Thursday, 11 August 2022

More customers complain about builder's poor work

A HENLEY builder accused of carrying out substandard work has left customers out of pocket by thousands of pounds, it has been claimed.

Householders and traders have complained about Mariusz Noga failing to complete work for which he had been paid.

They contacted the Henley Standard after our front page report last week about the Cheesman family, from Bix, who paid Mr Noga £135,000 for an extension to their five-bedroom home last year but are still waiting for the work to be finished and are having to live in half the house and a mobile home.

Mr Noga, who lives in Damer Gardens and trades as Mariusz Builder, demolished more than half of the house without the family’s consent and failed to build a replacement structure, leaving large areas exposed to the elements.

The work was meant to be finished by last Christmas but dragged on until Easter this year, at which point Mr Noga withdrew and did not respond to demands for a refund.

The family are living in the remains of the house without central heating or an internal staircase.

Ken and Karen Grieve say they paid Mr Noga about £35,000 for a garage conversion and new carport at their home in Peppard Common, which started last September and was meant to take up to eight weeks but had still not been finished by March.

They cut ties with the builder in May and brought in a new builder but the work is going to cost them £10,000 more than they had expected.

Mrs Grieve said: “We gave Mariusz a substantial deposit and within days he was asking for more. It got to the stage where we were paying him almost £2,000 a week.

“We had a bad feeling from the first day when the skip, materials and portable toilet didn’t show up but he said it would be fine. His people dug up the drive and then the carport finally arrived in November but didn’t start going up until March.

“There was a man working in our garage for weeks who didn’t seem to be doing much, then a builder on a neighbouring site warned me that he had installed a window wrongly.

“This turned out to be correct as South Oxfordshire District Council’s building control officers said it was too high up and too small, which was against fire safety regulations. In the end, my husband was liaising directly with the officers.

“It then reached the stage where Mariusz’s men turned up on our doorstep demanding their money, saying he had claimed we hadn’t paid him. We defused the situation by producing our receipts.”

The Grieves say Mr Noga also dug up their patio to install electrical connections which never materialised so they hired another contractor.

He also didn’t finish the carport’s foundations with a thick enough layer of scalping, loose crushed stone that protects the concrete underneath, so that is now being relaid.

Mrs Grieve said: “He seems very keen on demolition but not construction, which he doesn’t seem to know a lot about. We’ve decided to take the hit as we don’t think it’s worth the effort of chasing our money. I doubt we would succeed. He has had an unbelievably stressful impact on our lives, though we know others have had worse problems. I don’t know how the Cheesmans have coped.”

A Henley couple, who would not be identified, paid about £40,000 towards a £55,000 extension at their home before relations with Mr Noga broke down. They paid a £10,000 deposit and work started in December 2015. It was supposed to finish within three months but was still incomplete when they dismissed him in August last year.

The couple say Mr Noga’s men failed to dig deep enough foundations, which would have made the house structurally unsafe, then tried to dress the surface so that it would look right. This was confirmed by the district council.

The husband said: “I’ve spoken to the head of building control, who says they don’t have sufficient powers to stop people like this from trading.

“Apparently he wasn’t even telling the council which sites he was working on. He also wasn’t asking them to carry out inspections at the point where they were needed to be done before work could continue.

“His standard of workmanship is appalling and I know of at least one local company that won’t supply him any more because he owes them so much money.

“He has left us with a mess. It’s so bad that some builders won’t touch it with a bargepole. They have no idea how to estimate the cost because they don’t know how many mistakes they’ll uncover as they pull his work apart.

“At one point we found empty drinks cans shoved into the cavity wall insulation, which could have caused huge problems with damp further down the line, while the joins on the roof structure were of an appalling quality.

“It’s absolutely dreadful that the authorities know about him but don’t seem able to take action.”

The couple are now finishing the work using a number of contractors for different aspects. They say this has at least doubled their costs.

Alistair Wildman says he paid Mr Noga £2,000 in March to fit gates and associated brickwork to his home in St Andrew’s Road, Henley, and a further £600 for roofing work at a rental proerty he owns in Reading.

After weeks of delays, Mr Noga told him he couldn’t afford to buy the necessary materials, nor to return the money. He carried out some work free of charge to repay the debt but Mr Wildman says he still owes several hundred pounds, which he is pursuing through the small claims court.

Mr Wildman said: “I’ve heard similar accounts from dozens of people who’ve lost money to him. It’s a few hundred pounds here and a few thousand there and it must add up to a lot. At one point he promised to pay me ‘tomorrow’ for more than 30 days running. I reached the point where I couldn’t be bothered to chase him.”

Mr Noga, who is being investigated by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards officers, claimed all his work had been approved by the district council’s building control officers.

He said several customers had withheld payments last year, which caused cashflow problems and forced him to stop work but he had warned all his clients to expect delays and would have honoured their contracts but they dismissed him.

He had now resolved his financial problems and was trading as normal.

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