A former 43-year-old Blackpool builder, Brett Grundy has been jailed for 20 months and banned from working as a sole trader for seven years, following his appearance at Preston Crown Court. The cowboy builder, also trading under the assumed names of North West Construction and Lakefield Construction, left his customers with a trail of destruction and devastation. Grundy, of Clarendon Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to four counts of engaging in commercial practices contravening standards of professional diligence.
When customers complained about his work, Grundy sent intimidating and abusive messages, including claiming two male customers were paedophiles and leaving one woman so distressed she tried to take her own life. A building surveyor for Blackpool Council informed the court that his work was not even basic DIY standard.
Prosecutor, Charles Brown told the court of four examples in which Grundy had been hired on the promise to carry out extensive building and landscaping work for customers on the Fylde Coast.
- Customer One: This customer was housebound with mental health issues and had not left her home for five years. He took her life savings of £10,000 and then asked for extra payments. Mr Brown described the work carried out by Grundy for this customer. The patio doors were in poor condition, the surround was plywood and a piece of timber had been used as a supporting lintel. In December 2020, a building standards surveyor from Blackpool Council visited the woman’s home. ‘Most of the work was not even to a basic DIY standard,’ Mr Brown told the Court.
- Customer two: This second example of Grundy’s work was shared with the Court. In March 2021, a customer hired Grundy to rebuild his garage. Grundy changed the plans, saying he could not provide a tiled roof due to a chimney breast. After two weeks Grundy claimed his vehicle and materials had been seized by the police and never returned to complete the work. When the customer asked Grundy about this, he received an abusive reply. This Court heard that this customer sought advice from another contractor, who said the work carried out to date was unsafe and would have to be knocked down. The customer had to pay an additional £11,800 to remedy the work that had supposedly been done by Grundy.
- Customer three: This customer employed Grundy to carry out a kitchen refurbishment, which included the removal of a chimney breast and installation of a downstairs shower room. Grundy quoted £9,000 to complete the work and provided a contract which stated that the work would begin in March 2021 to be completed by June. But Grundy then repeatedly asked for more money. The customer also became concerned about the standard of work being undertaken, so he sought a second opinion. He was told that the chimney breast had been knocked out and secured only by a piece of wood with six screws. The Court heard that as a consequence another builder was called to carry emergency work to make it safe as the entire weight of the chimney was resting on a flimsy piece of wood and without the emergency work, the chimney was liable to collapse. When this customer contacted Grundy, he was sent threatening messages which branded him paedophile, As this male customer worked in education he feared repercussions from Grundy’s threats – and consequently felt intimidated and threatened.
- Customer four: In March 2021, a couple on the Fylde coast were quoted £21,400 by Grundy to remove a lean-to and carry out garden work. He asked for £12,500 up front to pay for materials. The work was of extremely poor quality, which led to the customer investigating Grundy online, where he discovered a number of poor reviews. He contacted Trading Standards to report Grundy. In a victim impact statement, the customer said the work had left he and his wife financially broken. As a consequence they were no longer able to replace his wife’s adapted car, which she needed to get around, due to a disability.
Judge Guy Mathieson jailing Grundy for 20 months said about these four customers, ‘They have never been compensated and this has never been referred to your insurance company. There is no suggestion of ever finding the money to pay back what you took.
Financially, each customer handed over thousands for work that was shoddy, unfinished and in some cases dangerous. The cost was at least as much as they had paid you to remedy these deficits.
Your response to their concerns and their complaints was to make excuses and to deny what would have been obvious to any semi-competent worker. You demanded more money from these poor, unfortunate people. You ultimately resorted to bullying tactics involving abuse, intimidation and threats.
The financial loss to these people was devastating – whether that represented the loss of their life savings or the loss of means for a dream home. Possibly more harmful, and a far harder measure to assess is the emotional and mental impact, not only of the loss of money that people could ill afford, but living in houses that were part finished and open to the elements – having to deal with you and your cronies and having to somehow rectify what had gone wrong.’
Grundy, of Clarendon Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to four counts of engaging in commercial practices contravening standards of professional diligence. Judge Mathieson sentenced him to a total of 20 months custody and made a Criminal Behaviour Order, banning him from working as a sole trader or holding out as a businessman to the public for the next seven years.
Grundy, who advertised his work various on-line agencies, used fake profiles to give himself five star reviews – and has since been removed from these agencies.