Builder overcharging?



Would appreciate some advice on the following.

My mum is 75 years old and needed some repair work doing to a garden wall. She has had problems in the past trying to get builders around to quote for small jobs because they don't seem to want to know. A friend of hers recommended someone so she got him around to give her a quote (verbal estimate). He told her the job would entail putting in some new blocks, shouldn't take anymore than a day and wouldn't cost anymore than £200. She felt this was reasonable so gave him the go ahead.

He did the job, took about three and a half hours and didn't use any blocks, she thought he was going to be here for the whole day. She got the bill and it said, "Labour only £200". We rang the guy and told him we thought his bill was a bit steep for the amount of work that had been done. He originally quoted £200, but took much less time and used less material than he thought. When asked why the bill was still £200, the guy said that there were two extra hours for ringing around to get materials (he's a builder, ringing around to get sand and cement?) and that he had to pay to get rid of the rubbish. We said that all these costs would already have been accounted for in the original estimate. We asked for an itemised bill.

The itemised bill has labour at £100 and materials and expenses at £100. He has charged us £20 for getting rid of rubbish (a bag or two which would have cost us £2 at the local tip but we weren't given that option); he has charged us for diesel on top of this; he seems to have marked up the cost of sand by 150%!!; charged us £13.50 for Feb Mix of which he will only have used a capful; and other things besides.

He is quite clearly ripping my mum off. What we need to know is, is my mum obliged to pay the bill because she accepted his verbal estimate (even though the job was much less than he thought and he is quite clearly overcharging on the materials)? We were thinking we would pay him £150 because that seems more reasonable.
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The questions are:
Is the wall satisfactory, regardless of labour hours and material costs?
Would you have been much happier, if the builder had hung around all day and the wall look the same is it did after a few hours?

I often come across this in my trade, the customers seems to think you have ripped them of because you have got on with the job, they don't see the off site preparation and planning.
Are you pleased with the work??

If it had taken 2 days would you of offered extra money?

You argue the price before the work is done not afterwards.

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He gave you a quote to complete the job. Is it completed, if so pay the quoted amount. - simples
She has had problems in the past trying to get builders around to quote for small jobs because they don't seem to want to know.

Most experienced tradesmen have a radar that can spot a customer with a bad attitude on first contact, and that is the reason you can't get people to quote, not because they're small jobs. Builder was decent enough to give you a fair quote for his time, use of his tools, his van, insurance etc and most of all, his skills, and you renage on what you agreed because -god forbid - he actually appeared to make a profit on his activities. How would you feel if he presented you with a bill for £500 at the end? That's what you're doing to him. Pay the man what you owe and take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.
To answer your other question in purely legal terms, yes she is obliged to pay him £200 because that was agreed in a verbal contract of which, he has honoured his part.
In fact, purely for moral reasons, you should now pay him £220 (an extra 10%) for messing him around as he will have incurred extra costs dealing with your bill. Thanking him for the extra bill would be a nice gesture too.

Good value is something that gives you what you wanted at the end of it for a price you are prepared to pay. You agreed the price before the work commenced, so if the work has been completed to your satisfaction then pay the man for his work and learn an important lesson in life about honouring your word.
Gosh, what a judgemental lot you are :unsure:

We have no need to take a long hard look in the mirror because this is the first bill that we have ever questioned in our lives. Normally we pay up with ease and quite often give a little extra. We are always appreciative of a job well done.

The job in question really was very small, couple of buckets of mortar used at the most. It was the fact that the chap gave my mum a false impression of what the job entailed, he made it sound much bigger than it was - and of course she believed him. It was only after the work was done that we realised just how small a job it was. Make us out to be awful if you like, but it's about time people started standing up to stuff like this. That's why there are programmes like Rogue Traders.

We don't have a problem with the work that he did, but we do have a problem with the fact that he misled my mum and this only became apparent after the work was completed.

We certainly don't have a problem with people making a profit. Materials for the job probably cost about £30, add another £30 for preparation and everything else and that leaves £140 for three and a half hours work. That's £40 an hour. Seriously, is that the going rate for a builder these days? That's about £80,000 per annum!! Staggering.

By the way, Mum arranged this herself because she wanted to and likes to be independent if she can. OK she could have asked for a written quote, but I guess she just trusted the guy.
Pippy, remember that out of that £40 an hour comes not only the builder's take home money (plus tax) but also the cost of his insurance, his van hire, his tools, his credit facilities his office overheads in producing/sending the bills and his many years of experience of being paid the minimum wage as an apprentice/labourer before becoming a builder. If the builder thought the job might take a day then he will have arranged his other work around that. He won't earn an hourly rate - it is typical to pay a day rate for labour to cover those other costs. I don't think people here are deliberately being overly judgemental - they are simply trying to point out that it is not just materials + labour costs for a job no matter how small it may seem.

For an office worker who takes home £X an hour, the employer's costs of providing the role will be roughly equal to that on top. A self-employed builder has to meet both sides of the employment costs. £20 an hour for a skilled builder is peanuts. Factor in his day rate and it he will be getting about £8.75 an hour before tax. That is a not a lot for a skilled tradesman. Nobody here would be backing the builder if we believed he had actually ripped your mum off. (Which we do hear about on here, and are as helpful as we can be to try and help.)

Consider also that the reason why he didn't need to use any new blocks might have been because he was skilled enough to be able to reuse the damaged/loose ones. A repaired wall will also look better using the original materials so you always try and reuse them if you can. It might be a case of the builder taking pride in his work - afterall he did come with personal recomendations. Given that the work has been done to your satisfaction then you should pay him and honour your (mum's) word.
Would appreciate some advice on the following.

He is quite clearly ripping my mum off. What we need to know is, is my mum obliged to pay the bill because she accepted his verbal estimate (even though the job was much less than he thought and he is quite clearly overcharging on the materials)? We were thinking we would pay him £150 because that seems more reasonable.

You and your Mother had the choice to look elsewhere and get different estimates for the job, why did you accept his price.

Just pay up and look big !!!
Come on guys, reel it in just a little bit!

The OP should realise prices differ from one source to another,

would the OP complain to the Management of Sainsburys and demand a refund because they are charging more for a can of Beans than Tesco.
That’s fine, but educate don’t remonstrate.
Actually, we have found many of the replies on here quite upsetting. We are just normal, friendly folk and happy to pay for work where the costs seem reasonable and justified. We always supply workmen with ample cups of tea and quality chocolate biscuits, even a sandwich for lunch if they have nothing with them.

My mum did not seek further estimates because the price seemed reasonable for the work that needed doing (or rather for the work that the builder told her needed doing). As I have said above, once the job was completed, we could see that it was much less than the builder had told us it was going to be. Had he told us what he was actually going to do, we would not have accepted his quote, we would have considered it to be too expensive. He didn't give us that option because he led us to believe it was a bigger job and one that was worth £200.

We can appreciate that builders don't always know what a job is going to entail until they start the work. This was a fairly simple job though - a few cracks in a low garden wall. The guy has been working in the business for over 30 years so he must have had a fairly good idea about what was involved.

We wouldn't complain if Tesco were charging more for a can of baked beans than Sainsbury, but we would complain if we got home and found that one of the cans was only half full. We paid for a full can because that was what we were led to believe we would get. This guy put less beans in the can, but still wants the same amount of money. It just doesn't seem fair, no matter what you lot on here seem to think.
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