A self-employed contractor from Lurgan was today given an 18 months custodial sentence, suspended for three years, at Belfast Crown Court for carrying out work to a number of properties which was described in surveyors’ reports as substandard and unsafe.
In a case brought by the Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS), Benjamin George McCaughley, of Springhill Road, Lurgan, trading as Regional Contractors, pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and one charge under the Fraud Act 2006.
The 34-year-old was also ordered to pay £6,000 in compensation to the victims.
The charges related to three separate jobs undertaken by McCaughley for customers in Bangor, Jordanstown and Holywood.
The job in Bangor involved the construction of a new garage and sunroom and later, on McCaughley’s advice to deal with a leaking roof, the replacement of the roof to the property.
In total, McCaughley received £67,500 from the householder. However, the standard of the work was so poor that the new roof had to be replaced at a further cost of £14,000 and an independent report commissioned by the TSS concluded that the sunroom required so much remedial work that its demolition may be the most economic alternative.
McCaughley was paid £10,000 for the work he did for a customer in Jordanstown, which included the building of a retaining wall and some paving and resurfacing of a driveway.
As a result of her concerns about the work he had done, the householder commissioned her own report from a chartered civil and structural engineer. The report concluded that the retaining wall was unsafe and not fit for purpose and recommended its destruction and the building of a new retaining wall.
McCaughley’s final victim in Holywood paid him £6,000 to lay a patio and build some steps and a retaining wall.
Having been paid £6,000 McCaughley then told the householder that he could not complete all the work for the price he had quoted and left the job unfinished. The TSS commissioned a report on the work, which concluded that the foundations and structure of the retaining wall were inadequate, possibly leading to structural failure.
There were also aspects of McCaughley’s way of doing business which featured more than once in his dealings with these victims. He told them he did not require payment until he had completed the work but in each case he actually began asking for money shortly after starting the job; and he falsely claimed his work came with a 10-year guarantee.
Alison Gilchrist of the TSS said: “This is an extreme example of a trader carrying out substandard work and misleading his victims as to the level of service to expect from him. He has left each of his victims in these cases with inferior work which is going to take thousands of pounds to rectify.”
Alison added: “At a time of rising prices and increased cost of living, it’s hugely important for consumers to have confidence in local tradespeople and to expect good quality, professional services. The TSS remains committed to investigating those traders that take advantage of consumers and fail to comply with the law.”
The TSS offers the following advice for consumers seeking a reputable tradesperson:
– Ask your neighbours, family or other tradespeople for personal recommendations of builders who have worked for them and carried out a good job.
– Speak to previous customers for references and view the work, where possible.
– Check that they are a member of a trade body with an arbitration scheme.
– Always get a detailed written quotation/contract and agree a price.
– Never pay up front and never pay cash.
– Get at least three quotes.
– Always say no to doorstep sellers and be wary of online advertisements.
Anyone who believes they have been similarly affected should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.