Cowboy Builders on Five

Tuesday 4 May, 8:00pm on Five

Melinda Messenger and Dominic Littlewood come to the rescue of homeowners whose lives have been ruined by unscrupulous builders. This week, the pair head to South Gloucestershire, where Stuart and Michelle are in desperate need of help. After paying a builder �43,500 for a two-storey extension, the couple were left with an unsafe and unsanitary shell. In order to create more space for their two young daughters, West Country couple Stuart and Michelle decided to add a two-storey extension to their home. The new space would house a children’s play room, two additional bedrooms, a toilet and a porch. The couple remortgaged their house and hired a builder from South Wales called Bernard, whose quotation came in much lower than any local firm. However, after paying Bernard �43,500, Stuart and Michelle were left with a derelict, unsafe building site on the side of their home. “I just want the girls to have what I’ve promised them,” says a frustrated Stuart. “I’ve let them down.” Upon arrival at the house, Dom and Melinda are shocked to discover the state of Bernard’s handiwork. While the majority of the work remains unfinished, that which has been done is shoddy and dangerous. The rubble-filled extension is riddled with unstable walls, half-dug trenches, bare wiring, uneven flooring and unsealed sewage pipes. Most worrying of all is the gable at the back of the house, which is not attached to the roof. With the family standing well clear, Melinda’s head builder John climbs into the loft and gives the shoddy wall a gentle push, sending it crashing down into the garden. “That’s inexcusable,” observes Melinda. Having seen enough, Stuart, Michelle and the girls go to stay with family for a fortnight, leaving their house of horrors in the capable hands of Melinda and her team. Meanwhile, Dom begins to investigate cowboy Bernard and soon discovers that he has left a trail of unhappy customers throughout South Gloucestershire and beyond. After a little research, he tracks down a homeowner left with a garage that floods whenever it rains thanks to Bernard’s dubious skills. On the same street, another irate resident reveals that Bernard failed to use sufficient support while extending his house, meaning the work had to be completely redone by a reputable builder – at huge cost. However, it is not just homeowners who have suffered at the hands of the dodgy builder. Dom finds a number of local tradesmen who are livid with Bernard for a number of reasons – some have not been paid for work they did, while others are continually priced out of the market by Bernard’s unrealistically low quotations. “It’s making my blood boil!” says an angry Dom. “It seems really unfair.” Having built up an impressive dossier against the elusive Bernard, Dom finally manages to track him down to a building site in South Wales. “This could be my best opportunity to try and have a word with him,” he says. When Dom catches up with the cowboy and confronts him with a string of complaints, Bernard makes a run for it. “His memory may have conveniently failed him, but I’m going to give him something he won’t forget when I pass on all my findings to trading standards,” says Dom. Back at the house, Melinda and her team have made great progress. The floor has been properly laid, the walls have been rebuilt and attached to the roof, the wiring and plumbing have been finished and the children’s bedrooms have been decorated. Keen to give Stuart and Michelle everything they deserve, Melinda intends to open up the downstairs area to make a light and airy family room with a glass wall at one end. However, this additional work will cost a great deal of extra cash and will require the demolition of the existing garage. As she knocks out the first brick of the garage wall, Melinda hopes she has made the right decision. “I think it’s going to be worth it, but there is a thought in the back of my mind that I could have made a big mistake!” she says.

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