Consumer Rights: 'The builder has vanished with my £8,000'

Landlord could sue for fraud or take workman to the small claims court, but there is no guarantee of getting the cash back

I've been having repair work done over the summer on two flats I rent out to students. The builder I contracted did do some of the agreed work and did it quite well but then he started asking for more money for materials he'd already been given money to buy and saying that he was short of cash.

Because we were about half way through the work and it seemed to be a simple cashflow problem that was delaying things I handed over about £8,000 in total. The builder then did a complete disappearing act. I had to get on with the work and finish it with the help of other people I knew to get it done in time.

Despite going round to his house I seem to be drawing blanks. On legal advice I have written asking for the money back within 14 days or his proposal for paying the money back but I don't want to lose more by taking him to court if this doesn't work.

Can I report him to the police for fraud? What other steps would you suggest?

MS by email

Sometimes builders run into problems like this when they spend the money you've given them on other things. If something has gone wrong on another job it's possible he had to put that right at his own expense and used your money to pay for the replacement materials. However, it might be that he's got a gambling problem or simply run off with your cash.

As fraud is a criminal charge the police would have to feel there is enough evidence that he meant to defraud you to make it worthwhile prosecuting and the Crown Prosecution service would have to be convinced it should proceed. He might be found guilty and punished but that doesn't get you your money back. If you feel seeing him punished would be enough you might decide to take this route.

However, the small claims procedure in the county court deals with claims up to £5,000 but, if both sides, agree the court can use the procedure to settle bigger claims. By using the small claims process you can represent yourself and avoid the cost of using a solicitor and you don't run the danger of having to pay the other side's costs if you lose the case.

Check with your local trading standards department. Officers there may know about this builder and whether or not he's done this kind of thing before. They may even be able to help you negotiate a settlement or mediate a solution.

The crux of the matter is that he may not have any money with which to pay you. Even if you do get a court decision in your favour he may not own the property he's living in. His van and tools of his trade may belong to someone else. You could spend a fair bit getting a civil court to rule he owes you the money and still not get it back.

Make sure you keep copies of any correspondence you have with this man including emails. Make sure you spell out clearly exactly what happened if you do make a claim through the courts as it will be very difficult to bring additional points up later and take any advice the trading standards department or your solicitor gives you. Good luck.

Moneyagonyaunt.co.uk

When my husband died recently a friend suggested that I should be entitled to some help from the welfare benefit system.

I am 54 and am working so I don't think that can be the case, but it's been a very expensive time so my savings have gone down dramatically and I just want to check whether she could possibly be right.

FK, by email

As you are under pension age you may be able to claim a bereavement payment. It will depend on whether your husband paid national insurance contributions, the circumstances of his death and whether he was entitled to a state retirement pension before he died.

When you fill in the claim form you'll be asked to give your late husband's National Insurance number and details of his recent jobs. The payment is £2,000 and it's tax free.

You may also be able to claim bereavement allowance or widowed parent's allowance. The bereavement allowance is a weekly amount that's paid for a year after the death and you could get up to £105 a week.

You should also apply for a reduction in your council tax.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

    £200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices