Episode 5 Cowboy Trap


Episode 5

The consumer series visits Grimsby to help the single mum who was left with more plaster on her floor and furniture than on her walls after being conned by cowboys.


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Transcript


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Did you know that bodging builders, dodgy decorators and cheeky chippies

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cost UK home-owners tens of millions of pounds every year?

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They received an enormous amount of our money and they just took off.

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I'll show you some of the tricks these con men use to get their hands on your hard-earned cash.

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I didn't sleep for wondering whether they were going to put bricks through the windows.

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For a little while, I was really anxious about what was going to happen.

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My experts will put right the damage and give the people their homes back.

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-It's brilliant. Thank you.

-Jolly good.

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I'll be giving loads of advice and tons of tips to prevent YOU from falling into the cowboy trap.

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Today, we're in Tonbridge, Kent, with the Kitchens family.

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Despite their apt name, it wasn't a new kitchen they wanted. They dreamed of a luxury bathroom,

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complete with spa bath and a smart brick-built garage with secure store outside.

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What they've been left with is half-finished blockwork and an abandoned bathroom.

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Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

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We bought this place to be a home and it's not really a home any more.

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It's just bricks and mortar.

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Michael and Susie are both Embassy staff,

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but there was nothing diplomatic about the way their cowboy builders left them.

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They pretended everything was fine.

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They didn't ever front up and say, "We're going to have to start this bit again"

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or "we've bought the wrong thing" or "we've cut your tiles all wrong".

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It was, "Everything's fine, we'll fix it," and then they just disappeared.

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And in Grimsby, we'll be paying a visit to student nurse and single mum Carla Siviter.

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We'll be much better behaved than the pretend plasterers

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who spread their mix on almost every surface imaginable, except the walls and ceiling they were booked to fix.

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They were just con men, really.

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They just slapped a bit of plaster on the wall

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and didn't know what they were doing.

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And we'll discover cowboys aren't only cack-handed, they can be con men and criminals, too.

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I was pregnant and really frightened. They said they would put the windows through and make us pay the money.

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I was petrified!

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But first up, we're in Tonbridge, Kent, with Michael and Susie Kitchens

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and their children Tamira and Tyson.

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They wanted to re-model the family home and rent it out

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because mum Susie has an exciting new posting at the British Embassy in Tanzania.

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They dreamed of building a luxury bathroom inside and a new garage and storeroom outside

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to keep their belongings safe.

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We started thinking about what we were going to do and putting in a nice bathroom.

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The old one was serviceable, but we wanted a bit of glamour and we knew we'd let the house out eventually

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and a nice bathroom is attractive to people.

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The bathroom was to be updated with a luxury spa bath with shower and screen.

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In the garden, the old garage was demolished,

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ready to be replaced with a modern brick-built structure

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to provide posh parking and a secure storeroom.

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We were going to have a concrete base, then a garage with a storage area built on at the back,

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so we can leave our furniture there and have the garage for our tenants.

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With only six months to complete the work before the big move,

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Susie and Michael had to call in the professionals.

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Michael spent a lot of time doing the research on it on the internet and talking to people.

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We got everything approved through the council that had to be done,

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found the builders, took up references on them

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and after a lot of delay, eventually got started.

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It wasn't without hiccup, but it was chugging along and then it all stopped.

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For a new garage, store and luxury family bathroom,

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Michael and Susie handed over £17,000 up front.

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Just two and a half weeks after work started, the cowboy con artists fled.

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I find it hard to believe that they were actually builders now.

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I think they were just fraudsters pretending to be real builders.

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They received an enormous amount of our money and they just took off.

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When the builders came, two of them in particular who were here most of the time,

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they seemed really nice, they talked about their kids, they chatted with my kids.

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Tamira made her first ever cup of tea for someone that wasn't family when she made tea for the builders,

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so I thought that they were working with us,

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and now, looking back, I can see they were working against us the whole time,

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just out to make money from us. And that is disappointing.

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Rogue tradespeople don't just hurt you in the pocket, they hurt you here, too. Here's a tip.

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Beware of builders who want to talk, not work.

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They may only be busy working out how to relieve YOU of your cash

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before THEY take to the hills.

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Three months after these cowboys disappeared into the sunset, time ran out for the Kitchens family.

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Susie had to start her new job at the British Embassy in Tanzania,

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so she, Tamira and Tyson had no option but to pack their bags and head off to Africa without Michael.

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Her mum describes how that felt.

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It was a lot of stress on them.

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Susie's got to start a new job in a new country,

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set up her house on her own

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and have two children and start them off at school and everything.

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She should've had her husband going out with her to help with all that,

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but he's had to sort out all this kerfuffle with the builders.

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Michael's been left behind to sort out the problems with the property

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while his wife and children have gone to another country.

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'Let's take a closer look at just what's caused all the heartache.'

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-Is it Michael?

-Yes.

-Hi, I'm Clive.

-Pleased to meet you.

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-I hear you've had some bad boy builders in town.

-Yes.

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Would you show me the work they've done, or not, as the case may be?

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'The Kitchens wanted a new garage and furniture store built out the back.

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'Well, I can see something has been started, but it doesn't look good.'

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I tell you what, Michael. I am not loving that block wall at all. It looks terrible.

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Their work was really shoddy at best,

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but what was your original plan for this area here?

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This was supposed to be a storage room here

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and the front part was going to be the garage area.

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-Made of blockwork?

-That wasn't the original idea.

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The builder changed it to blockwork because he said it had more thermal value.

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'Here's the bad news. The cowboys didn't protect the blocks from the damp

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'and they'll have to be demolished,

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'but at least this eyesore is at the bottom of the garden.

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'Inside the house, the Kitchens also hoped for a glamorous new bathroom.

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'Let's see what they've been left with.'

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It's certainly compact and bijou in here. What was the plan and what have the builders done here so far?

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So far, as you can see, they completely stripped...

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-They've taken out everything that was here before.

-Yeah.

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-They've cut a soil pipe.

-Oh!

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Now, that's not good. That's the old cast-iron stack.

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-Does that feed...?

-To another toilet.

-OK, so that's actually live then.

-Yes.

-That's got traffic.

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'The soil pipe is the bit that carries all the waste from the toilet to the sewer.

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'It's sometimes known as a stench pipe and a potential stench is just what these jokers have left behind.

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'They've hacked through perfectly good cast-iron and patched the pipe with rubber hose.

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'Heaven knows why!'

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Even though that'll be boxed in, it's not the right way to do it.

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You could get smell coming back out of that, so that's not good.

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'Even though it's a tiny bathroom, these cowboys have managed to wreck almost everything.'

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-They're new tiles?

-Yes, they are new tiles.

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There's nothing right about it.

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Nothing at all. It looks very uneven, so they haven't prepped the wall beforehand.

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'There's no way these con artists had any intention of finishing this job.

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'Once they got Michael's cash, they fled.'

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Looking at the electrics, they've got your shower pull cord and your light pull cord behind the door.

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-What's happened there?

-Those are supposed to be relocated to outside the door.

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'Michael and Susie can never let their home in this state.

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'Our best chance of reuniting this family is to concentrate on the inside of the house.

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'That means our priority has to be sorting out this terrible bathroom.'

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-We've purchased the suite already, so the suite is on site.

-OK.

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All these tiles need to come off, so new tiles can go on correctly.

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Yes. It certainly needs levelling again, so that we can get a nice, even finish.

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And so you'd like it to be a bit of a dream bathroom to your original specification.

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-Would you like that?

-Excellent.

-OK.

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And here's another tip to help spot the cowboys.

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Be wary of contractors who start lots of jobs, but finish none.

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But we've got a top team on this job today

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and these good guys have got their work cut out to restore Michael's faith in the building trade.

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We must strip this room back to the bare walls,

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redo the plumbing, plaster, skim, re-tile

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and finally fit Michael's new suite, complete with luxury spa bath.

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If we can sort this family bathroom out,

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Michael stands a fighting chance of getting the rest of the house sorted

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and soon he'll be able to be reunited with his family in Africa.

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Coming up, how this cowboy con job turned into a family crisis

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and Susie had no choice but to leave the country.

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Here in Grimsby, we find Carla, a single mum, who employed builders

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who seemed to take the money and run and leave behind lots of damage.

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Single mum and student nurse Carla Siviter hoped she could transform the decor of her modest home

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into something you'd see in a glossy interiors magazine,

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but Carla's crinkly '70s style Artex ceiling and walls were far from her dream,

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so as soon as she'd saved up, she called in a team of plasterers to make her rooms silky smooth.

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We didn't really have a set budget. It was just as much as we could get done for as little as possible.

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I was pregnant as well at the time,

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so literally we had no money at all.

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When Carla started getting plasterers' quotes,

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she was disappointed to discover her budget wouldn't stretch as far as she'd hoped.

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To start with, we went through the Yellow Pages, but all those quotes were really expensive,

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so then we looked in the local paper for plasterers

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and we got three quotes from people that we found in the papers.

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Carla agreed the price and booked the plasterers.

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Back then, she was four months' pregnant, so she left her now ex-husband to oversee the work.

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I came back and the whole house was completely wrecked.

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We needed new carpets everywhere, we needed to re-decorate the whole house

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cos there was plaster all over the house.

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These cowboys failed to cover the floors and furniture to protect them from the work.

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Their carelessness cost Carla a small fortune to fix.

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We had to have all new flooring in the lounge, the hall, up the stairs.

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We've got a wooden floor in the bedroom and it was just caked,

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so we had to get a professional sander to re-sand it all down.

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Here's a tip.

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Good builders will ask you to clear your rooms before they start work

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and they'll cover your furnishings with large, clean dust sheets.

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If you don't see dust sheets, do expect to see damage.

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Carla's so-called plasterers got more mix on the floors than they did on the walls,

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but for trashing her home,

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these cowboys had the cheek to demand a whopping 600 quid!

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I said I wasn't willing to pay what they had quoted us for because the finish was appalling as well,

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so they then started getting a bit mouthy with us and being really aggressive.

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Fast-forward four years and Carla's relationship has ended.

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Her daughter is a lively three-year-old and Carla is about to qualify as a midwife.

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But money remains tight and her dream for a glossy magazine-style interior is a distant memory.

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I went back to uni, so obviously money's been even tighter than it was before.

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Then me and my partner split up, so I have even less money now.

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I've literally just had no money to put right everything that was left.

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It's time for me to take a look at exactly what's gone wrong.

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-Hello.

-Hi.

-Are you Carla?

-I am.

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'Carla's cowboys rode out of town four years ago

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'and since then, she's been living in this mess, unable to afford to make right their wrongs.'

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So what was the plan in here, Carla?

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The plasterers were going to re-skim all the walls and the ceilings in here.

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-Were they a bit rough?

-Yeah.

-So you just wanted new, skimmed walls.

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-Yeah.

-And then...?

-And to get rid of the Artex on the ceilings.

-OK.

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I've just spotted something. I've stopped in my tracks.

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-Interesting.

-Yeah, they plastered straight on to the wood.

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-Why?

-Then it dried and cracked and fell off.

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Obviously, it will, because for a start, timber is a living, breathing thing.

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It's going to swell, shrink, move and, therefore, plaster doesn't stand a chance of hanging on to it.

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It's not something you would do and something that I wouldn't recommend,

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so just that little spot there tells me that they are pretty clueless.

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I wouldn't have thought that they were builders.

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What happened to the ceiling rose?

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I wasn't here, but when I came home, there was a hole in the ceiling where they removed the ceiling rose.

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'Carla's had more bad luck in the kitchen too.

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'No wonder she's lost faith in builders.'

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When we moved in, there'd been a new flat roof put on,

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then it started raining and water started coming through the ceiling.

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That ceiling's got a belly on it like mine. It's not very good.

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So that was like that when you moved in?

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The roof was there, then it started leaking.

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We started decorating the kitchen, but then we thought the ceiling might come down, so we stopped.

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'I can see why Carla is in no hurry to squander more

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'of her slender student nurse's wages on con artists,

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'so how can we convince her there are good guys out there?'

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What could we do for you now to put a smile back on your face?

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It would be amazing to get the plastering finished

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-and just to make it look normal.

-OK.

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'We're not just here to cover up cracks. Oh, no.

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'We're going to make good all the damage Carla's previous plasterers left behind.

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'We'll hack away at the loose stuff, smooth over the rough stuff and attend to the archway,

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're-fix the skirting boards and skim the ceilings,

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'then as an extra surprise, we plan to create that glossy magazine style look she dreamed of

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'before her nightmare began.'

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It's just this sort of cowboy builder that really does my head in.

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It's one of those snatch-and-grab jobs where they take your money and leave you in total devastation.

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It's time to get the good guys in and show how it should be done.

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We've got a crack team on the job today to show Carla just how good new plastering looks

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when it's done by the professionals.

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Coming up, Carla discovers the men she'd let into her home weren't who they claimed to be.

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We found out later that they'd given us false names

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and all the contact details and everything we had for them were all false.

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Back in Tonbridge, Kent, our team of good guys is hard at work, trying to rebuild a botched bathroom,

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so we can reunite a family.

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Mum Susie has an exciting new posting at the British Embassy in Tanzania

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and the whole family was supposed to go too. To help rent out their home while they were abroad,

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husband Michael planned a new garage and secure furniture store outside and luxury bathroom inside,

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but the cowboy con artists he hired fled with their cash.

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Now the family dream is in ruins and Mum and the kids are in Africa without their dad.

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Moving without Michael is doubly hard.

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I'm trying to be reassuring to the children because they're finding it very unsettling

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that we've got all this going on.

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And the financial stress because we've lost a lot of money.

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We know it's going to cost more than we'd anticipated to finish

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because we've got to go back to square one or even minus square one to put it right.

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With the new Embassy posting unable to wait,

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Susie, Tamira and Tyson have had to stick to their plan

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and board the flight to Africa.

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Michael was supposed to go too.

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In fact, he even handed in his notice, but with the house in such chaos, how could he possibly leave?

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You see this type of stuff on television or you read about it in the paper all the time

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and you say to yourself, "How can people be so dumb?

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"This would never happen to me. I would never put myself in a situation where that could happen."

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And yet here we are.

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'I don't like what I've seen at all,

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'but how does independent building inspector Duncan White rate it?'

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-What do you make of this blockwork?

-Not great. The blocks aren't level.

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It's not straight. It's not a great piece of work.

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It's not. You're right there. You look at the mortar lines, they're all over the place.

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There's big gaps, small gaps.

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I did find a discarded spirit level down the back there, but I don't think they know how to use one.

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'The blockwork outside will have to be demolished, but what about the abandoned luxury bathroom inside?

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'The inspector doesn't like the look of that soil stack.'

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It's not great. They've used a rubber connector. That's not ideal here.

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It's not fixed properly, so it moves when you wobble it.

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They've cut the cast-iron and filled it full of silicone when they put the plastic pipe back in. It's not good.

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It's a real bodge there. So, overall, looking at what we've seen outside and then inside,

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if you were to give it a mark out of ten, what do you think it would be?

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-Probably between nought and one.

-I think that's generous.

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How about that? Nought or one out of ten? That's a disgrace!

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'To transform this abandoned bathroom from loser to luxury, our good guys have their work cut out.

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'We've got to sort out the soil pipe, tear down the tiles, re-site the electrics

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'and that's before we can even think about installing Michael's new spa bath and suite.'

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We maxed ourselves out just to buy the house. We've got a big mortgage.

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And we took out an extra loan to do the building work,

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thinking that we'd have the house to let when we went overseas and the income we'd get from that would help,

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but now we've got the debt, no house to let and Michael with no job.

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This is a big move to move your whole family out to another country like that.

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They started in good time, so that they should have had the house beautifully done

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and able to let before they went.

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All that's just gone up in the air and now Susie has to go on her own with the children.

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Michael has to stay here on his own and sort it out.

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Susie won't even see the house when it's been done, so it's not been a good start.

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But just how did they get into this mess in the first place?

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'In his search for a builder, Michael exceeded even my advice.'

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Now, I normally suggest that we get three quotes.

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But you went way further than that. How many quotes did you get?

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-At least 15.

-15 quotes. That was a lot to choose from.

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Why did you choose that particular one from 15?

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He wasn't the cheapest or the most expensive. He just seemed the most knowledgeable.

0:21:590:22:05

And he had answers.

0:22:050:22:08

He articulated things a lot better than most of the guys that I saw.

0:22:080:22:13

Words are just words at the end of the day. You need to physically see what they can do.

0:22:130:22:18

Here's a tip. Be wary of builders with silver tongues

0:22:180:22:22

who are only after YOUR silver.

0:22:220:22:24

Talk is cheap, so don't rely on it.

0:22:240:22:27

Instead, go and see their work

0:22:270:22:29

and ask previous customers if they're happy.

0:22:290:22:32

Nine times out of ten, the cowboy builder is brilliant on dialogue,

0:22:320:22:37

brilliant on what they can give you, that dream, but normally, they can never give you that dream,

0:22:370:22:43

and in hindsight, was he as good as his word?

0:22:430:22:47

Not even close. Not even close.

0:22:470:22:50

For the garage and bathroom, the quote was how much?

0:22:500:22:53

Right under 22,000.

0:22:530:22:55

By the time he'd left site, how much of that 22,000 had he had?

0:22:550:22:59

-17.

-17 grand.

0:22:590:23:02

OK, 20-odd grand you were quoted. You've given him 17,000, nearly the maximum.

0:23:020:23:08

Do you think you got value for money? Do you think you got 17 grand's worth of good work?

0:23:080:23:14

No, I don't think I got £1,000-worth of good work.

0:23:140:23:18

How did that make you feel in terms of trust?

0:23:180:23:21

Um...I felt extremely disappointed.

0:23:220:23:25

Not only in him, but in myself.

0:23:250:23:27

I let my guard down. Even though I thought I did all the right things, I clearly didn't.

0:23:270:23:33

'To help restore Michael's faith in builders, our good guys, led by Cliff Williams, are hard at work,

0:23:330:23:40

'completely stripping back the bodged bathroom, ready to install the luxury new spa bath.

0:23:400:23:46

'It's just as well Michael called us in because the previous cowboys have covered up a leaky pipe.'

0:23:460:23:53

-A water leak.

-A water leak?

0:23:530:23:56

Yeah, above the ceiling line, which eventually would have come through

0:23:560:24:00

after about two or three months after we finished the job,

0:24:000:24:04

-so we'll cut that out and repair that as we go.

-Nice one.

0:24:040:24:08

These are the things you don't see.

0:24:080:24:10

'We're doing so much more than installing a bathroom.

0:24:100:24:14

'We're hoping to reunite the family.

0:24:140:24:17

'The building work was planned, so the house could be rented out while Mum Susie took a new job in Africa,

0:24:170:24:23

'but the cowboy builders have wrecked their home and their plans.

0:24:230:24:28

'They ran out of time and Michael was devastated when Susie, with her new job waiting,

0:24:280:24:34

'had to prepare to leave without him.'

0:24:340:24:37

I never imagined we'd come to this.

0:24:380:24:40

We've been planning this trip for almost a year now

0:24:400:24:44

and all the plans we had for the house have been built around this.

0:24:440:24:50

After months of waiting, finally, the day has arrived and we're packing up.

0:24:540:25:00

Michael's going to stay here until it's all sorted.

0:25:010:25:05

'With the building work at a standstill,

0:25:050:25:08

'the family will be split across two continents for the next few months.'

0:25:080:25:13

I'm not exactly ready for it. I try to put on a brave face for them,

0:25:140:25:18

but deep down inside, it's tearing me apart.

0:25:180:25:22

I'm worrying about whether we've packed everything, how the kids are going to be.

0:25:220:25:28

I'm worried about Michael who's gone very quiet.

0:25:280:25:31

Everything was supposed to be ready.

0:25:350:25:38

We banked on it being ready financially and emotionally

0:25:380:25:42

and logistically for the family

0:25:420:25:44

and it's just been ripped to pieces.

0:25:440:25:47

'It beggars belief that what should have been a simple construction job

0:25:470:25:52

'has resulted in a dad saying goodbye to his wife and kids.'

0:25:520:25:56

HORN TOOTS

0:26:080:26:11

'Coming up, I hope our good guys' work can help restore Michael's faith in builders.'

0:26:200:26:26

Wow, I'm blown away! It's beautiful.

0:26:260:26:30

'Back in Grimsby, Carla Siviter dreamed of giving her modest home a magazine-style makeover

0:26:310:26:37

'to cover up her '70s style crinkly walls and ceilings,

0:26:370:26:42

'but instead, cowboys posing as plasterers took £600 of her cash and trashed her carpets and floors

0:26:420:26:48

'with the stuff they should have been applying to the walls.'

0:26:480:26:52

They just slapped a bit of plaster on the wall. They didn't seem to really know what they were doing.

0:26:520:26:58

They slapped it on the wall, took our money and left.

0:26:580:27:02

'When these cowboy builders rode into her home four years ago, Carla was four months' pregnant.'

0:27:020:27:07

We were upset that we were supposed to have everything nice for the baby coming,

0:27:070:27:12

then there were holes in the sides of the walls, the archway that's cracked and falling apart

0:27:120:27:18

and the rest of the plastering that wasn't completed.

0:27:180:27:21

'Carla and her husband have since divorced and she's bringing up her daughter on student nurse's wages.

0:27:210:27:28

'We're bringing in the good guys to make good the damage Carla can't afford to fix.

0:27:280:27:33

'We'll cover up that horrible Artex and give Carla the smooth, plastered walls she dreamed of.

0:27:330:27:39

'First, let's bring in building inspector Colin Harrop

0:27:390:27:43

'and hear his verdict on the previous plasterer.'

0:27:430:27:46

We've got a smear of plaster on a pretty thin piece of timber

0:27:460:27:50

and it's fallen off.

0:27:500:27:52

-I don't think there's anything that we can do, other than take it off and start again.

-That is the plan.

0:27:520:27:59

I didn't quite understand, when they took the ceiling rose down,

0:27:590:28:03

why that section of ceiling collapsed. That's unusual.

0:28:030:28:07

What I think has happened is this Artex ceiling finish has probably been on quite a long time

0:28:070:28:13

and it's leeched into the ceiling slightly.

0:28:130:28:16

I think they've tried to bodge in a piece of the ceiling with the result you'd expect.

0:28:160:28:21

It's fairly obvious that these chancers have done a pretty bad job.

0:28:210:28:26

If you were going to mark them out of ten, what sort of score would you give them?

0:28:260:28:32

I think we'd be looking at three out of ten, around about that level.

0:28:320:28:36

It's the kind of level that I'd expect someone to achieve who's doing DIY for the first time.

0:28:360:28:42

Three out of ten? I'd have given him one and that is being generous.

0:28:450:28:49

Carla has had a tough old time, but her problem is simple to solve.

0:28:490:28:53

The guy getting the plaster ready is a top bloke.

0:28:530:28:57

In fact, he's known as the Prince of Plasterers. Time to meet him.

0:28:570:29:01

-Sorry to disturb your work, Vic. How are you doing?

-All right.

0:29:010:29:05

-What did you think of the work carried out?

-Good, wasn't it(?)

0:29:050:29:09

-Bit shabby.

-A bit shabby?

-I've seen better.

-It was absolutely poor.

0:29:090:29:13

But what I'd like to know now is what the plan is to put it right.

0:29:130:29:18

We're just taking this timber off the side of here.

0:29:180:29:22

Basically, they'd skimmed over the timber, which you can't do.

0:29:220:29:26

So we've just taken the timber off and dabbed some plasterboard.

0:29:260:29:31

-On each reveal there.

-On each of the reveals, re-bead it and then skim it in.

-OK, cool.

0:29:310:29:36

And what's the score with the ceiling over the Artex?

0:29:360:29:41

Well, we've just PVA'd it, gave it a quick scrape, and then we're just going to skim over the top.

0:29:410:29:47

-OK.

-And see how it goes.

0:29:470:29:49

So, a finish skim over the top, give it a nice, smooth finish.

0:29:490:29:53

See you in a while. Cheers, boys.

0:29:530:29:55

'While our good guys get on with covering up the crimes of the cowboy plasterers,

0:29:560:30:01

'I want to find out what happened when Carla came home and confronted them four years ago.'

0:30:010:30:08

So you come in, you see it's all going wrong. What are you saying to 'em?

0:30:080:30:13

I stopped him. I said pretty much, "What are you doing?

0:30:130:30:17

"You've completely wrecked the house."

0:30:170:30:20

And that's when they started...

0:30:200:30:23

..being aggressive and abusing and threatening us.

0:30:240:30:29

They threatened to put our windows through if we didn't pay them.

0:30:290:30:33

They were going to get their friends round to threaten the money out of us.

0:30:330:30:38

So they got aggressive. How did you get them out of the property?

0:30:380:30:43

I rang my mum who got my dad to come round

0:30:430:30:47

and he kind of diffused the situation, really.

0:30:470:30:51

I didn't want to pay them anything. They wanted the full amount.

0:30:510:30:55

So it was kind of a compromise to...

0:30:550:30:58

-What was the compromise?

-£600.

0:30:580:31:01

Looking back now...

0:31:010:31:04

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

0:31:040:31:06

Would you have given them the £600?

0:31:070:31:10

No. But I was pregnant at the time and it's...

0:31:100:31:13

That sends your emotions, I would imagine, all over the place.

0:31:130:31:17

And it's just getting them out and getting them away.

0:31:170:31:21

We went to the police and made a statement against them in case anything did happen.

0:31:210:31:27

We found out later that they'd given us false names

0:31:270:31:30

and all the contact details we had for them were all false.

0:31:300:31:34

'So here's a tip.

0:31:350:31:38

'Make sure you have a real address and landline telephone number

0:31:380:31:41

'for any tradespeople you employ.

0:31:410:31:44

'Look them up online or in the phone directory.

0:31:440:31:47

'If things go wrong, at least you can trace them.

0:31:470:31:50

'Without these details, the police couldn't help Carla.

0:31:500:31:54

'She never managed to trace the builders, so there's no opportunity to contact them now either.

0:31:550:32:01

'Fortunately, our good guys are making right the damage

0:32:010:32:05

'and finally, Carla will see what the real professionals are capable of.

0:32:050:32:10

'I hope it will restore her faith.'

0:32:100:32:12

-Hey, dubbed the Prince of Plaster! Come down and have a chat with us. How are you?

-All right.

0:32:120:32:18

It looks like glass now.

0:32:180:32:20

Beautiful finish. That's what it's about, getting the professionals in.

0:32:200:32:25

-That looks a whole heap different now.

-A little different, yeah.

0:32:250:32:29

-I tell you what - she's had to suffer this for about four years.

-A long time.

0:32:290:32:34

I'm sure it's going to really please her when she looks at it.

0:32:340:32:37

'Well, I think we can all see I'm excited, but what about Carla?'

0:32:370:32:42

Come with me outside. I know it's a bit chilly-willy.

0:32:430:32:46

But at least it gets you out of the dust and everything going on in there.

0:32:460:32:51

So, on a scale of one to ten, how excited are you getting?

0:32:510:32:54

-Ten, definitely.

-Ten, I like it!

0:32:540:32:57

-It's a good opportunity to draw a line in the sand and move on.

-Yeah, get on with things.

-That's important.

0:32:570:33:04

'Coming up, I can't wait to see Carla's face

0:33:040:33:07

'when we reveal the glossy magazine look she always dreamed of.'

0:33:070:33:11

It's brilliant. Thank you!

0:33:110:33:14

'Back in Tonbridge, Kent, we're full steam ahead installing a new spa bath and suite,

0:33:140:33:20

'so Michael Kitchens can rent out the house and join the rest of his family in Tanzania

0:33:200:33:26

'where his wife has been posted to the British Embassy.

0:33:260:33:30

'Susie and Michael hoped creating a new luxury bathroom would help rent out the house.

0:33:300:33:36

'They paid cowboys £17,000 up front to do the work,

0:33:360:33:39

'including building a garage and furniture store outside,

0:33:390:33:43

'but after just two weeks, the cowboys scarpered with their cash.'

0:33:430:33:47

Maybe it's what they've always done.

0:33:470:33:49

My view of humanity is going to have to change

0:33:490:33:53

because it seems there are people

0:33:530:33:55

out there like that and I hoped there weren't.

0:33:550:33:58

'Susie has left for her new posting, taking the kids, but leaving Michael behind to finish the work

0:33:580:34:04

'and try and get their savings back, so he doesn't want us to phone his builder today.'

0:34:040:34:09

I've taken legal proceedings against the individual involved.

0:34:090:34:14

It would be detrimental to my case

0:34:140:34:17

if this individual was to become knowledgeable

0:34:170:34:20

that he was being chased out there.

0:34:200:34:23

He'd just close up shop and move on.

0:34:230:34:25

Yes, you don't want to give him the heads up, if you like, and I think that's a wise decision.

0:34:250:34:31

'Michael has sufficient details to pursue legal action

0:34:310:34:35

'because he kept a careful note of all the dealings with the builder.

0:34:350:34:39

'So here's a tip. Keep notes on all correspondence and phone calls.

0:34:390:34:43

'Accurate records will help you if there is a dispute.

0:34:430:34:47

'The whole experience has been an expensive lesson for Michael, so what has he learned?'

0:34:470:34:52

Number one, not to be so trusting. Do your homework.

0:34:520:34:56

Just do your homework, which I thought I did.

0:34:560:35:00

I didn't go deep enough. Now I know that in hindsight.

0:35:000:35:04

'I hope that now Michael is about to see the work the professionals do,

0:35:040:35:08

'it will restore his confidence and allow him to move on.

0:35:080:35:12

'Our good guys have done a cracking job creating the luxury bathroom the family had dreamed about.'

0:35:120:35:18

I can't wait to show you this.

0:35:180:35:21

But before I do show you the bathroom, just describe to me what it was like before we arrived.

0:35:210:35:27

It was just an ugly shell of a room, not attractive at all.

0:35:270:35:31

OK, now what are you hoping for?

0:35:310:35:33

-Just a functioning facility.

-Are you ready to have a look at your functioning facility?

0:35:330:35:39

-Yes.

-Let's go.

0:35:390:35:41

Wow! It's incredible.

0:35:450:35:47

-I'm blown away. It's beautiful.

-It is amazing, isn't it?

0:35:490:35:53

It's more than I expected. It seems a lot bigger and a lot lighter.

0:35:530:35:58

It's better than nice. It's extremely nice.

0:35:580:36:01

'The good guys have transformed Michael's former shell of a room into a luxury bathroom.

0:36:010:36:07

'We've removed all the badly fitting tiles, levelled the walls,

0:36:070:36:11

're-tiled with this elegant, new, colour-coordinated finish

0:36:110:36:15

'to perfectly set off the gleaming white suite.

0:36:150:36:19

'We've fitted a new, shiny, chrome, heated towel rail

0:36:190:36:22

'and polished off the accessories with a nice, large, contemporary mirror.

0:36:220:36:28

'The spa bath should help soak away some of the painful memories

0:36:280:36:32

'left behind by the previous cowboys.

0:36:320:36:35

'And there's a shower and screen over the bath.

0:36:350:36:38

'Finally, there's no sign of that horrible soil pipe

0:36:380:36:41

'which has been replaced and hidden away behind some sleek boxing in.

0:36:410:36:45

'This is the kind of finish you expect when you bring the professionals in.'

0:36:450:36:51

-Are you happy with it?

-I'm ecstatic. I'm blown away by it.

-I'm pleased you're pleased.

0:36:510:36:57

'Hopefully, Michael can get on with fixing the other problems left by the cowboys

0:36:570:37:02

'and get on a plane to join the rest of his family.

0:37:020:37:06

'Let's see if we can play happy families in Grimsby too, shall we?

0:37:080:37:13

'Cowboy plasterers left Carla Siviter's house in a right old state,

0:37:130:37:17

'so our good guys have been hard at work giving her bumpy walls and ceilings

0:37:170:37:23

'a reviving coat of plaster and paint.

0:37:230:37:26

'We're not neglecting the woodwork either because we want Carla to have a finish she can be proud of.'

0:37:260:37:32

Before you drill any more, just talk me through what you're doing.

0:37:320:37:37

The last time I saw this door, it was hanging off.

0:37:370:37:41

Basically, the door had been hung so many times

0:37:410:37:44

with wall plugs.

0:37:440:37:46

And that isn't the way to go about it, basically.

0:37:460:37:50

The best way of going about it is to re-chop a set of hinges away from where the old ones were.

0:37:500:37:56

-There were two old ones before.

-So I've gone right up here and right down there.

0:37:560:38:02

They're the two main points of the door for weight.

0:38:020:38:05

-It's almost like a great weight balance.

-Yes, it is.

0:38:050:38:09

You're supposed to chop in seven inches from the top of the rebate and nine inches from the bottom.

0:38:090:38:15

Top tip. Remember that. Seven inches from the top and nine inches from the bottom.

0:38:150:38:20

-Brilliant job.

-Thank you. Cheers. Bye.

-Catch you later.

0:38:200:38:25

'And while Andy is re-hanging the door,

0:38:250:38:27

'the decorators are giving the others a smart new coat of paint.'

0:38:270:38:32

Look at that brush action! That is fantastic brush action, Geoff.

0:38:320:38:36

-I've got a lot of years practising that.

-That's total professionalism.

0:38:360:38:40

That's what we need round here, from the jobs we've had before.

0:38:400:38:44

You've got three of your guys here, four including you, and things have moved on a real pace.

0:38:440:38:50

Pick up on what you've done so far.

0:38:500:38:53

We started by doing all the filling, preparation work, rubbing down.

0:38:530:38:57

-Anywhere where there's joints, fill it with a flexible filler.

-Yeah.

0:38:570:39:01

Anywhere where there's any black lines showing from gaps, we fill those to give a nice, clean line.

0:39:010:39:07

-For decorators, preparation is everything.

-Without preparation, you're wasting your time.

-Brilliant.

0:39:070:39:14

-Carry on with that door.

-Thank you.

0:39:140:39:16

'If only Carla's original builders had been as meticulous as our good guys.'

0:39:160:39:21

Now this is the bit I absolutely love.

0:39:210:39:25

We've got four decorators beavering away, doing a cracking job,

0:39:250:39:29

and Andy's woodworking skills are second to none.

0:39:290:39:32

In a couple of hours, we'll show Carla what we've done and I can't wait.

0:39:320:39:37

'But after living with the damage for four years,

0:39:370:39:41

'what has she learned from her bad experience?'

0:39:410:39:44

What advice would you have?

0:39:440:39:46

I'd say check them out, make sure they were reputable,

0:39:460:39:50

get references, go see their work.

0:39:500:39:53

Try and get someone that's certified

0:39:530:39:56

because then at least there'd be a body to complain to if something did go wrong.

0:39:560:40:01

We cannot allow these guys who pretend to be professionals to get away with it.

0:40:010:40:06

'Here's a tip.

0:40:060:40:08

'Using certified tradespeople may give extra reassurance

0:40:080:40:11

'and somewhere else to turn to if things go wrong.

0:40:110:40:15

'And remember, not all tradespeople are cowboys.

0:40:150:40:18

'Our team of good guys have worked wonders to transform Carla's interior from bodged to beautiful,

0:40:180:40:25

'but how does she remember it?'

0:40:250:40:28

Give us a picture of what it was like in there before we arrived.

0:40:280:40:32

There was a patched-up hole in the ceiling, it was all Artex.

0:40:320:40:37

There was plaster falling off the walls.

0:40:370:40:41

I just want it to be neat and tidy.

0:40:410:40:44

-That's a basic, really. Just neat and tidy and a good job done.

-Yeah.

-I'm hoping that we've done that.

0:40:440:40:50

-Are you ready to go in and take your first glimpse?

-I think so.

0:40:500:40:55

Let's find out what you think.

0:40:550:40:57

Oh!

0:40:580:41:00

That's really good!

0:41:000:41:02

-It's completely different, isn't it?

-That is so much better.

0:41:020:41:07

-So much brighter as well.

-It is. It's neat. We've had some real top-class decorators in as well.

-Yeah.

0:41:070:41:13

'This is what's possible when the good guys get to work.

0:41:130:41:16

'We've banished all signs of that crinkly '70s Artex

0:41:160:41:20

'and given the living room ceiling a sleek, modern finish.

0:41:200:41:24

'The crumbling plaster is a thing of the past and so are the wonky skirting boards,

0:41:240:41:30

'but we've gone the extra mile here.

0:41:300:41:32

'We've re-hung that unhinged door and given the living room a fresh decor,

0:41:320:41:37

'definitely worthy of a spread in a glossy magazine.'

0:41:370:41:41

And, of course, your kitchen ceiling too is now nice and flat.

0:41:410:41:45

No belly in it like mine.

0:41:450:41:48

'We didn't stop there. Our guys' paint, rollers and brushes have swept through the entire downstairs.

0:41:480:41:54

'Carla can put the long wait and a lot of regret behind her and finally look to the future.

0:41:540:42:00

'Even Carla's mum has arrived to help celebrate the transformation.'

0:42:000:42:05

Oh, wow! Oh, crikey, that is so different!

0:42:050:42:08

-Do you like it?

-I can't believe it.

0:42:080:42:11

-Do you like it even?

-That is amazing.

0:42:110:42:14

'Carla and the Kitchens both fell headlong into the cowboy trap,

0:42:140:42:18

'but I hope sharing their stories will make life tougher for all the cowboys everywhere.'

0:42:180:42:25

You know who you are and now we know who you are

0:42:250:42:28

and by exposing your cons and tricks, we're preventing others from falling into the cowboy trap.

0:42:280:42:33

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2010

0:42:570:43:00

Cowboy Trap visits Grimsby to help the single mum who was left with more plaster on her floor and furniture than on her walls after being conned by cowboys, and Clive and the team help a Tonbridge family who were forced to live apart when a builder wrecked their home.


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