Builder who botched job accused mum of playing disabled card
A builder pocketed thousands from a disability grant then accused the homeowner of “playing the disability card” when he left the job half done.
Billee Hopkinson took the cash from a mum to convert the family garage for her disabled daughter.
On Thursday Judge Ian Unsworth KC said Hopkinson "moved from victim to victim with ease".
The cowboy builder, from Preston, had no experience or qualifications in his field when he advertised looking for work under the name Ultra Restore Ltd in 2020.
Raynor applied for a grant from South Ribble Council so she could pay Hopkinson to convert the garage for her disabled daughter.
Work commenced on August 31, when Hopkinson ensured the job would be completed by Christmas, but it soon became apparent the deadline would not be met.
In February, with no sign of the conversion being completed, Ms Raynor told Hopkinson she wanted him to leave the job. Hopkinson accused her of “playing the disability card” and had already taken £13,500 from the grant.
The botched job was reviewed by a building surveyor from South Ribble Council who visited the house. Raynor paid out of her own money for a new builder so the garage could be converted, her daughter was so upset with the situation she stood down from a volunteering role.
But Hopkinson had moved on to another job where he was being paid £24,300 to complete a loft conversion for Kate Sowerby who found his contact details on the Trust A Trader website. Reading a review advertising Hopkinson as "a very respectful and reliable service" she thought he was the right person for the job.
However it later emerged it had been written by his friend as a joke and a second glowing review was uploaded by his wife.
In November 2021, Hopkinson was forced to stop work on Ms Sowerby home by building control because the work was so appalling, part of the roof was missing, the house was not waterproof and it was damaging a neighbourhood property. By this point Sowerby had already paid Hopkinson over £13,000.
The home was so cold because of poor workmanship Sowerby’s baby developed breathing difficulties and was rushed to hospital. Her other child moved away from the property because they found it too uncomfortable.
Judge Unsworth KC told Hopkinson at Preston Crown Court: "You had no knowledge or skills in, not only construction, but building standards"
Both homeowners had no choice but to borrow money so they could afford another builder to repair the state Hopkinson left their homes in.
In August 2021, Hopkinson was asked by Annabel Isherwood to build an extension for her house; she paid him £78,000 in instalments up until December 2021, when Ultra Restore Ltd closed down. But in January 2022, Hopkinson asked her for an extra £4,000 to be paid into a separate bank account.
Ms Isherwood made the payment, but when she searched for Ultra Restore Ltd on social media she discovered the company was no longer in operation. She told the court it was “the worst experience of my life."
Unsworth told Hopkinson: "The house was a mess. It has caused tension with the neighbours and family life has been affected.
"I am satisfied that you would quote for work and go on to do work which had no prospect of being completed satisfactorily, or at all. The company was failing but you went on to take on more work.
"I am satisfied you were deceiving your victims. They all believed you were a reputable builder and your company was a sound entity. There is no doubt substantial distress has been caused."
Hopkinson pleaded guilty to three offences under the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, he was jailed for 20 months.
[ Billee Hopkinson told Judge Unsworth he struggled with his mental health during the Covid pandemic ]