A COWBOY builder allegedly conned a family out of £60,000 and left their home in ruins.
Tomosz Krol, 39, and his wife Marta, 37, wanted an extension to their three-bedroom house but have instead spent two years "living on a building site".
The couple signed a contract with Lee Slocombe in 2021 – unaware he had served three years and seven months behind bars for fraud.
They agreed to pay £40,000 for two extra bedrooms and an en-suite at their £300,000 semi in Fairwater, Cardiff, but this quickly shot up to £60,000 as he "kept asking for more and more".
Almost none of the materials arrived and Slocombe then ditched the job part-way through, reportedly leaving the property in a state.
"It's been two years and we are living on a building site," Tomosz told MailOnline.
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"It’s dangerous for us and the children, and it's bitterly cold in the house during the winter."
The family, including 18-month-old Alijia and Tomosz's stepdaughter Oliwia, 16, have to negotiate temporary steps before entering a tunnel just to reach the side door of the house.
Their neighbours have also complained that the set-up is an eyesore in the street.
Tomosz has done what he can with the brickwork himself, but they are still left with exposed wires, scaffolding and half-finished plaster.
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The dad-of-two said he only realised the builder had ripped him and other customers off after seeing a photo of him and reading about his history online.
Tomosz knew him as Lee Lewis but it transpired he was actually Lee Slocombe, who previously scammed three families out of a total of £43,000.
At Newport Crown Court in 2015, prosecutor Claire Pickthall described the tradesman as having told "barefaced" and "sophisticated" lies which left his victims with a "mountain of debt", WalesOnline reports.
He was handed a 43-month sentence after pleading guilty to three counts of fraud.
Tomosz said: "I nearly had a heart attack.
"I knew straight away we had lost our money".
Slocombe, from Swansea, featured on the Channel 5 programme Cowboy Builders which told the story of his deception.
But just months after being freed from prison, he set up two building firms and launched a string of fresh schemes.
It's been two years and we are living on a building site.
Slocombe, listed as a director of LS Refurbishments Ltd and Kamlee Builders Ltd on Companies House, said he had taken extra care to follow the correct procedures after being locked up.
He told MailOnline: "I know I’ve been squeaky clean – I have all the invoices for the materials, architects drawings, the lot.
"I’ve spent just under £100,000 on Mr Krol’s job – I’m the one who is out of pocket.
"I quoted for a garage extension, but then they decided they wanted to extend the kitchen. It’s all added to their cost.
"We were delayed by Covid, then my three-year-old son was diagnosed with autism and asthma and another relative attempted suicide."
Slocombe denied ever using a false name and suggested Tomasz had confused him with the architect of the project, who is called Lewis.
"I’ve got a past, I’ve done my time and should not be judged by it," he added.
"Nothing stops me trading as a builder – I have 20 references from other customers who say I have done a good job."
He has been referred to Trading Standards.
What are my rights?
Under the Consumer Rights Act, anyone who enters a contract for goods and services can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill – and this includes builders, plumbers, decorators and electricians.
It also includes materials, which should be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.
If you've fallen victim to a cowboy builder, or had a dispute with your contractors, you should firstly collate all evidence you have, including paperwork, photos, videos, messages and bank statements.
Then, try to resolve the issues directly with the firm, before trying an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme such as mediation or ombudsman services.
If this doesn't work, contact your bank to find out whether you can recover any money spent using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (if the job cost between £100 and £30,000, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong).
If this doesn't work, report them to the police on 101.
While the lines between what is criminal and just bad practice are blurred, a contractor could be done for fraud.
It is also important to contact Trading Standards. Citizens' Advice has an online form to help you do this.
TS will then decide whether to investigate further based on the information you provide and help negotiate a settlement.
Even if it doesn't, the details may help if anyone else complains about the same firm.
It is also possible to take builders to a small claims court if you have been left out of pocket. However, you run the risk of racking up significant costs.
While most home insurance policies don't cover building work, it is worth confirming this with your provider.
And you should also, if possible, find out whether your builder holds liability insurance, which would also help.
You can find a full list of issues and your rights as a homeowner here.
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