Cowboy builders leave dying man and his wife homeless

Sarah Coles
Geoff and Margaret Shipp
Geoff and Margaret Shipp

Geoff Ship and his wife Margaret have been left homeless, after they were ripped off by a cowboy builder. Geoff is in the final stages of motor neurone disease, and is living without running water, heating, a working bathroom or a comfortable bedroom. The couple has been forced to move into their daughter's cottage during the day, and sleep on the building site at night.

Geoff (72) is spending what should be precious days worrying about his home. Margaret (69) told the Daily Mail: "It's been such a huge stress on us at a time when we should have been coming to terms with what is happening to Geoff. It should have been a happy time for us in a new home. I can't even think about it because it brings me to tears."

The cowboys
The couple bought a barn in Tunstall in Suffolk in 2012, with the aim of converting it into a home where they could spend their retirement. They chose a builder through the Association of Master Tradesmen, and agreed to pay him £78,000 for the work, with a deadline of March 2014.

The couple paid him a total of £68,000 before they grew so concerned that they stopped payments and informed police and Trading Standards. The Association of Master Tradesmen terminated the builder's membership over the issue.

They were worried about the terrible standard of the work, as well as the delays that meant they spent a horrible winter in a half-built house.

Many of the windows do not fit and many cannot be opened at all. The builder had tried to replace them, but did such a poor job that the wood is now bowed and there is serious water damage inside. There is a steel beam installed which does not reach all the way across the span of the room, and a number of areas where the brickwork has been done to an inexplicably poor standard.

Because the builder also failed to install suitable drainage, the outside areas are so muddy that Geoff cannot get outside.

Putting it right

The couple brought in another builder, who explained that the steel supports for the garden room hadn't been treated or set in concrete, so it had to be pulled down and rebuilt. They paid the second builder, plumbers and electricians to put the building right, but after spending a total of £104,000, the money ran out before they could complete the job.

The original builder insisted that he was never given a completion date and that he spent more than the original quote because they asked for a number of expensive changes to the original plan. He also said the couple had only paid him £50,000. He added that all his work had been signed off by the building regulators as safe.

Now friends and family have set up a fundraising page to try to raise the last £5,000 to complete the home. So far they are almost halfway to their target. ITV reported that local traders had also offered materials free of charge to help the couple, but they are still not out of the woods.

They said on the page: "Geoff's health is worsening. He chokes multiple times a day and requires round-the-clock care from Margaret. He cannot easily move around his home, and much of it will soon become inaccessible to him."

They added that the couple have always helped those in need around them, so it is particularly difficult to see them suffer now, saying: "They have sacrificed so much throughout their lives to ensure their friends and family are looked after. So to see them so uncharacteristically unhappy and stressed is unbearable."

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