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Disabled woman’s home left in chaos by builder
A ROW has erupted between a woman with muscular dystrophy who is thousands of pounds out of pocket and a builder who is accused of failing to pay his contractors.
Jackie Cook, 58, of Bellver, in Toothill, hired Mark Smart, of Stratton Builders, to carry out £23,000 worth of work on her new bungalow after she downsized because she was unable to cope with stairs.
But nine weeks later she was living in a shell of a house, with holes in the walls, the front door out of its bracket and a churned up driveway.
Mr Smart said he had problems hiring contractors but denied claims he has failed to pay any of them and said he wants to finish the job.
But Jackie said: “The build was supposed to take six weeks, but nine weeks later, nothing is finished.
“He left the driveway in a real state, and because I am in a wheelchair I could not even get in my front door.”
Jackie has since hired M Gould builders in Highworth to finish her driveway at an added cost of £2,500, after paying out nearly £23,000 in several instalments between June 18 and 25.
She said she has also obtained quotes for the outstanding work from Trading Standards that suggest it will cost about £12,000 to complete.
“It all started out very well but then the work just stopped,” she said.
“They have done nine days work in nine weeks. We want our money back to get someone in to finish the job. “He had £23,000 from me and my husband to do the work, and he says he has put £15,500 into the house, but I just do not see where that has gone. That is our nest egg.
“As it stands we are sitting in a pig sty. He has put me through hell.
“I have had quotes from Trading Standards, and am asking for £12,000 back for the work he hasn’t done yet. “He will not show us his receipts, as he says it is not our business, but as far as I am concerned it is my money so it is definitely my business.”
One of the contractors who worked on Jackie’s property claimed he was still owed almost £1,000 by Mr Smart, and has now stopped working for him after more than a year.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Usually we would be paid directly from the customer, but as time has gone on Mark has said he would pay me for certain jobs. “It has got worse and worse, and now he owes me money from three different jobs, worth altogether about £950.
“I haven’t worked for him for about a month now, and I won’t be doing anything else for him. I have got my name on the line.
“I am only a small business, and the loss has put me out massively.”
Mr Smart denied any claims he had failed to pay his contractors, and is also starting legal proceedings against the family after Jackie’s husband, Keith, 69, came to his house demanding their money back.
“My solicitor is dealing with this at the moment after her husband came round this morning and took the keys out of my van,” said Mr Smart. “That is harassment.”
Mr Smart said he decided to abandon the project when he was confronted by Jackie’s son, who intervened when he became concerned about the state of his mother’s home.
“The job was a nightmare because we had problems getting labour,” he said.
“I had been interviewing for new contractors and had four new ones lined up when they decided to hire someone else. We had an agreement and I wanted to stick to it.
“I do not have to justify my wages. I felt a bit intimidated when their son got involved so I left. “They are asking me for £12,000 back, which is ridiculous. I have no idea where they have got that figure from.
“I am gutted about not being able to finish the project. I just want to resolve it.
“On that contract everyone has been paid and there is no one that can say any different.”
Mr Smart said he has £4,500 of the Cooks’ money remaining, and is contesting the figure of £12,000 quoted to finish the work, which includes a conservatory and new kitchen and bathroom.
Keith said: “He is trying to scam us, so I found out where he lived and went round to confront him. “He started to drive off, and I stopped him and grabbed the keys out of his van. “I told him if we do not get our money back in 24 hours I would get the lawyers involved.”
Jackie has been advised to take the matter to civil court by Trading Standards.