continue to negotiate for that to be returned.

Ultimately if there's stalemate you may have to enlist the help of your local Trading Standards Department. The last resort is to claim for any money still owed in the County Court. Because the amount in dispute is less than £5,000 you can use the small claims procedure which isn't too expensive. You can bring your own case but you will have to prove you are right and the builder is wrong.

***

Q: I cancelled the direct debit for my gym membership when we moved house three months ago but the company has taken two more subscriptions so far. I've been in touch and told them this was a mistake and they keep promising to change their records and refund the money but, so far, they haven't. Given that I have also been in touch with my bank why do they keep paying out? What do I have to do to get this sorted out? FK

A: If you contacted your bank before a payment was due but the payment was still made, it is regarded as an unauthorised transaction. You should get a full refund.

The problem with direct debits is that people often tell the bank to stop making the payments without telling the company (in your case the gym) that you won't be needing their services in future. If the bank hasn't adjusted its records a payment can then be made by mistake.

When you want to cancel a direct debit you need to speak to the firm your payments go to and to the bank. This sounds like a failure of systems rather than a conspiracy to rip you off. Write to both the company and the bank and if you don't get a satisfactory result ask for details of the bank's complaints system.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor