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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The plasterer

Last Monday I got a plasterer in to make my ceilings nice. He told me it was going to take 3 days to do the 3 ceilings, and that his daily rate was £225 per day. He was also recommended by my boss Andy who told me that he was reliable and a really nice guy. His quote seemed reasonable, so I got him to come over on Tuesday morning to start work.

Tuesday morning he turns up at 8, and tells me that my flat will be basically uninhabitable for the next few days and that I'd be wise to stay somewhere else. I move back into my parents house for a few days and give him the keys to my flat so that he can let himself in and out. Tuesday afternoon he calls me up and says that he will get the work done quicker if we get some scaffolding, and gets me to organize the rental due to him not having a credit card. I ask him why he doesn't have scaffolding already, and he says that he's using it on another job. This seems strange but I do it, as he assures me that it will save him time and get the job done quicker. The scaffolding is arranged to turn up at 9am on Wednesday morning at a cost of £100 for the week. I call him after work to see how he got on and he tells me that none of the rooms are done yet, but he has managed to prepare the bedroom and the living room for plastering. He is confident that he will get the kitchen prepared and the three rooms plastered on time though.

Wednesday: I call him up at about 1pm to see how he's getting on. He says that the scaffolding has only just turned up, so they couldn't do anything all morning. But he says that he is now about to start work. I call him again at the end of the day and he has just finished the living room. This leaves the kitchen to prepare and two rooms to plaster in one day. He tells me that is now likely to take an extra day but he'll definitely be finished by Friday.

Thursday: I call him up at the end of the day expecting for him to have finished the bedroom and prepared the kitchen. Instead he has only managed to finish the bedroom. He says that this is because it took him half a day to move my stuff from room to room. It should be mentioned at this point that he had never told me that I would need to move my stuff (two sofas, a bed, and a table), because originally there was no mention of scaffolding and he said that it would be fine to work around them with dust sheets on. Half a day seems like a long time to move a bit of furniture but the phone line is bad and he doesn't really give me time to argue. He assures me that the kitchen will be prepared and plastered by the end of Friday.

Friday: I call him up at the end of the day and he has only managed to prepare the kitchen. He says that it was harder than he expected, and that he will need to come back at 8am on Sunday to finish the job. I am not pleased at the escalating cost but agree as I just want the job finished so that I can live in my flat again. He asks for payment for the 4 days he has worked so far, but will only accept cash. I get out £500 and hand it over to him. He wants the other £400 (for the 4 days so far) plus £225 (for the Sunday) asap but I tell him that I'll give him the rest when he finishes. I am also expecting to deduct the scaffolding fees from this.

Saturday: I come back home in the morning and discover the place in an absolute tip so I spend most of the day clearing up the bedroom and living room. The walls are covered in dirt, the paper is ripped in many places, and there is plaster all over the windows, blinds, and edge of the floor. I realise that I will now have to redecorate the whole flat. At about 5pm I get a call from him. I say that the place is in a tip, and he says that he will tidy it up on Sunday when he finishes. I say that the scaffolding needs to be returned before I incur another week's worth of fees, and he says that he will take it back on Sunday when he finishes. The conversation then goes like this:

Him: "I've left my £2,000 rolex in your kitchen"
Me: "OK, well you will be here tomorrow morning anyway so you can pick it up then"
Him: "I need it tonight for a party, I don't want to wear my other £10,000 rolex"
Me: "OK, well I'll be in for the next hour if you want to come and pick it up"
Him: "How about you bring it to me, I'm in Marylebone in a pub with my mates"
Me: "No, I'm busy now, but you can come here if you like, I'll wait for you"
Him: "I'm busy too. I tell you what, you get in a cab and bring it to me. I'll pay for the cab."
Me: "No, I'm busy! Why don't you get in a cab and come to get it, it will cost you the same"
Him: "Tch. OK well put it in a cab and get it driven over here then. But make sure you pick a good cab firm, I don't want them stealing my rolex. You pay and I'll pay you back."
Me: "Look, I don't know any cab numbers. If you want to send a cab over here then fine, I'll put the watch in it. If not you can come over or just get it tomorrow morning when you start work at 8, you are still coming right?"
Him: "Tch."

Sunday: I wake up at 7:45, knackered from not enough sleep, and wait for him to turn up. I am looking forwards to watching him work as I have been speaking to me neighbors and they say that every time they see him, he is just sitting around chatting to a mate drinking tea. This correlates with the disappearance of food and drink from my fridge. Of course, he never turns up. I phone him several times throughout the day and the evening, no response. I am not happy. I get slightly concerned about the idea of this guy having keys to my flat when I don't even know his full name or address, so I go to B&Q to change one of the locks to the door to prevent him from wandering in whenever he feels like it.

Monday: Wake up at 7:45 again, wondering if he is going to turn up unannounced to finish the job, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt and entertaining ideas that he may have lost his phone or something. I am prepared to let him finish the job if he turns up, just to get it done, but also planning to negotiate the price. He will have taken 5 days instead of 3, plus made me pay for the scaffolding. This has almost doubled my costs. He doesn't turn up. Throughout the day I keep phoning him again, no response. I realize that I am going to have to take the scaffolding back myself, so I arrange to have it collected, forcing me to have to take the afternoon off work (lost revenue) and pay an extra £20 collection fee.

Tuesday: No word. By now I have spoken to a few people and they all advise me not to pay him any more money and to tell him not to come back. This seems fair considering that despite theoretically spending 4 days at my flat, he had only actually managed 2.5 days work (according to his original quote), and that he had cost me money and time with the scaffolding.

Wednesday evening: I get a phone call from him.

Him: "You need to give me my money and my watch"
Me: "What happened to you over the last few days?"
Him: "I was busy. It's not a problem is it?"
Me: "Yes actually it is. You have cost me money and messed me around. Give me your address and I'll send you your watch by recorded post."
Him: "No, I'll come to pick it up, and my money"
Me: "Well I'll give you your watch but I'm not going to give you any more money, you haven't done the job"
Him: "If you don't give me my money then you're going to f*cking pay"
Me: "Was that a threat?"
Him: "I am going to get some mates and come over to your place to beat the sh*t out of you, I don't care about the money but you're going to pay, trust me"
Me: "You what? Listen, calm down. I'm not paying you for a job you haven't finished. I've already given you 500 quid."
Him: "If you don't pay me the full amount then trust me, you will pay in other ways"
Me: "I'm recording this conversation, if you have a problem with payment then take me to court"
Him: "I don't care. You're going to f*cking pay."
Me: "Jesus, OK fine I'll give you they money for the days you did. But I don't want you at my flat. Give me your bank details."
Him: "No. I'll meet with Andy tomorrow and pick up the money and the watch."

I get off the phone a bit shaken up but his ridiculous reaction. I'd rather pay the money than worry about being beaten to a pulp one day by a bunch of his angry mates as I leave my flat. I phone Andy to tell him about it and he's already got a phone call from the plasterer, he can't believe what just happened but is happy to act as the middle man to sort it out. I phone the police and ask them for advice and they say that they don't know who he is and can't do anything until he does something illegal. I decide not to stay at my flat that night anyway.

Thursday: I swing by my flat in the morning at 8:30 to pick up his watch, only to discover that my flat has been broken into. The new lock has been kicked in, and the others have been unlocked with a key. The plasterer is the only person with keys to my flat. He has also locked the front gate after him. I phone the police and get them over. His watch and my computer monitor and keyboard are missing, but everything else (including my computer) is still here. The police say that it will take 3 weeks to trace the phone number to a person, but that it probably won't work as he'll have an unregistered pay as you go phone. They advise me to change all of my locks and to try to resolve the situation myself. I take the day off work to change the locks and wait for forensics. They say that although his fingerprints are all over my flat, they can't use them as he was supposed to be there plastering. The only thing they can use is a footprint on some mail which had been delivered this week, and he had no reason to be in the flat this week.

Friday: No word from him. I assume that the matter is over but feel pretty uneasy about everything as it is not officially resolved, although the value of what he stole plus the damage equates to pretty much £400. On Friday evening Andy gets a phone call from him saying that he is coming over on Saturday to collect his money and his watch. Andy tells me. I tell the police. The police tell me that they have no leads and that I should not meet him but try to resolve it myself. I decide to call the plasterer. He is incredibly reluctant to speak to me on the phone as he is clearly paranoid that I am recording it. He refuses to discuss the break-in and insists that I still owe him 400 pounds. He doesn't mention the watch. He says that he is going to meet Andy tomorrow as planned to pick it up. I tell him to bring me a monitor and keyboard.

Saturday: He meets Andy and gets his money. No monitor and keyboard. He reluctantly says that the matter is over when pressed by Andy. I decide to write off the monitor as a loss, and be relieved that it wasn't worse. No-one can quite believe what happened. My flat is still in a state and needs plastering. On the plus side he did actually do a good job of the bedroom and living room.

What a nightmare.
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