A BANKRUPT builder who left an Ingleby Barwick couple almost £7,500 out of pocket has been ordered to compensate them in full.
Stephen John Hall, trading as S Hall Installation and Property Services, failed to inform the couple he was an undischarged bankrupt and did not finish work he’d been paid for.
Following an investigation, he was prosecuted by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards and appeared before Teesside Magistrates yesterday (October 11).
The court heard Hall, 45, of Ingleby Barwick, agreed to build them a single height extension, quoting a price of £25,765 for the construction and all associated works.
But around one week into the work, having received £6,750 from the couple, he visited them and requested that all future payments be paid into his wife’s account.
He claimed his account had been frozen due to an illegal attempt to access it – the couple accepted this and made all subsequent payments to his wife’s account.
Hall later agreed to additional works to install a new garden patio, driveway and kitchen at the property, but the couple received no written contract from him.
But in Spring 2015, he claimed his business was in financial difficulties and failed to complete outstanding work.
This left the couple having to pay alternative companies and suppliers to finish the work he’d started, and for goods and services they had already paid Hall to deliver.
Bank statements show the couple paid Hall and his wife a total of £44,750 between November 2014 and February 2015, and have been left almost £7,500 out of pocket.
Throughout this time, Hall had also been paying off debts he owed builder’s merchants.
Hall pleaded guilty to one charge under the Fraud Act 2006 and one charge under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
In mitigation, his defence said he originally had a very good working arrangement with his customers but let things get out of hand when he agreed to do extra work, and in hindsight, should have drawn up a new contract.
They added that he suffered financial pressures and instead of discussing it, he “put his head in the sand”, and that he has now lost his business.
Magistrates ordered that Hall pay £7,359 to compensate the customers in full and also imposed a 12 month community order with 40 hours of unpaid work.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Mr Hall misled this couple with the intention of making gain himself, and though the work to their home appears to have started well, it certainly did not end well.
“The couple paid him large chunks of money to complete the work, and it must have been very distressing for them when they discovered he hadn’t spent their money on the goods and services promised, leaving them having to fork out for everything from building inspection fees to more than £5,000 worth of bi-fold doors.
“Our Trading Standards team works hard to protect residents from unscrupulous practices and the Magistrates have backed this with a compensation order. The team is also happy to offer advice and guidance to consumers about how they can protect themselves.”
For help and advice from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards team, call 01642 526560 or email [email protected]