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Family wait for builder to install sensory room

Abbie Merrett pushing her son rory in a pram and her daughter Rozalyn
Abbie Merrett pushing her son rory in a pram and her daughter Rozalyn Image credit: dailymail.co.uk

A family with a disabled son are still waiting for a builder to complete a sensory room despite paying them £7,000 which they could barely afford.

Abbie Merrett, 33 and her husband David, 37, paid a self-employed builder who agreed to install a personal space for their 3-year-old child Rory, who has autism and is non-verbal.

The parents from Retford, Nottinghamshire paid a £7,000 deposit for the £18,000 room which was set to include an accessible bed, padding and changing table on July 30, 2021.

But the builder keeps on putting back the start date with a number of excuses, their van apparently broke down, the fuel shortage, heavy rain…

In October Mrs Merrett confronted the construction worker with emails they had sent promising to pay back the money, but she is still waiting for the cash to go back into her account and Rory, who also has learning disabilities, has been left without his sensory room.

To make matters worse the mum came across a message from the builder online boasting that they were about to move into a campervan full-time.

The worker has said Mrs Merrett’s cash is ‘sat waiting’ ' and 'all she has to do is reply to the email' he sent, but she has screenshots to prove she has responded to the messages.

She told Mail Online: 'It's been a nightmare really. It's just so upsetting. We got some plans done by a local architect to get a single storey extension done so I can change (my son) downstairs. 

'He has to sleep in a special bed so we wanted everything on the ground floor. I got some quotes from local builders and he was one of them. He came out, had a look and seemed like a really nice guy.

'It was meant to be £18,000 in total, but it was broken down into three payments. It was £7,000 for materials, £5,000 when at roof level and the rest on completion, which is normal in the building trade.

'I went ahead with his quote. He messaged me to say he was in the suppliers and he needed the money to get the materials for the job.

'I paid that day, the £7,000, on July 30 2021. He was due to start two weeks later and that's when all the excuses started. I just don't want it to happen again (to anyone else).'

Mrs Merrett believes she has been patient, waiting for the builder to show up and hearing numerous excuses to why he was unable to keep appointments.

She said: 'He said he couldn't come because of the fuel shortage but he only lives six miles away and there weren't any problems in our area. He said he had to go to a funeral, there was a delay with suppliers, his car wouldn't start, he had to take his van for an MOT. Excuses basically.

'After about four weeks I got a bit annoyed and asked him for the supplier's telephone number and details so I could ring them myself. At this stage I thought there'd been delays and wanted to try and hurry it along.

'He wouldn't give me the details and said he'd sort it. I didn't really question it then it wasn't until two weeks later that I waited in for the bricks. I waited in and nothing turned up. This kept happening for weeks on end.'

After repeatedly chasing the worker, desperate Abbie claims she was then promised an exact start date, but again, nothing materialised and he kept giving excuses such as 'heavy rain, fuel shortages and appointments'.

After several attempts to reclaim her money Mrs Merrett was told the builder no longer had the cash and it had been passed on to the suppliers.

Mrs Merrett said: '(In the end) I said I wanted the deposit back or I'd like the order number and suppliers details, or I'd be going to the police as something wasn't right. He said he hadn't got my money now and the suppliers had it.'

The delay has affected the rest of the family, Rory is without his sensory room, he is keeping his sister Rozalyn up all night crying and the parents still haven’t received a penny from the builder.

Mrs Merrett said: 'I went to the police and they said they'd look into it for me. I've also rung trading standards. As of today, I haven't received a penny from him. He just sent loads of emails saying he'd pay me and nothing ever came through. I've still not heard from him.

'I didn't get my changing table and it's affected us massively. We can't afford to have the work done now. The total price was £18,000 so minus £7,000, no one's going to build a single storey extension for that sort of money.

'Rory gets disability living allowance so some of the money is from that and the rest is a loan from friends and family. Now we have to pay that back at £100 a month.

'My son's not got a changing table now. I'm having to carry him upstairs. He's nearly four and he's completely non-verbal. He'll be staying with us for life and he's got severe mental impairments. It's made the whole family really ill.'

The builder told Mail Online: 'All Abbie needs to do is reply to the email sent 19/10/2021. Her money is sat waiting. She's also ignored my solicitors letter and obviously carrying on with the slander and a creating public media witch hunt to which my while family have suffered with attacks and harassment.'

A spokesperson from Nottinghamshire Police said: 'Nottinghamshire Police is investigating a reported fraud offence and has been liaising with the person affected and others to gather the necessary evidence.

'We understand the very significant impact fraud offences can have on victims and will be working hard to get a successful resolution in this case. Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to call 101 quoting incident 86 of 13 October.'

A spokesperson from Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards said: 'In this instance, our Trading Standards team was made aware of Ms Merrett's situation by our partner agency, the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, after she contacted them in October 2021.

'Our Trading Standards officers sympathised with Ms Merrett's situation and following advice being provided by our partner agency the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, they also contacted Ms Merrett to provide some additional advice. Our Trading Standards team have had no further contact with Ms Merrett since this.

'If Ms Merrett requires further legal advice on how to pursue the builder for breach of contract, we recommend she contacts the Citizens Advice Consumer Service again.

'If any other consumers have experienced problems with this trader, then we would encourage them to contact our partner agency the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 to report this and obtain advice.'

A family friend of the Merretts has launched a JustGiving page to cover the cost of the £7,000 sensory room.