Anger as builder stops £76,000 renovation projects leaving families in lurch
PUBLISHED: 08:51 21 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:18 24 September 2019
Two families described today how a builder stopped £76,100 worth of renovation works in their homes.
Both families were left with holes in their walls for months after Mark Bye, of Norwich-based building firm M.Bye&Sons Ltd, walked off the sites with, they claim, no explanation.
In response to the claims, Mr Bye said he has refused to finish the work due to a dispute over pay.
"They haven't paid me for the extra work and that's why I left the jobs," he said.
But this was disputed by Jojo Pazhayattil, 45, who hired M.Bye&Sons Ltd for a bedroom extension with an ensuite bathroom and a loft conversion in his five-bedroom home in Horseshoe Close, Costessey.
He claimed that Mr Bye never explained why he left, and that he did not owe him anymore money.
Another customer, teacher Kirsti Paul, also said Mr Bye had left their project unfinished despite being paid all the money owed.
After accepting Mr Bye's quote of £47,500, work began in Mr Pazhayattil's home in April 2018 and was scheduled to finish by July last year.
But a year and five months later, the work has still not been completed after Mr Bye and his workers disappeared with no explanation in June this year, Mr Pazhayattil claimed.
He said Mr Bye left the house without installing new windows in his bedroom and ensuite bathroom, leaving two gaping holes in his outside wall for almost a year.
Mr Pazhayattil, who works as a taxi driver and financial advisor, said this left him, his wife and two children aged 15 and 10 vulnerable.
He asked another builder to fit the windows in June this year.
When this newspaper visited this week wires were hanging down from the ceilings in the first floor and tiles on the roof - which has no guttering - had become loose.
No water runs from the taps and shower in the ensuite bathroom and a large brown stain has spread across the loft ceiling from a water leak, Mr Pazhayattil said.
"He [Mr Bye] said he would finish everything by December 1 2018, so we made plans for Christmas according to that," said Mr Pazhayattil. "We planned for celebrations with friends but they couldn't stay here, it was cold and not secure.
"Our kids' birthdays were ruined, our cousin from India couldn't stay here. It has been horrible.
"I called him [Mr Bye] many times but he never responds."
After getting quotes from other builders, Mr Pazhayattil believes around £5,000 to £8,000 worth of work still needs to be done. He paid M.Bye&Sons Ltd the full quote plus costs for extra work as suggested by Mr Bye which totalled £53,116.
But Mr Bye said he was owed money, adding: "The invoice is still outstanding.
"I am not going to fix the loft until he pays me for the extra work."
He said he was not sure how much Mr Pazhayattil owed him but claimed that it was somewhere in the region of £8,500.
Kirsti Paul, 48, dreamed of an open plan kitchen diner and a downstairs shower room in her two-bedroom chalet bungalow in Pound Lane, Thorpe St Andrew.
"I imagined watching my daughter playing in the garden and running through the bi-fold doors," she said.
Ms Paul accepted Mr Bye's full quote of £12,700 to make this dream a reality.
Work began in April and was to be completed by mid-May, just in time for summer.
But now in autumn, the work has been left unfinished for nearly two months, leaving Ms Paul and her 10-year-old daughter with no heating downstairs as winter approaches.
She said the outer wall and insulation to the rear of the kitchen was taken out and left bare, which a friend of hers covered with breeze blocks as a temporary remedy.
Ms Paul said no work has been done to the house since July 30 and she was not given an explanation for why the work has stopped.
She said she had paid Mr Bye the full quote plus costs for extra work which totalled £23,000, after he kept asking for more and more money while the work was being carried out.
She last heard from Mr Bye on August 29 in an email - sent by his son - promising he would meet her the following Monday, but this never happened.
She said: "Eleven emails had gone unanswered by Mark's company, he had missed countless pre-planned appointments with me, countless times he had failed to show-up on the job as expected, promises had not been kept."
She added: "I can't imagine I'll get my money back.
"My family were very stressed, very worried and disappointed by the way we have been treated."
Ms Paul has asked several tradesmen to estimate the amount of work which needs to be done, which came to around £4,000.
Ms Paul also said she had paid Mr Bye £5,600 for materials that she never got.
Mr Bye admitted he had not bought the materials, but stated: "The reason I have held the money back [is] because she hasn't paid for the extra work."
He added that he would arrange for a surveyor to visit both properties.
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"I don't know how much they owe me," he said. "We are not doing anything until the surveyor is coming in."
After numerous attempts to contact Mr Bye, both Mr Pazhayattil and Ms Paul sent letters to him by recorded delivery under the advice of Trading Standards.
But both have had their letters returned to them, unsigned and unopened.
Mr Bye said he did not receive the letters.
Norfolk Trading Standards said home improvement is the second most complained about area to them both nationally and in Norfolk.
Sophie Leney, head of Trading Standards at Norfolk County Council, said: "We look at every complaint individually and where concerns exist we take a staged approach to ensure traders comply with the law.
"Consumers are advised to complete certain checks when making home improvements - including establishing exactly what will be done, ensuring everything is recorded, and keeping all paperwork just in case things go wrong.
"We recommend that people should always use a Norfolk Trusted Trader or a trader who has been personally recommended to them by friends or family who have had similar work done."
To report a problem with a trader to Trading Standards, contact Citizens Advice on 03454 040506
To find a Norfolk Trusted Trader, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/trustedtrader or call 0344 800 8020.