Couple say they have lost their £100,000 life savings after builders left them with banana-shaped ceiling and wonky walls because they ‘didn’t use a spirit level’
- Louisa Benton and husband Edward employed JAC Building Developments
- Wanted extension to garage and new kitchen in home in Laverstock, Wiltshire
A couple have lost their £100,000 life savings after they were left with wonky walls and a bendy ceiling by builders who ‘didn’t use a spirit level’.
Louisa Benton, 34, and husband Edward, 33, employed JAC Building Developments Ltd to build their ‘dream’ extension.
But the couple from Laverstock, Wiltshire, say they have been left out of pocket after the ‘nightmare’ project.
The pair hired Jamie Smith’s company in summer 2022 to build a vertical extension to their garage and rear extension with a new kitchen to their house.
But they say they were left with a bendy ceiling – and when they challenged one builder they claim he told them ‘he did not usually use a spirit level when he was working’.
A couple have lost their £100,000 life savings after they were left with wonky walls and a banana-shaped ceiling by builders who ‘didn’t use a spirit leve
Louisa Benton, 34, and husband Edward, 33, employed JAC Building Developments Ltd to build their ‘dream’ extension
They said mould started growing inside the new upstairs bedroom a few months in because the walls had been plastered before the roof was fitted and sealed.
The ceiling eventually had to be knocked down and replaced to prevent mould from spreading further.
The couple say the company told them they could not refund them because doing so would force them to liquidate their business.
Mr and Mrs Benton have since won £10,000 in a small claims court – but say they have not received a penny from the company, which is now undergoing voluntary liquidation.
Mrs Benton, an accountant, said: ‘It has been a horrific ordeal. The work done by JAC Building Developments was substandard, to put it lightly.
‘Despite having a catalogue of evidence, reports from building control and the structural engineers, we have been cheated out of our entire life’s savings.
‘The builder has admitted full liability to us but is now in the process of liquidating his company.
‘As a result, we’re probably never going to see any of our money back.
‘We have now got a rubbish extension not built to specification. We’re also paying off a loan for rubbish work.
The pair hired the company in summer last year to build a vertical extension to their garage and rear extension with a new kitchen to their house
A year on, the project remains unfinished despite the money the couple have spent on it
The couple say the company told them they could not refund them because doing so would force them to liquidate their business
Mrs Benton, an accountant, said it was a ‘horrific ordeal’
‘We have no life savings left, and we’ve had to spend from our incomes to remedy the issues.
‘It’s had a horrific impact on our personal lives. We only got married in October 2021 and wanted to make our home family friendly.
‘A year on, our extension still isn’t finished, and the thought of starting a family has been shattered.’
After agreeing to a weekly cash payment plan, work began on the extension and the couple took a long-planned holiday for a week in September.
When they returned they found that the walls at the front of their home were wonky.
When they confronted the builder about this they say he admitted that he ‘did not use a spirit level’ while working.
Mrs Benton alleges that Mr Smith’s company then hid ‘dozens’ of other issues with the property, leaving them afraid for their safety in their own home.
She said that the project has taken a massive toll on her mental health – and forced the couple to abandon their plans to have children.
The couple claim they paid a £10,000 cash deposit, and then £40,000 in weekly cash payments, before paying an extra £50,000 for further work.
Mrs Benton said: ‘We arrived back after going away for a week in September. We’d planned the trip long before and had left the builders to it.
‘When we got back, we found that the brickwork on the front of our house was all wonky, and that they had installed a canopy roof over our door to try and cover it up.
‘We confronted him about it, and he said that he did not usually use a spirit level when he was working. It was just ridiculous.’
Work on the project began in August 2022 when Mrs Benton awarded a contract for the work to JAC Building Developments.
She had studiously received ten quotes for the work – but chose JAC Building Developments because they were a local company, despite not being the cheapest option.
She said: ‘They were only about 1.5 miles from my house, and so we thought there was no way they would mess a project up so close to home.
‘Everything became very chaotic after their appointment.
‘[The builder] intimidated me while working from home, and would turn up randomly, even at Christmas, to demand more cash payments for work he claimed had not been budgeted.
‘When I questioned the bills, he threw a strop at me and told me that we should have a meeting with my husband present.
‘After that he switched off his phone and disappeared for days.
‘They’ve left us with butchered kitchen units. It looks like they were cut with a child’s knife and fork. That has cost us £6,000 to fix.
‘He hid that our roof was being held up by an Acrow Prop, and it was actually disconnected from our house.
‘If we had not known about it, in February when we had all those storms it may have just blown off.
‘They sold us our dream, and we had a contract. I put trust in them as skilled tradesmen, and they promised to deliver a standard of work.
‘But I honestly think I could have built it better myself.’
They have now levied claims against both of the directors of the business as individuals – but hold out little hope of being repaid.
Mrs Benton added: ‘I was lucky that I am an accountant and got him to sign for all of my payments – so I do have a record.
After agreeing to a weekly cash payment plan, work began on the extension and the couple took a long-planned holiday for a week in September
Marks are seen on the ceiling of Mr and Mrs Benton’s home after the botched building work
The shoddy plaster work in the couple’s property in Wiltshire
An exterior photo shows the state of the property after the builders left the job half done
‘We are just devastated. We are in contact with other people who have gone through exactly the same thing.’
Mrs Benton contacted Citizens Advice and Trading Standards after Mr Smith offered a £5,000 refund in response to her threat of taking legal action.
They advised her to take the case to a small claims court.
She went on to win a county court claim of £10,498.84 plus £455 for costs on May 21 – the maximum small claim amount possible.
The couple hired KP Structural Consultants on February 11 to inspect the work after building control raised alarm bells.
Their report confirmed the ridge timber had not been installed as specified. A prop had been installed to support the roof and remedial works were required.
JAC Building Developments have been contacted for comment.
In a letter to Mrs Benton dated February 28, Mr Smith wrote: ‘Last week, I accepted responsibility for the poor workmanship and can only offer further apologies.
‘I would also say that I am very disappointed with the failings of some of the contractors I employed who normally work to much higher standards although I take total responsibility for that.
‘I therefore totally understand request for a full refund of £100,000.’
Source: Read Full Article