Page last updated at 05:57 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 06:57 UK

Law change call for bust builders

Hole in David Sherwood's garden
The hole left in David Sherwood's garden is full of sewage

Laws need to be tightened to ensure homeowners are not out of pocket when builders go bankrupt, the housing minister for Wales has said.

Jane Davidson AM said more must be done to stop people being left with unfinished work when builders go bust in the middle of a job.

She believes the credit crunch could make the problem worse and is writing to the UK government over the issue.

Currently builders are not accountable for work once they become insolvent.

Ms Davidson, the Labour AM for Pontypridd, is taking action after one of her constituents was left with a large hole filled with sewage in his garden.

Despite paying around 23,000 for work to dig up his garden and make it sewerage-system compliant with regulations ahead of a house extension, David Sherwood was left with an unfinished job after his builder went bust.

He has been told by trading standards officers that under current law there is little prospect of making the builder accountable for the mess in his garden or for any money he has paid.

David Sherwood
Summer's coming. What are we going to do?
David Sherwood

"I don't understand the law with environment issues but this is like a death trap," said Mr Sherwood.

"Physically, health wise, we have got young children, we can't open windows.... Summer's coming. What are we going to do?"

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's trading standards manager Danny Thomas said he is frustrated so little can currently be done.

He said building work generates more complaints to his department than any other subject.

"In this case the builder has become insolvent during the course of the work," he said.

"We considered the criminal aspect whether or not he intentionally intended to complete the work so therefore obtaining money by deception but we had no evidence of that.

"So the consumer is left with the civil law that the builder is in breach of contract by not completing the work.

"If there's no assets in the company then it will be, you could say, throwing good money after bad trying to pursue the claim to try and get the money back."

Ms Davidson said she is so concerned about the issue - and the possibility of problems caused by more builders going bust due to the credit crunch - that she has written to John Hutton, UK Secretary of State for business, enterprise and regulatory reform.

"Laws should protect people," she said.

"My constituents have not been protected in this case and I want to do what I can as a local minister to ensure there's a very strong evidence base for whether the law needs to be changed for the future."

Builder knocks down unpaid work
22 Apr 08 |  Sussex
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21 Apr 08 |  Nottinghamshire
Safety chiefs to visit builders
10 Feb 08 |  Cornwall


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