Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. A party is in danger of being over before it has even started, unless plumber John can get the heating to work again.
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When a crisis strikes your home...
'How can I help?'
'I've got a bit of an emergency.'
..or you want major work done...
Who do you trust?
I feel so stupid.
..you need one of the good guys. But you don't always get 'em.
Oh, my goodness.
You don't ever think it's going to happen to you.
We'll hear the stories of devastation
and despair left behind when building work doesn't go to plan.
I don't want to look out here. I end up in tears.
And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
You have always got the safety net of the building inspector.
But most tradesmen are there to help.
And we'll follow the response teams who are there for you 24 hours a day...
It's a nightmare, isn't it?
Just have to make sure you don't fall through the ceiling.
..seven days a week.
I think we'll have to pull this out.
It would have probably burnt the house down while they slept.
From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths,
we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.
Coming up... Pauline's drains have gone pear-shaped - or very nearly.
-Like a banana, basically.
-Can you show me?
Yeah, I'll show you whereabouts it is.
And the party's over -
or it will be if John can't get the heating started.
And the last thing they want to come into is a cold home -
no matter how much spirit there is to drink!
Plus a house full of memories becomes a house of horrors for Steve
when a dodgy builder takes his money and leaves him with a building site.
I was devastated by the whole process.
It's long been said that in the UK, our home is our castle
and when you've invested thousands of pounds in it,
that's exactly how it feels, so when a dodgy builder comes along
and rips you off for thousands, it's a real shocker.
For Steve Holmes, originally from Hartlepool, it was devastating.
Because for Steve, home is also where the heart is.
It's the house he grew up in from the age of three months old.
I always wanted to come back to the town, back to my roots.
It's all the memories that go with it.
I've got memories of me and my dad.
We spent a lot of time together in the garden.
Any time we did a DIY job,
I was always giving him a hand as I was young 'un.
When his dad died three years ago and left the property to
Steve and his siblings, Steve bought them out and decided to renovate it.
I know my dad loved this house.
He never wanted to move
and I just wanted to do it as, like,
as a...to honour my dad's memory as well, like.
Steve has been living more than 70 miles away in Leeds
but his life plan was to renovate the house and move home.
He was thrilled that his daughter was planning to move in too,
and the house would return to a family home.
This was Steve's dream design for an open-plan kitchen,
perfect for family gatherings.
He also wanted to convert an upstairs bedroom into a bathroom
and install a new boiler and central heating system.
As an electrician by trade and working as a contracts manager
in Leeds, Steve is no stranger to building work.
I can turn my hand to most things but I thought the kitchen
and the bathrooms, they would make the home
so I wanted somebody professional to do that.
He obtained three separate quotes and from those,
chose Michael Tolliday and his company Kitchen Logic.
He said he could do all the work in three weeks for just over £14,000.
And he asked for a total deposit of £8,000
to be paid before the work even started.
Mike seemed enthusiastic.
He was saying the right things.
I was really encouraged by his attitude.
But once the work got under way,
it wasn't the professional job Steve was hoping for.
I'd never experienced contractors like it -
the way they left all floorboards missing in the hallway, there was
no lighting on at the time and it was dangerous to come into the house.
I've come to Hartlepool to meet Steve
and see for myself what happened.
-All right, Tommy. Nice to meet you.
-How are you?
-Kettle's on, mate.
Oh, lovely. Ooh!
I know it has a special meaning for you, this house.
My parents purchased it when I was three months old and I've got an
older brother and I've got three sisters so we all grew up in here.
And this'll be me to retire, like.
So it must have been particularly disheartening when...
the problems you've had with the contract?
It was. It was a real let down.
Steve's in the business.
He's a qualified electrician
and there's nothing worse than being let down by one of your own.
I want to know exactly what made him select Tolliday as his contractor.
How did you choose him?
It was one of those websites.
They would send you three contractors,
so you'd get three prices - competitive tender, if you like.
-Did you contact all three?
So what made you choose the particular one you chose?
Well, they were the only ones that could do the bathrooms and I chose
another supplier to do the kitchen, cos I liked the design better.
And then through conversation with Mike of Logic,
he gave me a price which was slightly cheaper,
so it all made sense to do everything with one company, like.
Yeah, well, it would normally be the best to do that.
-But I think you just backed the wrong horse...
-..in this particular case.
-I did. And it's...
I felt such a sucker, like,
cos I deal with contractors on a daily basis as part of my job.
While Steve compared quotes,
he didn't speak to the builder's previous customers
or check out online reviews - something I always advise.
Did he give you a proper estimate and paperwork for this quote?
Well, with the bathroom, with the bathrooms he did, he gave
me the detailed quotes and the design but with the kitchens, because I
chose a different design, he matched that design and gave me a price.
-He asked you for money upfront, yeah?
And you didn't have any concerns about that?
No, cos it seemed standard - the deposit, then you'd pay
so much when the kitchen was delivered
and then you'd make the final payment on the instalment.
Steve had agreed to pay an initial deposit of £3,000 for his open-plan
kitchen matching this design, £2,000 for his upstairs bathroom
and £2,000 for a new boiler and central heating system.
Added to this was a further £1,000
to have the kitchen cabinets delivered,
to build a Michael Tolliday storage facility,
making a total deposit of £8,000.
So tell me about how the work started.
They arrived on site, the guys, the first day, and what the guys
-had to do was take the wall out, to make an open-plan kitchen.
And they opened up a doorway upstairs for the bathrooms.
But then they never came back and it was just...
-So how long were they here for?
-Two, three days max.
-What, that's it?
-How much did you actually give him in total?
-Now, was that a cheque, or cash, or...?
-It was bank transfer.
If I'd have used my credit cards, I'd have been covered.
If Steve had just paid even £100 of the total bill
on a credit card, he could have been covered by the Consumer Credit Act.
And he might have been able to claim some of the money back
via his credit card company.
But I always say, however you pay,
always get a record of the transaction
and ONLY pay when each stage has been completed satisfactorily.
And of course, once Steve had paid all the deposit,
his builder took off with every penny.
It was an absolute nightmare.
What they'd actually done was unacceptable.
Later, we'll see the length this cowboy went to
to deceive Steve and more than a dozen other people.
-How much of this was delivered, if anything?
But not everyone is a rogue
and when you suddenly develop a water leak in your home and you
can't tell where it's coming from, it's time to call in the experts.
That's what homeowner Pauline Harcourt Jones from Manchester
has done today.
And the team on their way are Craig and Jack but like Pauline,
they're not quite sure what to expect.
Er, I don't know. They just said it's water ingress in the cellar.
Pauline first noticed the problem earlier in the week.
The radiators went extremely hot, dangerously hot.
So I rang the gas board up. Now, I don't go downstairs in that cellar
unless I've got to.
But I went down with the gas board man
and there was water down there, you see, so I said,
"Oh! It's leaking from the boiler",
and he looked at it very carefully and he said he thought it was coming from the wall.
And then I thought, "Well, perhaps we can get the job done on the insurance."
It could be quite a big job.
The insurance company suggested that Pauline call in a drains team.
And that's what Craig and Jack, his apprentice, are.
Pauline shows the lads the evidence downstairs.
-It's right from under here.
-Oh, I can see it dripping there.
Yeah, I've just seen it dripping.
Next, Pauline shows Craig and Jack the possible causes outside.
Now this is the pipe from the bathroom and from the kitchen here.
It might be from down here, which is what you're going to look at,
-but it might also be from this tree root as well.
-We'll have a look.
-OK, then. Thanks very much.
There are no obvious clues,
so Craig and Jack are going to have turn detective
and work out what's causing the water to appear below the boiler.
So we've got the rainwater pipe there, Jack.
It's going straight into concrete.
That could be full of muck but when I was down there then,
it were dripping and that's got a slight drip on it also.
It's important they solve the problem, or Pauline could end up
with a flooded basement and severe damp issues.
I reckon there's some tree roots in that drain.
Craig starts his investigation by lifting the hatch to the manhole.
Quite a bit of roots in there.
Tree roots can cause extensive damage to sewer pipes and
cause the drains to back up, so make sure you check yours regularly.
Better pump in some water down there, Jack - drain-tracing dye in there,
and see if it comes through the wall in the cellar.
Using a dye in the water is a quick way to trace the entry point.
If the dyed water shows up in the basement, it's problem found.
Right, there's some dye coming through the manhole now
so if you just leave that running,
I'll go down into the cellar and have a look.
It just seems to be dripping at the moment.
But there's no sign of the green dye.
There's still no green dye.
The cause of the water in the basement is going to need
more forensic examination.
We've got to eliminate each individual drain separately.
The next stage is to use the camera to see
if the tree root is the cause of the problem, or if something else is up.
Trainee Jack feeds a mini camera down one of the drains
while Craig watches the screen in the van.
It's the only way of knowing what's happening in the pipes.
If you need your drains checked,
the cost of a camera inspection starts around £80.
Hold it there!
-The camera's gone straight underwater, which is not good.
This is saying that the pipe has dropped.
I can also see there's a small break in the top of the pipe.
And there seems to be root infestation in the pipe also.
If the pipe has dropped further under the ground
and is now out of alignment with the rest of the run, it could
have displaced the joint and allowed water to leak into the cellar.
And it looks as if that might be what's happened here.
But Craig can also see that the drain is full of grease,
which will need clearing if he's to do a full inspection.
With Jack's help, he sets up a high-powered jetting hose
and feeds it into the pipe.
Then with the aid of a rod, he removes material causing a blockage,
including bits of tree root.
This is grease.
Basically, like a chip pan.
Just going to jet it again now.
That's a lot better now.
Another quick look via the camera.
Pull it back.
But it's not good news.
Up to now, what we've found is between 0.18 metres
and two metres, the camera goes underwater and to solve this,
we're going to have to excavate the back garden up.
-Hello. Right, I've had a look.
-There's a two-metre section which is underwater.
-Like a banana, basically.
-Can you show me?
Yeah, I'll show you whereabouts it is.
Watch your step here.
So from about here...
-..to about here...
-..is like a banana.
I'm glad it's that, in a sense, and not that tree.
However, to repair it means digging up the small section of garden
covering the leaking pipe and replacing it.
Five working days it takes.
-And then I can get on to the insurers and bully them.
Craig will send Pauline an inspection report and estimate.
She is hopeful it will be approved by her insurance company
-and the lads can come back and do the work.
-Thank you very much.
-Thank you, love. Bye-bye. Bye.
It's always worth checking your home insurance
when you have problems with your drains.
Repairs can run to several thousand pounds
but you may be covered for the work.
For Craig, it's been an interesting job.
I like these jobs. I like the investigation work.
I mean, it's better than just going unblocking Joe Bloggs' toilet,
and taking ten minutes and then getting on to your next one.
And Pauline is relieved that Craig's detective work has revealed
the cause of her basement leak.
I'm very glad that they have found out what it is, because once
you have found what your problem is, you can then solve it.
I'm in Hartlepool, visiting electrician Steve Holmes
to see the mess that builder Michael Tolliday made of Steve's
childhood home, when he contracted him to help renovate the property.
Rogue tradesmen Tolliday vanished after three days' work, taking
Steve's eight grand deposit with him and leaving Steve devastated,
his happy memories in tatters.
I trusted him and he's betrayed my trust.
I mean, my daughter was going to be moving in with me
as soon as the house was ready. I was just absolutely gutted.
When the builder left,
Steve's home resembled a rubbish site with no kitchen and bathrooms.
They'd enclosed the room, this room, for the kitchen,
and allowed a young lad to climb through the windows
to pull down lath and plaster ceiling.
You can imagine - the house was built in 1897
so about a couple of hundred years' worth of dust has then just
gone upstairs and throughout every room in the property.
The rubble from the ceiling, the plaster,
some of the brickwork were all shoved under the floorboards.
They'd knocked a hole through a wall with a big sledgehammer
and the wall itself was all cracked.
It was like cowboy builders.
And that's exactly what Michael Tolliday was - a complete cowboy.
As Steve found out when he got a call from one of the builder's own workforce.
He informed me not to give Mike any more deposits.
He was taking it off a number of customers
and just ripping out their kitchens and not doing any further work.
When he told me, I was absolutely gutted. My heart sank.
Fortunately for Steve, he hadn't yet moved into the property
and was still living in Leeds, 75 miles away.
But 16 months later, he still hasn't been able to make
the much-wanted move back home to his roots.
I'm anxious to see the current state of play.
So here we are. This is what's going to be the kitchen,
-the place that caused all the heartache.
The bricks, the lath and plaster itself,
took me five days to clear out,
cos it was all shoved under the floorboards.
Believe it or not, I'd provided the skips for them in the back yard
and they couldn't even be bothered to take the materials to the skip.
Well, taking lath and plaster ceilings down
is the dirtiest game in the building trade.
-So this is the plan.
-It is, yeah.
We're going to have a breakfast bar coming out here.
-Are you a bit of a cook?
-I love cooking.
-I love cooking.
My dad was a cook as well.
It's a pity the kitchen ain't in. You could make me a sandwich.
I really feel for Steve. It's clear his heart really lies here.
-How much of this was delivered, if anything?
-Not one piece.
I was informed that he'd had it delivered to his warehouse.
-When I asked to go and see it, then I was fobbed off again.
So it turns out he'd never even purchased the kitchen.
What a con man.
Steve had paid £4,000 to Tolliday for a non-existent kitchen.
But at least Steve's managed to complete some of the work upstairs.
This looks a bit nice, Steve, doesn't it?
-It wasn't done by them lads, as you might imagine.
-Oh, so this was...
This has all been done since.
I've had to get like cheaper tiles,
cheaper fixings, you know what I mean...
-but it's liveable and it's nice. I like it.
-It's nice. Yeah, it's nice.
So this is the en-suite.
-You are nearly there, really.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
There's a little bit of finishing to do and a bit of the electrics,
if you know somebody to do the electrics!
I know somebody, but he's not cheap, Tom.
There's definitely a beautiful home here, just waiting to be completed.
And there's some news about Tolliday, too.
When Steve contacted Trading Standards about his concerns,
he discovered that they were already investigating Kitchen Logic
and Michael Tolliday.
Steve was one of 16 victims who handed over money
for little or no work.
With overwhelming evidence from Steve and others he'd ripped off,
Tolliday pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud
and two counts of engaging in unfair commercial practices.
He was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
-I do love this staircase.
-It is nice, isn't it?
A proper cut string staircase, that, mate.
And I'm sure it's going to be great when you've finished it.
-A bit like all the house, really.
-So you're moving in the right direction with it
-and hopefully, you've picked up a few tips from me, when I tell you.
And also on a positive note, you're one of 16...well, KNOWN victims...
-..of this guy and together,
you've managed to lift him off the street,
get him convicted and now he's serving time in prison.
So that's a good thing.
But I really like - what I really like about you, is that you're
trying to recreate, if you like, you know, your childhood memories
for your kids and your grandchildren and most of all, cos you're
trying to honour your father's memory, which is very special.
-All right, Steve. I'll see you.
-See you. Bye.
You know, it's always good to see justice done to someone who's
caused so much misery to so many victims.
I think it shows that even if you're in the industry, you can
still be duped and I think that tells us just how deceitful
and clever these confidence tricksters really are.
And it's good to know that Steve will soon be living back
amongst fond memories in the home he's always loved.
Heating engineer John Fawcett is on his way to a home emergency in South London.
His head office has had a call from a customer who's been without
heating and hot water since yesterday.
And for the homeowner, it's a real crisis.
Yeah, the gentleman who called up was very adamant that it was
He sounded quite worried on the phone, quite panicky,
so we will do our best to help him out and get him sorted.
The man with the heating problem is Gary Humphreys,
and there's a reason for his growing concern.
He's got plans, and you know what they say about best laid plans.
John arrives at the house, and Gary's very relieved to see him.
Hi, have you got a problem with your boiler? I'm from MGC Plumbing...
-How are you doing? You OK?
He's hoping John can solve his heating problem
before the end of the day.
We have a party this evening,
we've got some family and friends coming over.
The last thing they want to come into is a cold home.
No matter how much spirit there is to drink.
Gary first knew something was wrong yesterday afternoon.
I felt the temperature drop down.
I thought "OK, maybe the boiler's sort of dropped a level."
Went in there, looked at it, nothing.
Absolutely no lights, nothing, which there normally is.
It's like a bit of a light show in there when everything's working,
and called and they came, obviously, straight away.
Yes, but now John has to fix it or the party's off.
Gary shows him the problem.
Normally, all that's on, but it's just gone off,
and I've sort of like...
-HE FLICKS SWITCH
-But there's nothing, so.
So, you've no heating or hot water, is that correct?
Nothing. The boiler is behind this one.
Oh, lovely, let's have a look at that.
Here we go. I've pulled that down to check but it's all dead as well.
It looks like you've got a bit of a power issue.
We'll run a couple of tests, and I'll let you know what we can do for you.
-No problem, I'll leave it to you then, yeah?
-TENSE MUSIC PLAYS
-John gets to work.
So the first port of call is to check the obvious, really,
and make sure that we actually have power.
OK, we're going to the socket,
cos we could have an electrical fault here.
We need to work out whether it's minor or major.
Hopefully it's minor.
The reason for the party is that Gary's wife, Sam,
has just come out of hospital after a small op,
and the family are coming round to see her, 20 of them.
But, luckily for Sam, John might have saved the day.
Right, we've got a bit of life now.
I switched the trips on the consumer unit.
It appears like the boiler's now firing up.
We might have a result for him.
Well, it looks like it is minor.
For some reason, the electrical switch for the boiler has
tripped and stopped the supply of electricity to the appliance.
If you experience unexpected boiler problems, or loss of heat,
check the power supply and make sure everything is turned on properly,
and check that your room thermostats are turned up.
If the water pressure has dropped,
check your user manual on how to let in more water.
It's a quick and easy fix you can do yourself.
John explains what he's found to Gary.
-I've just tested your boiler, do you know your main fuse box?
The fuse for...the switch for the central heating was switched off.
He shows Gary the switch.
Central heating up, and central heating... They were both off.
-Why they were off...
-Would there have been a fault, is that why?
It could have been a fault,
or it could have just been one of those things.
But I'm going to make sure, while I'm here, that there is
no reason whatsoever why you might have any future problems, OK?
If there is a problem with the boiler,
it certainly would have blown the fuse, but we'll give it all
the once-over and make sure everything's OK for you, all right?
-Fantastic, OK. Thank you very much.
John needs to make sure that there isn't an underlying
reason for the boiler switch tripping.
We're just going to carry out what we call a quick flue gas analysis
and that will tell us that the inside of the boiler is functioning OK.
It lets us know
that the boiler isn't producing carbon monoxide,
which is absolutely essential
regardless of what the fault is that's been phoned through to us.
And that's working like brand-new.
All appliances burning wood or fossil fuels
can emit carbon monoxide.
It's produced when they're burnt without sufficient air
The cause is often poorly installed or maintained appliances.
So, if you have a boiler, fire or water heater
that runs on oil, gas or wood,
it's a good idea to fit a carbon monoxide alarm
and to get your appliance serviced regularly.
John reports back to Gary.
Everything's absolutely fine, safe and working.
Also, if you have any further problems, give us a call, I'll come straight back to you.
-Fantastic. All up and running?
-Thank you very much, indeed.
For John, it's important Gary did the right thing
-and called him out.
-All right, bye-bye.
This isn't a DIY type of situation with heating and hot water.
It's absolutely fundamental that any gas-related issues
are checked by gas safe registers and engineers.
And Gary's glad he can get on with preparations for the evening ahead.
What's going to happen now is, I'm going to get on with some
cooking for this evening, and stay warm without putting a coat on.
So it's good result, and it's all round to Gary's for a party.
Any one of us could be in a situation such as we've seen today.
whether it be an emergency in our own home,
or falling foul of rogue workmanship.
Just take note of my top tips and hopefully it'll be home, sweet home.
In Hartlepool, Steve is still working on his former family home
and has yet to move in.
But he's hopeful that both he and his daughter
will be living there soon.
Pauline's had further work done on her drains
and is waiting to see if it's fixed the problem,
and whether her insurance company will pay.
And there was a warm welcome for everyone
at Gary and Sam's family party.
Tommy Walsh hears how a home full of memories becomes a house of horrors for Steve when a dodgy builder takes his money, rips out his kitchen and disappears for good. And a family party is in danger of being over before it's even started, unless plumber John can get the heating working again.