A Falkirk pensioner has been left counting the cost after a £35 charge for clearing his gutters turned into a whopping £11,500 bill for botched ‘roof repairs’.
And the 82-year-old was faced with finding thousands more to put the work right until a good Samaritan and his workers stepped in and saved the day.
The widower, who has asked not to be named, says he feels a fool to be taken in by the firm which put a flyer through his door last summer.
He said: “I called them because my gutters needed cleared and they came right round. Once they were up there, they said the roof needed work.
“They showed me some photographs but they were so dark I couldn’t really see what they were talking about but they said they could just do it while they were here.”
He became worried when the workmen were back the following day too.
“I asked the main chap if he could give me a ballpark figure for how much it was going to cost and that was when I was told it would come to £11,500 – for two-and-a-half days work,” he said.
He was then asked to pay £5000 in cash, which he got from the bank and handed over with a cheque for £6500.
“I can’t believe I was so stupid,” he said.
But worse was to come. It rained the day after the work was finished and water cascaded off the roof and down the front of the house. Later it started to come through the roof and into an upstairs room.
“I called them and they said they would be round the next day but they never appeared and I wasn’t able to get hold of them again,” he said.
Realising he had been duped, he went to the police who directed him to Falkirk Council’s Trading Standards team.
Trading Standards took up his case but at the time could only direct him to the Council’s Buy With Confidence initiative, which lists trusted traders who have been vetted and approved.
Luckily for the pensioner, one of the companies he contacted was Falkirk firm Rooftec (Scotland) Ltd.
It made the roof watertight with tarpaulin for the winter and when it returned to do the repairs, the pensioner was stunned to be told there would be no charge.
Rooftec director Mark Cattanach (42) was disgusted that the man had been fleeced and incensed that his trade had again been tarred by a dodgy operation.
“We are working hard to change the image of the industry so the public has confidence in reputable firms but things like this happen more often than you think – people are too embarrassed about what’s happened and don’t tell anyone so they get away it,” Mark said.
“How they can sleep at night after taking an old man’s life savings is beyond me.”
Mark asked his workers if they would help by volunteering their time and they gave up a weekend recently to get the repairs done.
“I can’t praise them enough,” the pensioner said. “They were here working from dawn until dusk.”
The Herald tried to contact the firm which carried out the work, Mastercraft of Grangemouth.
None of the landline numbers on its two websites are in operation and when we called the mobile number and asked to speak to ‘Duncan’ – the name the pensioner was given – we were told he was on a six-month trip to Australia.
The man who answered, who said he was Duncan Macpherson’s son, said Mastercraft had ceased trading.
He said he would contact his father to allow him to have input to this story but at the time of going to press, no one had replied.
Schemes help avoid dodgy businesses
The case of the Falkirk pensioner being ripped off for thousands of pounds (see left) is a salutary story but not a isolated one.
In a bid to protect people from rogue traders, Falkirk Council last year launched the Buy with Confidence initiative which provides a database of reliable local traders and businesses which have passed a series of rigorous checks.
It followed a 53 per cent increase in the number of complaints received – when the amounts conned from local people rose from £53,000 to £90,000 – in the same five-month-period between 2014 and 2015.
Scott Fraser, of the Trading Standards department, said the investigation into the Falkirk pensioner’s case was ongoing but explained that consumer rights were clear when it came to cold calling and work being offered to be carried out, including a 10-day cancellation period.
People on their own could be vulnerable to pressure and Mr Fraser recommended that they speak to someone, such as a relative or a neighbour, before handing over any money or call Trading Standards for advice (01324 504982).
Best would be to use traders from the Buy with Confidence scheme - www.falkirk.gov.uk/buywithconfidence.
Another new website aimed at tackling the problem of rogue traders in Forth Valley was launched this week by Grangemouth businesswoman Lynn Hunter after becoming frustrated with poor workmanship for her own properties.
The new website – www.trustys.co.uk - brings together her two other sites, Trust Trades and Trusty Professionals.