A cowboy builder who took nearly £40,000 for over-priced and poor quality work on a pensioner’s home in Birmingham was jailed for 37 months at Birmingham Crown Court today (15 September 2016).
George Thomas Humberstone, 33, of Walsall Road, Great Wyrley, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to an offence of conspiracy to defraud, under the Criminal Law Act 1977.
Birmingham City Council brought the case after Trading Standards officers received a complaint from a 71-year-old man, stating Humberstone had demanded more money for work previously carried out at a property in Weoley Castle.
Humberstone and others carried out work at the pensioner’s home, which ranged from £180 to £2,700 for repairs between September 2013 and 10 November 2015, totaling £39,316.
An independent building survey, carried out as part of Trading Standards’ investigation, revealed the property was in a good condition – and it could have been completely re-roofed for just £5,250.
An application for costs and compensation was adjourned pending the outcome of confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Councillor Barbara Dring, chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “We’re very pleased that this case has ended in a successful prosecution, and the judge’s sentence sends out the clear message that we will not tolerate this kind of criminal behaviour.
“Having any kind of building work done to your home can be stressful and costly but George Humberstone misled this customer about the work he said was needed. This is why it’s vital that we bring cases like this to the public’s attention – to ensure they avoid becoming victims of cowboy builders like this.”
Elderly and vulnerable people are often targeted by rogue traders, who make unsolicited visits to people’s homes to carry out repairs to their property, convincing them to pay extortionate prices for substandard or incomplete work which is often unnecessary.
When a trader calls unsolicited, be polite but firm that you don’t want any work doing there and then – don’t be pressured into making decisions on the doorstep.
If necessary, ask a friend or family member for help, or contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.