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Surrey Lofts - advice please

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Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby RogerM » 23 Apr 2015, 10:18

I could do with some advice from some of you guys who maybe get involved with building contracts, and in particular loft conversions in the London area. My daughter and son-in-law are planning a loft conversion to a 1930s 3 bed semi in Kingston-on-Thames. They have approached 3 builders that have been recommended.

Builder 1 doesn't respond to emails or phone calls.

Builder 2 is "Surrey Lofts" which has submitted a competitive quote for a fixed price contract, responds to questions put by email or phone call and comes with good references. However, they want 15% up front deposit - which is somewhere in the region of £6-£7k, payable by a BACS transfer - and a further 15% when the scaffolding is up.

Builder 3 has quoted £9k more than Surrey Lofts but requires no upfront deposit - just stage payment for drawings and building regs, and thereafter in arrears during construction.

It turns out that Surrey Lofts have only been in existence for 18 months and that my daughters contact there was previously a director of a loft conversion company that went bust. Alarm bells are sounding! Were all creditors of that company repaid in full? Including unsecured ones? I suspect that whilst he probably has a nice house and car, all significant assets will be owned by his wife and that there would have been no claim on them. What happens if come the day, no one turns up? Or they're told that there have been some unforeseen delays and they can't start until November? Or next year? My daughter would have no hand to play unless she wrote off the deposit. Everything you ever read or see tells you not to pay significant sums up front - so why would a reputable company ask you to do just that?

I think they need a 3rd quote. That will determine whether the outfit which is charging £9k more is too expensive, or whether Surrey Lofts is too cheap.

I've also suggested that they tell the guy from Surrey Lofts that they like his approach, that his communications and references are good, and that the overall price is acceptable and that everything else being equal they would like to accept his quote - but his requirement to make such a large upfront deposit before any work has been done is a sticking point, as is the requirement to make a BACS transfer which provides them with no protection whatsoever. Tell him that companies have been known to go bust between paying a deposit and work starting - which would tell him nothing he doesn't already know (!) and would also tell him that they've done their homework. Given that Surrey Lofts is a reputable company, why do they ask prospective clients to do something that the industry as a whole advises so strongly against - i.e. making a significant payment up front before any work has been done. At the very least, insist that funds are held in escrow, or paid by VISA, and that the start date agreed is a material part of the contract.

I should also add that they also want a further 15% once scaffolding has been erected. Their website claims that they do everything in house and don't use subcontractors, which on the face of it is good. That presumably includes the erection of scaffolding. The scaffolding required for this project would be very simple - probably erected in half a day - at which point they want another 15% which would be in the region of another £6 - £7k. If they own the scaffolding, then all they will be paying out themselves is maybe for 1 days work for 2 men. So my daughter would have paid out 30% of their budget before any actual work has started on their house!

We live over 200 miles away so we haven't any local knowledge on this one. Can anyone else offer any constructive advice here please? My gut is telling me to feel uneasy, and it rarely lets me down!
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Andyp » 23 Apr 2015, 10:52

Personally I would not pay 30% before work even starts scaffolding is not "work" in my opinion. But then I have no experience of this level of building work. I only had a new roof and landscape garden done in SE London a few years back and only the landscaper required a deposit and that was only 5%.

Have you, they, considered asking Builder 3 why he is 20% more expensive than other quotes? There may be room for movement.
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Robert » 23 Apr 2015, 11:00

A few minutes internet searching...

Domain name:
surreylofts.co.uk

Registrant:
Daniel Drogman

Registrant type:
Unknown

Registrant's address:
8 Connaught Hill
Loughton
IG10 4DU
United Kingdom

Name & Registered Office:
SURREY LOFTS (WEYBRIDGE) LIMITED
NICHOLSON HOUSE
41 THAMES STREET
WEYBRIDGE
SURREY
KT13 8JG
Company No. 08314399

Directorships
Showing all directorships
Name & Function Status Portfolio
[British] Search on Linkedin
Mr Mark Leslie Grimshaw
Director
01 Oct 2013 — Present (1 year, 6 months, 22 days)
Open

Open1
Retired1
Closed9

Company & Function Status
Surrey Lofts (Weybridge) Limited
08314399 (Active)
Director
01 Oct 2013 — Present (1 year, 6 months, 22 days)

Open
Mgs Design & Build Limited
03238022 (Dissolved)
Director, Building Contractor
19 Mar 1997 — Close

Closed
The Four Seasons Decking Co. Limited
03798810 (Dissolved)
Director, Company Director
30 Jun 1999 — Close

Closed
Mgs Construction Company Limited
03924921 (Dissolved)
London Gazette notices available See notices
Director, Director
16 Feb 2000 — Close

Closed
Mgs Construction Company Limited
03924921 (Dissolved)
London Gazette notices available See notices
Company Secretary, Director
16 Feb 2000 — Close

Closed
Equity Construction Limited
03648912 (Dissolved)
Director, Developer
22 Mar 2000 — Close

Closed
Foxmead Homes Limited
04083249 (Dissolved)
Director, Director
04 Jan 2002 — Close

Closed
Loftscope Developments Limited
07533427 (Dissolved)
Director, Director
17 Feb 2011 — Close

Closed

They filed accounts in Nov 2014 but I'd have to pay to see those. they would tell you how they are doing.

The MD does seem to be a serial company former and dissolver
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby TrimTheKing » 23 Apr 2015, 11:02

Based on what you've said there I would be uneasy too.

I will forward this to a mate of mine who runs his family construction company and see what he says…

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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Wizard9999 » 23 Apr 2015, 11:26

TrimTheKing wrote:Based on what you've said there I would be uneasy too.


:text-+1:

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law part paid a builder upfront for work, halfway through the job he did a runner. Personal rule of thumb, never, ever, ever pay a builder in advance. If they have a sound business this is what their working capital and trade terms at their suppliers are there for.

Their financial year end is 30th November, so the 2014 accounts are not due to be filed until August this year. However, appears the company was set up with only a £100 of equity and as of 30th November 2013 had retained earnings of £3,576, so unless there has been a very profitable period since then (and these profits have not been paid out as dividends) this company is highly unlikely to be able to repay unsecured creditors if something goes wrong.

Not saying it would be wrong to get them to do the work, but I certainly would not be handing money to them in advance.

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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Robert » 23 Apr 2015, 11:27

Oh and

NICHOLSON HOUSE
41 THAMES STREET
WEYBRIDGE
SURREY
KT13 8JG

appears to be a virtual office. loads registered there - http://www.endole.co.uk/company-by-postcode/kt13-8jg
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby RogerS » 23 Apr 2015, 11:31

I'd run a mile from Surrey Lofts. I could understand it if they used some of that money to pay the scaffolding company but since they want yet more money....iffy.

As you suggest I'd get a third quote.

Is there any way of contacting the first builder as often non-response is a sign of a builder who is busy - always a good sign. Or of one who is hopelessly disorganised :lol:
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Wizard9999 » 23 Apr 2015, 11:36

Robert wrote:Oh and

NICHOLSON HOUSE
41 THAMES STREET
WEYBRIDGE
SURREY
KT13 8JG

appears to be a virtual office. loads registered there - http://www.endole.co.uk/company-by-postcode/kt13-8jg


It may be that this is just their accountant's, my company has its registered office at our accountants and I suspect there will be hundreds of companies registered at the same address.

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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby StevieB » 23 Apr 2015, 11:39

I would avoid this company personally - circa 30% up front is too much. If it rings alarm bells then run - trust your gut on this one as the alternative of a failed builder is not worth the extra cash builder 3 would cost in my opinion. Can certainly play one off against the other though and see how much wiggle room builder 3 has - if he split the difference that would save circa £4.5k just for asking. If you go with 2 and it falls through, not only do you lose 30%, you also have to pay builder 3 on top if you still want the job doing.

I had some steel work done in my house last year and had to pay approx 10% in advance for the ordering of the steels. I saw the steel quote and agreed on that basis. This was a small one man band however and his justification was that if he ordered and I cancelled he could do nothing with the specified steels, leaving him at a loss. I agreed with him and paid 10% in advance.

Thus it is not unheard of to ask for monies in advance, but 30% is a bit steep before even a penny has been spent.

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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Rob » 23 Apr 2015, 12:38

similar experience to me. I gave my builder some monies up front because his material order (steels, bricks, blocks and cement etc) was more than his credit line. I also reviewed the quotes from the material suppliers and agreed the sum on that basis. Mind you I already knew and (mostly) trusted him!
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby RogerS » 23 Apr 2015, 13:32

Rob wrote:similar experience to me. I gave my builder some monies up front because his material order (steels, bricks, blocks and cement etc) was more than his credit line. I also reviewed the quotes from the material suppliers and agreed the sum on that basis. Mind you I already knew and (mostly) trusted him!


I agree with that approach. One builder I have used prefers me to buy the stuff using his trade account discount. That way he can manage to stay below the VAT threshold.
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Woodbloke » 23 Apr 2015, 15:08

Roger, my gut feeling, having read all the info, is to stay well clear of SL - Rob
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Rob » 23 Apr 2015, 16:27

I entirely concur with that. Despite the fact I gave money up front to my builder, the circumstances were completely different. The evidence published here would lead any rational person to the conclusion the risk is extraordinarily high in going with that particular firm.
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby RogerM » 23 Apr 2015, 16:35

Guys - thanks for all the advice and info.

Robert - thanks very much for the info posted above. I've done a search on all 7 companies mentioned in your post and apart from Surrey Lofts (Weybridge) Ltd, all have been wound up - 3 of them compulsorily. Nuff said.

The value of this forum makes itself felt yet again!
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Mike G » 23 Apr 2015, 18:28

Don't ever pay a builder up front.

Always ask for references, and go and visit some of their previous jobs. What the owners say about them is usually very revealing, and it is even more revealing if they won't give references, or only say one or two.

Be cautious of specialist loft conversion companies: there is no need for them, because this is just standard builder's work. Get prices from reputable local builders (always employ locals who would be embarrassed if their reputation were to be spoiled by a job going wrong).

Always retain an agreed percentage for 6 months post-completion for snagging.

Buying materials for a builder to use is perfectly all right, so long as you buy them in your name so that ownership is never in question.
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby Rod » 23 Apr 2015, 19:25

Never pay up front.

A few years I agreed to pay a builder for materials once they had been delivered.
Materials duly arrived and stored in my double garage, builders wife arrived shortly after and I handed over a cheque for them.
Work was due to start a few days later but the builder didn't turn up - phoned and talked to his wife who said he was in hospital after hurting his back. Shortly after that the Builders Merchant turned up demanding his goods back as the builders cheque had bounced!!
To cut a long story short he had tried to top himself after running into financial difficulties and was in hospital but a Mental one!
Never did get the £2k back as when he was eventually discharged he actually succeeded in killing himself.

I thought I was being secure by my actions but the only way to help a small builder is to buy the materials directly yourself and agree on stage payments as work is completed keeping some monies back for snagging.

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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby TrimTheKing » 23 Apr 2015, 22:08

Reply from my mate, the one who runs the family construction business (This answer came from before we knew about the guys history of flopping businesses)…

I always tell our surveyors / buyer not to part with money up front unless we absolutely have to. Not only is the money at risk but you also lose all power over them.

Like price, up front payments can be negotiated down. I tell surveyors to get rid completely, failing that pay day before they are due on site or reduce amount of deposit.

I'd be asking builder 3 to match builder 2's price and if they can't I'd revisit the market (if there's time).

I'm not surprised builder 2 is asking for money up front - we often get asked and we have 43 years trading history. Plus domestic customers are often imbeciles who withhold money for the smallest reason.


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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby RogerM » 24 Apr 2015, 16:43

Thanks Mark. The builder 2 quote can be regarded as dead in the water. We have a couple more promising leads so my daughter and son-in-law will be following those up over the next day or two.
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Re: Surrey Lofts - advice please

Postby MisterD » 28 Feb 2020, 12:46

I know this is an old thread but thought I should post considering we had a bad experience with Surrey Lofts.

We had a lot of problems - poor quality work, poor communication and Mark (the managing director) was not only rude but did not want to accept responsibility for his employees or anything that went wrong.

Doesn't seem like we're the only ones either as other people are posting some more recent surrey lofts reviews with a few horror stories including damage to properties: https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/local/3335184-Surrey-Lofts

When this thread was opened they were trading under 'Surrey Lofts (Weybridge) Ltd' and that company has also closed like a lot of his previous companies. Companies House shows them as owing over £70,000 to HMRC when they went into liquidation.

He's since opened new companies called 'Surrey Lofts Group Ltd' and 'Surrey Developments (Walton) Ltd'.

Anyway, it's too late for us but I'd hate for anyone else to go through the same experience we did.

D
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