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Mum recommends trusted tradesmen after cowboy builder hell

By Hannah McLaverty-Williamson, on 23 September 2010

A woman in Wales had highlighted the importance of using trusted and recommended builders, after being conned out of more than £60,000.

Julia Griffiths of Brynamlwg, Pontyclun, contracted Neil Smart, the son of a former friend, to build a two storey extension on her home. Her mother, Kathleen Evans, had moved to Australia but after a suffering a heart attack she wanted to return to Wales. The pair agreed to "go halves" on an extension so she could move in with Julia.

Kathleen parted with £40,000 of life savings and Julia remortgaged the property for £30,000 to fund the project.

"I decided Neil should do the job as he was my friend's son and I thought she wouldn't allow him to rip me off. He said it would be finished by July and as I kept giving him money, he kept giving me receipts so I thought everything was fine," 48 year old Julia told The Pontypridd and Llantrisant Observer.

However, in September the extension was still not complete and doubts begun to plague Julia's mind. When she contacted Mr Smart he told her he had under quoted her by £20,000.

"I told him I didn't have £20,000 and he said the only way to get it done was by going out to do other work to make money and coming back to finish it."

In December 2006 he began to construct the roof, telling Julia the work would be complete by Christmas. He promised to return a few days later but Julia never saw him or her money again.

The unfinished work left Julia and her family freezing in their home for three years. "He took the boiler out and never replaced it," she said. "My mother's arthritis got worse and she had to walk around the house with a coat on."

A family friend contacted a television programme which tracks rogue traders and, although they discovered Neil Smart may have fled to Thailand, they were unable to track him down.

"He owes me at least £40,000 and I'll never get that money back. He's living the life of Riley, wherever he is," she added.

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