A man from Fulwood says he has been left with a ruined home and garden, and £25,600 out of pocket by Ultra Restore.
Anup Raj, a specialist biomedical scientist at Royal Bolton Hospital, says he approached Billee Hopkinson in July after seeing him working on a neighbour's property, but was left “heartbroken” when he left without completing the job.
The pair agreed on a price of £65,000 for the work, a quote Anup says was similar to other builders, yet slightly better, and the day after the price was agreed, Anup was told he had to pay £20,000 in advance, which he did.
Anup, 44, who lives with his wife, 17 year old son and 12 year old daughter, said: “The reason he wanted to get the deposit was because of the deliveries and material so that everything could arrive on time. He was supposed to start the work on the 20th September and he mentioned that we will have a lot of stuff before that so we aren’t waiting for anything because there's long queues, and we kept listening to the news about shortage of drivers and things like that, but now I am realising that it was just an excuse.”
Anup says that work was delayed and when it finally started, demolition was only followed by small amounts of foundation work.
He said: “From that point onwards, there was no delivery coming, nothing was actually happening, and there was excuses all the time, bad weather, Covid, tire punctures.”
On multiple occasions, Anup was told deliveries were coming to the house, and he would swap his shifts at the hospital to be there, but nothing ever came.
In October, Anup was asked to pay a further £5,600 in advance for timber due to shortage issues, which he paid as Billee had “mentioned one of the local suppliers” and sounded like “he had planned everything”, but again this timber never came.
Overall, Anup says work continued throughout September to November, but at an extremely slow place, and not at the standard expected, with the wrong colour bricks, wonky walls and shallow trenches.
He said: “In three months, the only thing he did was dig the foundation, and pour the concrete trench block up to the floor level- that’s it.”
In December, Billee asked for an extra £8000 to order windows and doors, which Anup refused as there were no walls to put them in.
The last day the pair spoke was December 16 and Anup received an email on the 20th from the insolvency practitioner saying that Ultra Restore had gone into liquidation which “was really devastating for me” he says.
“But now the situation is, because he's taken a lot of money, and he's gone into liquidation, we don't know whether we can get our money back or not because the solicitor's saying he doesn't have any funds.
“I'll be struggling a lot financially, I'm so stressed, I can't sleep now, yesterday I woke up at two o'clock, then four o'clock, because it’s so disturbing to see outside.
“It’s going to affect us long term, because we remortgaged our house in order to do this job. We still want to go ahead with it but we probably won’t be able to do the whole thing, and we have to borrow more money because I have to fix a few things.
“We just started work and I don't know whether the situation has improved with delivery drivers or materials, but whenever I order something, it’s coming the next day, so there's no problem at all.”
When approached with Anup’s story, a spokesperson for Trading Standards, said: "Lancashire County Council Trading Standards have confirmed that they are currently analysing all information received. Any additional information regarding this trader should be sent to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133, who will pass appropriate intelligence on to the relevant Trading Standards Service."
Offering his advice to others, Anup said: “Even with Covid and Brexit, don’t pay in advance that much, and please ask your contractor who their suppliers are, if they ask for any more money- challenge them as to why. If you can pay directly to their suppliers then even better, a good builder will not say no.
“There are loads of good people around, I was so overwhelmed by messages and phone calls from people saying they could sort the mess out.
“For me, it’s hard to trust anybody straight away because I have suffered so much but I think there are still good people, just make sure your contractor is right, get it checked by somebody.”
Billee Hopkinson vehemently denies all these claims, and you can read his full side of the story here.