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     Client Disaster Stories & 'Cowboy' Builders


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 Offices: 48 Market Street, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield, HD3 4HY                         


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Client Disaster Stories & ‘COWBOY’ Builders that we have had to Deal with and Resolve



Over the years the ‘Practice’ has had to clean up the nightmarish mess that poor builders

have left clients. Having been called in after the event by distraught clients to help them,

we have seen building projects with horrendous outcomes.



Many of these sad tales have much in common and where the generalities are,


  1. The ‘Cowboy’ builder was a recommendation of a family relation, best friend or

           work colleague

    2.    The builder had not been checked out thoroughly by the client

    3.    No recent references of similar works had been obtained by the client

    4.    The client thought that as the builder was a member of a trade association, they were

           competent in what they were doing

    5.    The client had no one acting on their behalf at a professional level, such as a surveyor

           or project manager, believing that the builder was all they required

    6.    The client did not take the advice of professional people (solicitors, surveyors etc)

           for their protection, as they just wanted to save money

    7.    The client through possible arrogance thought that they knew enough to run the

           project successfully themselves



Of all the above listing No.1 is the worst situation, but we shall take the above listing in




The ‘Cowboy’ builder was a recommendation of a family relation, best friend or work colleague

Of the building projects that we have resolved that went wrong for the client, such things as

a best friend’s or family relation’s recommendation come up constantly. As an example, a work colleague who has had some minor building works undertaken by her son-in-law, recommended to her friend that he could build her new extension and modernise her house. The outcome was that the local Council condemned the building works and the house extension had to be completely demolished. Another that rings load and clear many times is the friend who has had a few drinks at tea-time with a builder, does not really know him but who appears to be a thoroughly nice guy and recommends him.  But the outcome has a disastrous outcome for the friend’s project.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Over the years we have found that there is only one sure way for the client to obtain a ‘competent’ builder that will work for a competitive price, to quality and to programme.  

That way is to take the advice of practices like this one who have worked on sites for

over 30 years at least, with builders who have performed and those who have not. It is therefore a ‘time-served’ process over many years and where now, only builders who can perform are recommended to clients.

For there are far more ‘cowboy’ builders out there than people actually perceive, even with or without grandiose trade associations and recommendations by family relations, best

friends and work colleagues. Therefore be warned of the dire consequences of not doing

the right things before you even start your building project on site. Indeed, if you follow our advice you will not go far wrong







Recent Reference from a Client that had problems with a 'Cowboy' Builder


I had problems with a builder who presented himself as professional, attentive, and competent. He later became deceitful and underhandedly controlling. The work became more extensive and his invoicing more misleading and confusing. The costs escalated. When we complained about some faulty work, he became evasive and denying responsibility and when I refused to pay him all the money, he threatened me with court action. Trading Standards and Consumer Protection agencies didn’t help because it was so complex. I felt victimised and betrayed with no one able to help. I contacted Dr David Hill who was a Chartered Building Surveyor.


I had asked Dr Hill to help me identify the faulty building works. Dr Hill made an independent assessment and analysis of the building works undertaken, I was surprised and grateful when he brought to my attention many things that I would not have been aware of myself, and found evidence that I had been grossly overcharged..

I was trying hard to explain to Dr Hill the 18 months of complicated dealings that I had with the builder but he made it easy for me, it was then that I became aware, not only of Dr Hill’s professional ability and expertise but also of the ease I had in communicating with him. He was assessing and prioritising the information he needed from me in order to complete his report, reiterating it back to me, always remaining fair and impartial. He was calm and I was aware that he was kind and understanding of my situation, I felt enormously relieved.


Dr Hill was consistently reliable and honest, never overstating or misleading. He explained much more than the standards of the building works to me. He explained my rights, simplified the legalities by explaining the court procedures and how to deal with the paperwork, time scales, which people to speak to and what to ask and tell them, whether I might need to consult a solicitor and for what reason. He made everything clear and pointed the way forward for me. He provided me with information, support and guidance, which lead me to the knowledge that I would be able to confidently fight this builder and if necessary go to court. In the end I did go to court, armed with Dr Hill’s report, knowing that if the case was to escalate further he would be able to act for me in court himself. It did not have to go further, the judge ruled in my favour after reading all the evidence.



I had two disputes ongoing at the same time, one with a builder which Dr Hill’s report helped me to win and I did not have to pay the builder all the money he was demanding. The other was a boundary dispute with my neighbour.  The advice I received from Dr Hill helped me assess my actions accordingly. I knew that his considerable expertise was invaluable to me and enabled me to fight my case to a successful conclusion, this has made an enormous difference to what the alterative would have been.


Elayne Rushton

Marsden, Huddersfield

21 August 2012




The builder had not been checked out thoroughly by the client

Time and time again, the builder that the client proposes to use is not thoroughly checked out to see if he has undertaken similar jobs in the recent past. No references are taken up and where the client does not know whether the builder is ‘competent’ in undertaking the work or not. When a friend or a family relation has recommended the builder especially, they do not like to challenge the friend’s or the relation’s judgement on the matter for fear of falling out. Therefore the bad builder goes undetected from the very start. 

Solution to Stop This Happening

Again the only solution is to use a consultancy like ourselves that makes sure that all our builder recommendations are not just tested over one job, but on projects over a 10-year period at least. This is the only true way that clients can be assured of complete satisfaction from start to finish. 


No recent references of similar works had been obtained by the client

Many clients do not ask for proof of any recent references that show the builder is capable of undertaking the project works. For reasons they can only ask themselves, this happens time after time.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Clients can obtain references from builders, but where builders they will never give you a reference from a ‘bad’ job. References are therefore subjective in that they can be manipulated to show distorted picture – a cover up in other words. Clients should be aware of this and where again the only safe way is to use the builder recommendations from such a ‘Practice’ as ourselves. This is where references count for something and where they are solely based upon successful performance on site over many years by builders. Basically it is common sense so why take the risk we say. 




Just Five Examples of many where Projects  went Wrong for the Client and where advice and help was sort from this Practice to rectify the situations



1.  House Modernisation Scheme and Rear Extension

     Elland, West Yorkshire




A best friend and colleague recommended a builder that had undertaken some work in her kitchen. The friend could not speak more highly of the builder. The client employed the builder on her major internal structural alteration project and rear extension at a cost of around £50,000.

Knowing nothing about building the client thought that she was in good hands. After a few months it came clear that the builder did not know what he was doing but where the client still persisted with him. The builder stated that to complete the works he could not do it for the £50,000 quoted but needed a further £20,000. The client accepted this in her naivety. A month later the builder came back to the client and said that he needed more money to complete the works and where the client agreed to pay him a further £15,000. Unfortunately for the client the builder did not perform and when the building inspector came along from the local council (they had never been informed of the project by the builder and inspections had not therefore taken place), he condemned the works and where the extension had to be pulled down in its entirety. The client was distraught and where she at that point contacted this ‘Practice’ for advice and help.

There was nothing other to do but to place the matter in the Courts and to get recompense. After this practice provided an expert witness report for the Courts, the client’s solicitor won the case in the Courts and where the builder was found guilty of malpractices. Unfortunately the outcome for the client was not good as the builder had no assets and went bankrupt in the process.

This story is not an isolated incident and happens every day of the week. 




2. Large Barn Conversion - Huddersfield



A client decided to invest in a £500,000 barn redevelopment. An initial so-called builder was commissioned (a relative of the client). After several weeks it was clear that the builder was not up to the job and where in reality he was not a builder, but a landscape gardener. After expending in the order of £30,000 and the work having to be more-or-less be all re-undertaken, a second builder was commissioned. This was a builder unknown to the client but had been highly recommended by their best friend. Unfortunately it came out in the wash that the best friend only knew the builder by having a few drinks with him in a public house at teatime. After a few months it was clear to the client that this builder was not up to the required standard, had undertook inferior building works and was way behind in completing the works. The client discharged the builder on these grounds and a High Court case ensued.

After two years the case was heard by a judge in the Construction and Technology Courts and where the client won the case. But the outcome was two years of further wasted time and also the loss of many tens of thousands of pounds, caused by high legal costs that could not be fully recovered through the Courts and construction matters.




3.  Internal Alterations to a Fire damaged Residential Property - Huddersfield



Pictures After a 'Competent' Builder had re-undertaken the Works


A client who was a retired pensioner, had a fire within her ground floor property that destroyed the kitchen and damaged the ground floor generally, including the staircase to the first floor. A builder from Leeds, who had been recommended by a friend, gave the lowest price and was appointed by the client.

The insurance group duly paid up for the damage and before the work began. Also the insurance payments cheques were made out to the builder. The client passed these cheques onto the builder in good faith thinking that things would be fine. Unfortunately for client after several weeks it was clear that the builder was incompetent and that the works were many weeks behind schedule. The client confronted the builder who said that he would complete if she gave him a further £2,000 out of her own money, on the proviso that he would give her money back. She did this again in good faith but where after a further two weeks the client could see that the works were not being undertaken completely. At that point she asked for her money back and also the money from the insurance companies. The builder walked off site and would not come back. At that point the client contacted this practice for advice and help.


Due to the whole sorry situation the client told this practice that it had made her very sick indeed and where her husband suffered from acute heart problems that she was constantly worried over from the stress.

This practice undertook an expert witness report for the Courts and where the Client appeared in Court. The builder never turned up for the proceedings and the Judge awarded the case in favour of the client. Unfortunately the builder could not repay the money to client and has ceased trading. The client had to have the works completed by other builders who were competent and out of her own money that was her life savings in retirement.




4.  Major Internally Structural Alterations Project to a Large Detached Residential Property with total third floor loft/roof conversion added and two large rear and side extensions - Huddersfield




A couple employed a builder from recommendations by their friend. The builder required payment on a weekly basis to undertake the works. The client agreed, as the recommendation was from a friend. After several months the progress of the works was slow, the work had defects and where the couple were having to live in the property also. After nine months had elapsed the client contacted this practice for help and advice.

They knew the practice as we had undertaken the design of sixteen structural steel support beams and the masonry wall for the works.

Initially it was advised that the client should get the builder to finish the works including the defects.

A survey was undertaken of the Property by this ‘Practice’ and where several contraventions were detected of the Building Regulations (Building Act 1984 with Amendments). The major of these was that at the top of the new staircase to the fully converted loft area, the head height was far less than what it should have been and even the average height person hit his head on the hipped rafter. The reason for this was that the builder had taken the easy way out and placed the 250mm deep floor joists on top of the structural floor support beams, when they should have run into the sides of the steels beams (into the web). A meeting was convened by this Practice with the council’s building control department and where after extensive discussions it was agreed to relax the building regulations in this instance. If this had not been the case, the whole of the floor, steel beams and the staircase would have had to be removed and replaced to the right level, costing most probably £20,000 and adding further to the woes of the client.

Thereafter the client organised a meeting with the builder and the friend who had recommended the builder in the first place. Unknown to the practice until later, the builder stated to the client in this meeting that he needed £2,000 cash to buy materials and where he would resume on site the following Monday and thereon complete the works. When Monday came, the builder did not turn up and to this day has not appeared on the site since.


The client was distraught over the whole matter and suffered ill-health through the financial strains and building quality.

They could not contemplate taking the case to Court after they had lived in a building site for nearly two years and decided to save up and complete the works using a competent builder. The works to this date are still not complete.



5.  Beam Left Out In a Kitchen Conversion Project



A client decided that his family required a larger kitchen area and the simplist way to achieve this was to remove an internal wall. Our practice was asked to visit the site and to determine whether the wall was load-bearing or not. It was determined that although the wall directly above the wall to be removed did not have any roof structure bearing down on it, the weight of the concrete block was in the order of 1.8 tonnes. Therefore the practice designed a steel beam to support this weight under the Building Regulations. Unknown to ourselves, the builder told the client that the wall was non-loadbearing and did not need a steel support beam. The client unwittingly and presumably to save a bit of money, decided to agree with the builder.

This practice told the client once it was aware that the beam had not been inserted, that the worked were unsafe and did not comply with the Building Act 1984 with Amendments.

Therefore the builder was wrong with his advice and left the client with an unsafe house for his wife and children. Indeed, the wall at 1st floor level relied upon only the ‘butt’ bond to the internal wall and the external wall. In reality, a wall totally spanning without adequate support and relying upon the mortar bond at its abutment with other walls.


This type of ‘cowboy’ work has also ramifications for the future sale of the property, as a competent surveyor will determine that there is not a beam in place.

But the worst thing was that the house is now unsafe for people to live in, as in the event of any movement, the masonry wall weighing nearly 2 tonnes, may fall out and injure or even kill a family member. We have advised the client to put the works right, but to this day, we doubt that he has done so. A sad story, but fairly common where money and bad advice by builders are concerned and the client is more interested in saving money than the safety of his wife and children and complying with regulations.



Office Contact - 01484.461193                          

Direct Contact - 07880661574          


Office: 48 Market Street, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield, HD3 4HY                             


© 2012



The client thought that as the builder was a member of a trade association, they were competent in what they were doing

This is a completely wrong impression that clients unwittingly perceive  and where membership of any of the trade associations with grandiose titles is never a guarantee for good workmanship and ‘competence’. Many of the building projects that go so badly wrong are members of such trade associations. The reason, many trade associations let anyone in as these trade associations only survive through annual subscriptions. Therefore quantity and not quality appears to be the prime reason why so many building projects go wrong, even with grandiose memberships of trade associations.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Many projects that have gone wrong for the client and where we have been called in to try and repair the damage have involved members of trade associations – around 50% of all Court and Arbitration cases. Therefore our experience is that trade membership is no guarantee of good workmanship and management of a client’s project. Therefore again, selection based upon only ‘tried-and-tested’ builders over decades of project works, is the sure-fire way to obtain a fully ‘competent’ builder for clients. That is something that this practice can provide and where the client can literally sleep at night in the knowledge that his building project is being built at a competitive price, to quality and to programme by a highly ‘COMPETENT’ Builder.



The client had no one acting on their behalf at a professional level, such as a surveyor or project manager, believing that the builder was all they required

Many clients believe that once a builder is employed, that’s  the end of the matter.

Nothing could be further away from the truth and the minimum a client should do is to have an engineer/surveyor visit the site on a semi-regular basis (at least once a month). In this way the quality of the work can be checked and where no latent defects are built into the building project that can literally cost the client thousands in the future. Therefore for peace-of-mind, all clients should employ a professional representative to check the works as the project proceeds.

Many clients who have ignored this advice have suffered in some cases, nightmarish ordeals.

A larger project that comes to mind in this respect is the McAlpine stadium in Huddersfield, where the client did not appoint a project manager/trouble-shooter until multi-millions of extra costs had been levied, even though it was supposedly a design and build contract and watertight.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Many clients believe that a project runs on its own with a builder in place. This is a fallacy, as many builders do not keep to programme (duration of project) or to quality. The client only learns this once the builder is on site. Other issues are that some builders because of their cheap prices run several jobs at once, thereby working on one job in the morning and another in the afternoon. Indeed we have heard of many client experiences over the years (after their project was built) where builders did not turn up again on site for several days with all sorts of excuses. Good builders do not work this way and where on all our projects, our builders start and complete before going onto further projects.

This ‘Practice’ therefore stops the bad practices that many builders use. In this respect intelligent clients use our services to monitor the building works so that they are of a high quality and built on time. Indeed, if problems occur on site we are there the same day to solve them. Therefore pro-active clients should always have a construction professional looking after their interest, for it pays big dividends in terms of all things that clients wants from their building project – quality, performance, built on time and at a reasonable price.



The client did not take the advice of professional people (solicitors, surveyors etc) for their protection, as they just wanted to save money

Many clients in their endeavours to save a little money disregard professional advice before a project even start on site. They think that a few thousand pounds saving on professional services makes sense, but where, it can have a totally counterproductive effect with major financial implications. As an example a client was advised by her solicitor to appoint a project manager/architect at a cost of £3,000 to oversee the works on a large conversion project. She ignored her solicitor’s advice and ending up paying tens of thousands of pounds out that she would not have done if she had taken the advice; through bad workmanship and the appointment of three consecutive builders and eventually in the end appointing a project manager. The case through the Courts took two years to resolve and held up the project for over a year.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Clients should always consider seriously the advice of professionals. They are thee to safeguard the client’s interests. This ‘Practice’ makes sure that the client’s interests are paramount and where our advice is as if we were the client. This philosophy provides our clients with a no hassle project and one where clients return time and time again.




The client through possible arrogance thought that they knew enough to run the project successfully themselves

Some clients think that they can run building projects like their businesses, but where they do not realise that building is a totally different industry to run than any other industry. In this respect they may be able to run a successful retail and internet company et al, but coordinating and managing a building project is a totally different kettle-of-fish that needs long-term experience.

Indeed, many clients have failed miserably and where their dream turned into a nightmare.

Solution to Stop This Happening

Many clients believe that they are project managers but where to be a good project manager within the building industry you have to understand the psyche of the building process fully – for it is totally different to all other industrial processes that basically only really need maintaining, a completely unlike situation.

This ‘Practice’ has many years of experience in project managing complex projects. Indeed, even our clients have said so and where their requirements were fully satisfied (see client references and testimonials).

Therefore we can help you to run your project successfully and where a little help can go a very long way.