Builder receives suspended sentence for leaving customer with unfinished garden room

Date published: 01 July 2024

A building contractor from Belfast who failed to complete a garden room for a consumer, despite having received over £17,000, received a suspended sentence today at Downpatrick Crown Court.

Trading Standards Service Court Report
Trading Standards Service Court Report

In a case brought by the Trading Standards Service (TSS), Stephen Leslie Spence (50) of Glenlea Park, Belfast, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Mr Spence, who was using the name SS Services, trading as Bespoke Garden Rooms Ltd, agreed to build a garden room and received £17,225 from the complainant.  Work began on the construction of the garden room but it was never fully completed.  The consumer was left with a wooden shell of a building, open to the elements with no doors or windows.  

The complainant commissioned a chartered building surveyor to inspect the construction and concluded that the work which had been completed was so substandard that it needed to be taken down, at a further cost of £3,000, and completely reconstructed in a proper manner.

Kevin McNamara of TSS said: “This is an example of a trader who has taken a substantial sum of money upfront from a consumer and failed to complete the agreed work.  The consumer has been left with a construction that is of no use and will be forced to spend even more money to rectify the matter.”

He added: “At a time of rising prices and increased cost of living, it’s hugely important for  consumers to have confidence in local tradespeople and to expect good quality, professional services.”

The TSS offers the following advice for consumers seeking a reputable tradesperson:

  • Ask your neighbours, family or other tradespeople for personal recommendations of builders who have worked for them and carried out a good job
  • Speak to previous customers for references and view the work, where possible
  • Check that they are a member of a trade body with an arbitration scheme
  • Get everything in writing and agree a price
  • Never pay up front and never pay cash
  • Get at least three quotes
  • Always get a detailed written quotation/contract

Anyone who believes they have been similarly affected should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.

Notes to editors: 

1. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk

3. To keep up to date with news for Trading Standards Service visit @TSSNI

4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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