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
Sunday 04 November 2012
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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
iJobs Money & Business
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens