A firm that claims to be expert in “all types of groundwork and landscape garden services” has shown that it is less well-versed when it comes to providing receipts, written estimates or information regarding customers’ rights to cancel.
An elderly South Norwood resident noted that her neighbour had employed a company to jet-wash their patio. Obtaining the company’s flyer, she called the office of Everest Drives & Patios, based in High Road, Chadwell Heath, and arranged a visit.
It was agreed that the visit to the householder would see the company provide a written quote for lifting the slabs on her garden’s patio, laying a new substrate and then re-laying the paving slabs. Instead of the one person she had expected to assess the work, a team of men turned up, while the woman was alone in the house, on Friday 15 September.
While some of the men went straight through to the back garden, the others told her that she would have to give them a deposit – despite the fact no estimate of cost had yet been prepared, and that the flyer to which she had responded clearly states ‘No deposits required’. The men drove her to her bank, and waited outside while she withdrew £2,000 cash. One of the men, who said his name was John, took the money but gave her no receipt.
When her adult son returned home that evening and learned that his mother had handed over the cash and received no receipt, he called the company to demand the money be returned; he was told that it was in the company safe.
When the son got home on the evening of Monday 18, he found that the team of men had returned, lifted the patio and left a written quote of £2,775. They said they would return at 7am on the following day, but did not arrive until 9.45.
A different man told the son that the lifted slabs could not be reused and new replacements were needed, at a cost of £5,800. The son refused to hand over any more money.
The team returned on the Wednesday (20), saying that new slabs had been ordered. The son again said that he would pay no more, at which one of the team became argumentative. The son had previously called the police on 101 and now rang 999. When the police arrived, the team had gone. The officers took details and then drove around the area but could find no sign of the team.
The traders have subsequently called on a number of occasions, leaving messages saying that the company was keen to finish the job.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“The manner in which this company took advantage of a lone, elderly woman is despicable.
“Quite apart from the morals of their actions, they broke the law by not providing a written detailed quotation for the work, nor a receipt for the money she paid, and by failing to point out that she was legally entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period.
“Householders should always exercise the utmost caution when employing contractors by getting at least three quotes and never handing over large sums in cash.
“It’s important to point out that Everest Drives & Patios, which claims to be based at 1112a High Road, Chadwell Heath, Romford, has no links to other companies with the same, or a similar, name.”
The council’s trading standards team offers the following advice to help householders find a reputable trader.
- Never do business with cold callers, nor respond to flyers dropped through your letterbox.
- Always get at least three quotes, and follow up any references supplied.
- Use a website such as www.trustmark.org.uk or http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk to find traders who are vetted and approved by an independent body, such as trading standards. Don’t rely on websites offering only recommendations by people you don’t know and cannot contact, or that the business pays a fee to join.
- Never pay cash – it’s untraceable and you won’t get it back. If the business is prepared to defraud the taxman, it may be just as ready to defraud you of your money.