James' Gutters and Roofing falsely claimed expensive repairs were needed
Gutters in a home in Putney that the pair claimed had been cleaned
Two men who ran a roofing firm which tried to swindle homeowners in Putney by falsely claiming they needed expensive repairs have been prosecuted and fined.
James Smith and Timothy Draper-Smith were taken to court by Wandsworth Council trading standards officers after an investigation was launched into their activities.
Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court heard that the duo had been cold calling residents in Putney and offering gutter cleaning services via their company James’ Gutters and Roofing Ltd. People who agreed this work were then told that significant roof repairs were needed which would cost tens of thousands of pounds.
In one instance a resident paid £140 for his gutters to be cleared but was then told his roof needed £48,000 worth of repairs. When he declined the offer the bill was quickly lowered to £20,000 on the basis that scaffolding wouldn’t be required. With his suspicions raised the resident asked the men to provide a written invoice – which was signed by ‘Tim Smith’. A few days later, despite paying for them to be cleared, the resident’s gutters overflowed during a downpour.
At this point the council’s trading standards team were called in and they arranged for a building surveyor to inspect what had been done. He found that little or no gutter clearance had been carried out and that scaffolding would definitely be required for the proposed roof repairs – which he estimated would cost only £16,000.
Another gutter 'cleaned' by James' Gutters and Roofing Ltd
The investigation later identified Tim Smith’s real name amid suspicions he had omitted part of his surname with the intention of obscuring his identity and his connection to the company.
Further investigations revealed their company’s publicity and marketing material displayed unauthorised and false quality mark logos along with an untrue claim that the company possessed “full public liability insurance”.
When quizzed about their activities during a formal interview both men declined to comment. They later applied to dissolve their company.
At the magistrates’ court hearing earlier this month, Mr Smith, aged 28 and from Cranleigh in Surrey, plus Mr Draper-Smith, 52 of Staines in Middlesex both pleaded guilty to a series of consumer protection offences. They were each fined £5,000 and ordered to pay combined costs of £8,000. Their Farnborough based company was also ordered to pay £610 in costs and compensation.
Wandsworth’s community services spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said, “This was a blatant and despicable attempt to swindle one of our residents out of thousands of pounds. Thankfully he wasn’t taken in by their deception and as a result of him alerting us to their activities we have been able to bring them to justice.
“Residents should always be extremely wary of people who call unannounced and offer to carry out expensive repairs or other types of work. Our advice in these cases is to offer a polite refusal and close the door.
“People should never feel pressured into agreeing to work and should always obtain more than one written quote. Reliable traders can be found through the government backed Trust Mark Scheme at www.trustmark.org.uk
“And if they suspect something isn’t right or are subject to undue pressure or coercion they should call the police.”
There is also a listing of reputable roofing companies on the PutneySW15.com directory.
Complaints can also be made to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.
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June 30, 2021