Preston homeowners left thousands out of pocket and with part-built extensions after building firm is wound up
Written by Skywave Radio News on January 14, 2022
Three families in Preston say they have been left with piles of rubble and thousands of pounds out of pocket after working with a city building firm on home improvement jobs.
And the chances of them regaining their money looks limited after the company in question was wound up in late December.
The families in question all entered agreements with Preston based company Ultra Restore Ltd, then located down Blackpool Road, and run by Billee Hopkinson.
Ultra Restore Ltd entered liquidation on December 30 last year, with the three customers LancsLive spoke to left with a mammoth mess to fix.
LancsLive spoke to the three individuals around the city, each of whom says they have lost thousands and will now have to fork more money from their pockets to get their homes in a reasonable state.
Each of them started off their home makeover in the winter of 2021 making the decision to hire Mr Hopkinson’s company to carry out the work.
In November 2021, Tony Carey approached Mr Hopkinson for an extension at the back of his property. Tony bought a new property in Preston the previous August, hoping once it had had a bit of work done, he and his elderly mother could move in there. He hoped it would provide her with a more accessible home to live in.
He said he was initially quoted £20,200 for the extension alongside drain works that were needed too. Tony says once he and Mr Hopkinson agreed upon a start date, he paid him a deposit of £6,200 which he has never seen again.
Tony says he knew something wasn’t right from the off, as he claims workers hadn’t turned up on time and spent only a couple of hours each day on site.
Ultimately, the job was never complete and Tony was left with a garden and house in a complete state.
“It’s affecting me mentally because obviously there’s money lost, I’ve been having sleepless nights, I’m even drinking a bit more to cope with this,” Tony told LancsLive.
“It’s hard to put into words what I think. It’s not right to be treating people this way.”
Since being left in the lurch by Ultra Restore, LancsLive spoke to Tony in January 2022 once again who explained that no work has yet been carried out meaning his house is still very much a construction site.
Now, finding another builder to complete and fix the damage will cost him more than the original quote and months later, he is in no better position.
“It’s exactly the same, I’ve had people come round and getting quotes but it’s costing more money because of the state that it’s in,” Tony said.
“It’s hard to trust people, you just don’t know what people are going to be like. I’m being quoted around £30,000, another £10,000 on top of it all and it’s massively going to affect me financially – I’ve got to find a way to recoup that loss.”
When LancsLive initially spoke to Tony in December, we also spoke to Mr Hopkinson before he voluntarily put his company into liquidation.
At that time, Mr Hopkison had said that his work on Tony’s property was still very much ongoing and that his workers were on site for at least a week before Tony’s complaints.
Responding to the accusations put to him, he claimed that Tony “didn’t want to pay the deposit but I don’t do that, I don’t know a builder who would”.
He added: “I said to him, I will build it up to damp before Christmas. We agreed that I couldn’t finish it yet because I was supposed to start it in February. The best I could do for him is start it, but it’s going to be hit or miss. If it pours down which it had been doing it’s hard work to do much.
“It (the delays) were normal everyday things but I said to him I was on track to get it built up to damp- it’s about six course of brick going around the perimeter and the following year, continue on to work. He’s just making it hard work but he doesn’t want to hear that.”
Mr Hopkinson, in response to claims from Tony saying he wasn’t the only “victim”, said: “Surely it’s against the law to make things up like that. It’s just making me look bad.”
Tony vehemently denied all claims made by Mr Hopkinson.
Since then, two families in Preston have spoken with LancsLive about their experiences with Mr Hopkinson and Ultra Restore Ltd.
Katie Sowerby lives with her partner Chris, together live with three children including Katie’s teenage daughter, a two year old and their new baby boy who was born in August last year.
With the addition of a new family member and upcoming GCSE exams for Katie’s teenage daughter, the family decided to get their loft converted to provide a space for Katie’s daughter to study and give them a little breathing space for the parents and kids.
While heavily pregnant with her son, Katie reached out to Mr Hopkinson who she says quoted her £24,300 for a loft conversion. Katie said this was the same price as other traders, with the only difference being that Mr Hopkinson could do it sooner.
Agreeing on the price and start date in September 2021, Katie paid an £8,100 deposit and everything seemed to run smoothly when the start date arrived.
Soon after, Katie says issues started to come about.
She said with Mr Hopkinson having already taken the first of three payments through Katie’s partner Chris, Katie had to return hospital with her new born baby who was having breathing difficulties.
Katie says the second payment, according to an agreement between the two, was not to be taken out until later but without speaking to her, Katie says Mr Hopkinson had gone through Chris asking him for another payment. Chris paid the additional fee so that work could continue leaving Mr Hopkinson with £16,200 in total from the family.
“It got to a couple of weeks after this where nothing was progressing, I came out of hospital in a week and nothing had progressed so at that point I contacted Citizen’s Advice Bureau,” Katie said.
“I was given six weeks for the actual build and this was six weeks where nothing was going anywhere and they told me to write a letter.”
The letter was posted to Mr Hopkinson and Katie said: “He rang me the day after saying, ‘I’ve got your letter, I do understand but the weather’s rubbish and obviously we can’t do work on your roof where there’s rubbish’.
“I said to him, could he not do inside stuff, fix my leak, fix my lights? And he gave me a little portable light to take around with me and said things will progress so I left it at that.”
Katie says that at one point, her entire third storey floor was flooded with water.
The mum-of-three’s problems increased when she found that the damp and damage done to her property, carried over to two adjoining neighbour’s homes too meaning she now has to find a way to get her home and their homes fixed too.
Having paid further fees and payments for temporary fixes, Katie says and her family have now handed over £17,000. Now that Ultra Restore has gone into voluntary liquidation the mum of three is questioning how this could have happened.
“No one’s listening, and £17,000 has gone and I can’t get it back because legally he’s gone down the right route but where is the law, that’s not right,” Katie said.
“We got a loan for this loft, it wasn’t savings, it’s a loan because I’m on maternity leave. We haven’t got any options and we don’t have any family to help out. Mentally it’s horrible, I can’t sleep.”
The family, months later, still find themselves without anywhere to turn and having called out four companies to quote them for a repair, each has said the damage is too big of a job for them to take on.
“Builders have come out and won’t touch it because it’s that much of a mess. They said things are second hand, things have been put in the wrong place, the damage to next doors and all these agreements,” Katie said.
She says Mr Hopkinson blocked her phone number and doesn’t answer his front door when approached by herself.
Elsewhere in Preston, another man says his home and garden have been ruined following work with Ultra Restore.
Anup Raj reached out to Mr Hopkinson in July 2021 and was initially quoted £65,000 for a side and rear extension with rooms and a double garage – a price he deemed reasonable once compared to other quotes.
Anup says he paid Mr Hopkinson £5,000 for a deposit for work to start in September 2021.
He hoped that the extension to his home would provide enough extra space so he could allow his elderly parents living in India could live with him and his family.
But before their agreed start date, Anup says Mr Hopkinson started asking for more money, telling him that in order to get materials in on time, the money needed to be paid now so he could order in advance.
Having paid another £5,000 in July, Anup says he was approached again to cough up a further £10,000 for more materials. So he could be on site, the dad changed his shifts around and took days off from work to prepare for a big team of workers to arrive at his home on September 20.
Instead, he says Mr Hopkinson alone came, had a coffee, talked over the plans and then left.
“At that point, all builders were delayed and had long wait times,” Anup said.
“It was very disappointing from day one actually – he would always say I’ve ordered this I’ve ordered that but it was early days then and I didn’t ask questions at that point. He said there was a long wait for the timber and I had read the news and trusted that it was taking long but he said he had to pay in advance for the timber.”
Despite explaining to Mr Hopkinson that he already had £20,000 of Anup’s money, Anup claims he was told once again to pay £5,600, totalling £25,600 that the dad of two has now lost.
A month into the job, Anup had paid nearly half of the full amount he was quoted and says there was very little to show for it.
“The foundation’s weren’t complete and every day, if he came, it was only when I phoned him and he never turned up on his own saying, tomorrow I’m going to do it,” He said.
Anup says details like the concrete and the installation were not up to a high standard that he had expected from the building company and it was then that he began asking questions. He said he had described seeing the
Anup says the last time he heard from Mr Hopkinson was on December 14 while his garden and home remained a complete mess.
Days later, he was told by lawyers that Mr Hopkinson’s company was voluntarily going into liquidation.
“It’s very stressful, that is what you see everyday, ever single time when you’re at home and to be honest I’m deeply stressed,” Anup said.
“I get angry very quickly – my son is getting ready for university, he didn’t know we’re losing money. We would sit as a family and do family prayers which I stopped because it’s hard for me.
“I didn’t want to talk to anybody about this especially my friends and family – I don’t want this happen to anyone else, so I talked to them.”
Finding himself in a state of stress and worry, Anup says he experiences feelings of depression after what has happened to his family home which is now affecting his family and work life.
“I’m always tired, I cannot sleep, I wake up at two o’clock, three o’clock, five o’clock it’s just like a nightmare now.
“Billee came as such a wonderful man and you felt like he’s a family man.
“He’s not done a good job, he’s destroyed our dreams, put us under immense stress, it’s hard financially as well.”
Now, he has decided not to secure another contract with a builder, but instead, do what he can to clear the mess, and look to find builders for each individual jobs to manage the situation better.
After speaking to Anup and Katie this month and seeing Ultra Restore had entered liquidation, LancsLive tried once again to contact Mr Hopkinson for further comment.
Our reporter found that his contact details and website had since been removed and calls no longer connected to the phone number used to speak to him previously
Rikki Burton of Anderson Brookes Insolvency Practitioners is the liquidator for the case with Ultra Restore LTD.
He said: “Director of the company, Mr Billee Hopkinson approached Anderson Brookes at the beginning of December to discuss the company’s financial situation. The company had been struggling partly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in that when lockdown happened they were unable to carry out any work and that had a detrimental impact on cash flow.
“Then when restrictions were lifted, price of materials had increased and jobs that had been quoted on became less profitable to the point where cash flow reserves were insufficient to buy new materials for jobs and therefore Mr Hopkinson made the decision in December to place the company into liquidation.
“Now my job as liquidator is to investigate the affairs of the company and the conduct of it’s directors in the moths preceding the liquidation to look into what happened to the company, why it ended up in liquidation and try and look at getting some form of return to the creditors. At the moment, the return to creditors looks quite unlikely because there are no assets in the company at the date of the liquidation.”
There are currently eight creditors listed on the report with a total debt of £71,800, including £12,000 to HMRC.
Among them are Tony Carey, Anup Raj, and Katie Sowerby, the three individuals mentioned in this article. The three of them are owed a combined £31,000 according to Companies House.
Regarding the disparity in what is said to be owed and what is on Companies House, liquidator Mr Burton explained that this was what was inputted by Ultra Restore Ltd as to what was owed. It is an ongoing process, he added.
He explained that creditors can still claim a larger amount if they feel this is what is owed.
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