Cowboy builders jailed for causing major damage to pensioners' home and quoting £300,000 for repairs

25 February 2020, 18:03

P&T demolished the living room wall without the couple's knowledge or permission
P&T demolished the living room wall without the couple's knowledge or permission. Picture: Surrey County Council

By Megan White

A pair of cowboy builders have been jailed after causing major damage to the home of an elderly couple and quoting them £300,000 for unnecessary repairs.

Thomas William Penfold, Managing Director of P&T Property Services, and employee Glenn Steel, were jailed for defrauding the pensioners out of thousands of pounds, claiming they needed a whole new roof and knocking down a wall without their knowledge.

Penfold was convicted of fraudulent trading and money laundering and handed immediate custodial sentences of four years and three years respectively, to run concurrently.

Steel was convicted of fraudulent trading and was jailed for 30 months.

The case was brought by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards and the pair were sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Monday.

The couple's bay window was also left damaged
The couple's bay window was also left damaged. Picture: Surrey County Council

The couple were aged 89 and 84 in 2017, when a member of staff calling himself Paul cold called at the couple’s home in Worcester Park, south west London.

He claimed to be from the company which rendered the front of the house a few years’ previously, and said any necessary work was still under guarantee and would be of no cost to the couple.

The trader then realised there was unfinished building work in the house and offered to complete the work at the same cost as the couple’s previous contractor, who they had parted company with. The couple agreed and paid P&T £20,250 for the work.

On their first day of work, P&T demolished the living room wall while the couple were at a hospital appointment and without their knowledge or permission, although Penfold claimed it just fell apart while they were removing plaster.

In a subsequent interview, the husband described his feelings: “I was in shock, I just couldn’t believe that my wall between the living room and the hall could just crumble.”

The elderly couple's hallway was also left half-finished
The elderly couple's hallway was also left half-finished. Picture: Surrey County Council

Penfold and Paul also said the loft was in poor state and the whole roof would need to be replaced. After initially asking for £300,000, they agreed a price of £270,000 for the work.

The couple felt trapped by the builders and felt they had no choice but to agree. The company had also offered to supply extras ‘for free’ such as a stair lift, and paving the front and rear gardens.

Steel wrote the quotes, contracts and paperwork from P&T to the couple, but officers were not able to identify Paul.

The couple transferred £75,800 to P&T, but their bank suspected it was a fraudulent transaction, froze P&T’s bank account and alerted the police.

The police then contacted trading standards to investigate, who visited the home the same day – officers described it as a “building site.”

The couple did get this money back, but the original £20,250 had been withdrawn from the company account shortly after it was transferred and couldn’t be returned.

P&T tried to thwart the investigation, falsely claiming that the couple wanted trading standards to withdraw as it was “causing alarm and distress.”

Trading standards will now see if they can confiscate Penfold and Steel’s assets to compensate the victims.

Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience, said: “Penfold and Steel’s treatment of these two vulnerable couples is nothing short of disgusting and their prison sentences are exactly what they deserved.

“I would like to thank both couples for reliving these hugely distressing events with trading standards officers and in court so we can bring these criminals to justice.

“I would also like to thank our trading standards officers for the long hours and hard work on this investigation, and for their support for both couples.

“It’s vital we bring these cases to court. These people are more than rogue traders, they’re organised criminals who are knowingly targeting vulnerable people with the aim of stealing tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds from them.

“Our message to these criminals is we’re looking for you, we will find you, and we will work tirelessly to bring you to justice.”