A builder from Preston accused of taking almost £50,000 from customers for unfinished work says he has been unfairly villainised.
Billee Hopkinson told the Post that rising costs for rare materials had forced his building firm, Ultra Resource, into liquidation.
Last month, we revealed how one customer had handed Hopkinson more than £6k for an extension which was never completed, and since then a number of other disgruntled former Ultra Resource customers have come forward with similar experiences, with one telling how he had lost a staggering £26,000, and another £17,000.
The company, which went into liquidation on December 31, is now being investigated by trading standards.
When confronted by the Post with complaints from his former customers, Hopkinson blamed rising material costs for the botched jobs.
He said: “I’m being made out to be some weasel who’s taking money off people and running off and living this high life but I’m not, the truth will come out because my bank accounts are being investigated and they’ll show that since lockdown I’ve struggled to keep my head above water. “When I have to pick up materials which have increased by 400% since lockdown and I’m paying for them out my own pocket, I got to the point where I was doing people’s jobs for free. I have pawned things, sold things that meant a lot to me, to pay for people’s jobs.
“So then I’m backed into a corner where I have to say to somebody, unfortunately, the price is going to be more, things have doubled in price. There is a reason why we have walked and separated off the job.”
Hopkinson said that his initial quotes did not cover the full jobs so he had to raise his prices after starting work, then walked away when customers refused to pay the increase.
He said: “The people who have been affected are the people who are not willing to pay the increasing price, because I can’t afford to pay for anyone else’s job. What am I supposed to do, sell my car, sell my house to pay for someone’s extension?”
One customer Tony Carey said that after handing over £6,200 ahead of the project, Ultra Restore pulled down large parts of his existing extension but never returned to finish the job, leaving his home like a building site.
However Hopkinson says they had parted ways due to a fall out over money, and so far his company had worked up to that amount.
Hopkinson said: “The price had gone up so it was backwards and forwards to the point where we’ve fallen out. I’m a victim of circumstances, I’ve been open for 10 years or so, and every review was perfect until lockdown.
“I was at Tony’s for two weeks and it was ground work so at the end of the day, it does look like a building site. For every job, to dig out that amount is a lot of money, that is 4,000 pounds straight away.
“All I’ve done is fail my business because I start off too cheap anyway.”
Hopkinson says it was the same situation for customer Anup Raj, who claims Ultra Restore took nearly £26,000 of his money before disappearing, again leaving his home like a building site.
Hopkinson said: “He gave me £20,000 up front but we have actually done about 15 grand worth of work, if not more, like all the drainage. We have done a lot of work there, we were there for about seven weeks.
“Basically, I’ve been put into a corner where I had to say listen, the price is increasing and increasing, it’s causing sleepless nights, massive anxiety, so the price may change in the future and this is where they’ve all said no, and I’ve ended up falling out with them.
“So while we were discussing it on the Friday, by the Monday, he’s already got another builder in, and he’s making me out to be someone who’s stealing this money, but if I was stealing money then I wouldn’t be sat at home, potless, selling things.”
Hopkinson, who lives in Ingol with his wife and children aged 12, eight and one, says he and his family have received numerous threats resulting from his business failing.
He said: “People have come around to my house and threatened me and I reported it to the police. My van windows have been smashed since I’ve gone into liquidation. and I’m going to the police again because my wife was at the retail park and someone was shouting scum at her.
“I’m getting all this slander online, which I’m not too fussed about but it's just the home, do whatever you want to me I'm not bothered, but I’ve got an 8 year old lad who’s scared because people have been threatening to come through the door.
“I've lost my business, my livelihood, so not only have I got financial worries, I've got this as well, like everyone loses out in this situation, not just them people.”
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by any of Hopkinson’s disgruntled customers.
Lancashire Police confirmed that they had received a report that Hopkinson’s vehicle had been damaged, and a second report stating that numerous people had turned up to his home address demanding money, however the latter was deemed as a civil issue.
Meanwhile, Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards “have confirmed that they are currently analysing all information received.”