Following an investigation by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Trading Standards department, the director of a Resolven landscaping company, “Total Landscaping Solutions Ltd”, Nicholas REES, who preyed on vulnerable consumers and made false claims has been sentenced to 8 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay £9000 compensation at Swansea Crown Court for offences of fraud and theft.
In December 2020 the department received a complaint about Total Landscaping Solutions Ltd which had entered into a contract locally with an elderly couple to renovate their garden so they could access and enjoy it during their retirement.
The initial quote for the work was in excess of £15,000. The figure included over £2,500 tax which Rees said he would not charge if the complainant paid cash. This was agreed, with the final price being £13,000. The couple paid a £6,500 deposit, with the remainder due on completion.
The company did not begin work on the agreed start date, offering varying explanations. About 2 weeks after the initial start date work began slowly, with the company’s employees spending a couple of hours a day at the property.
A few days after starting, Rees – 38 years old, of Yeo Street, Resolven – asked for a further payment of £3,500 to pay for materials, saying it was due to being a new company and the price of materials had gone up.
Again, a few days later Rees asked for and received another payment of £2,500. In early November Rees told the complainant that they would be finished that day so received the final payment of £3,000. The work was not finished.
Due to the inclement weather and his disabilities the Complainant was unable to inspect the work for some time. When he did, he found it was very slippery and dangerous, he could see that the steps were far too steep and dangerous. He stated that the steps looked poorly constructed and the wood seemed flimsy and split and uneven.
Mr. Timothy DAVIES, a Chartered Building Surveyor, Expert Witness and RICS Accredited Valuer attended the property. His report stated:
‘The standards of workmanship/execution is in my opinion well below that of minimum industry acceptable standard, and overall quite appalling. There is little evidence of skill or competence demonstrated in the work completed to date on site.’
Mr Davies stated that the cost of material used on site would be a total of approx. £1371.40. He also reported that if the work onsite had been completed to a minimum acceptable standard, labour and plant costs included would be around £3000-£4000 (net VAT). Therefore a total cost of £5371.40 for the work to be completed in total to a minimum acceptable standard.
Mr Davies went on to report that the majority of the work will have to be removed and recompleted by an experienced tradesman. He estimated that the cost of the work to be redone will be approx. £6000-£7000.
A second complainant had engaged with Rees and Total Landscaping Solutions Ltd during October 2020 for work at their property. The work commenced, as arranged, during May 2021. However as the work was coming to completion, Rees falsely told them that he had not been paid for work he had been doing for Tai Tarian and as a result was winding up the company, so would not be able to complete their fence despite having been paid for the work upfront.
After Rees pleaded Guilty to 3 counts of Fraud by False Representation and 1 count of Theft of £3,000 on the 2nd March 2023, HHJ Paul Thomas KC postponed sentencing to allow time for Rees to make a voluntary partial refund of £3000 to be split between his victims.
At the re-commenced sentencing hearing, on 31st March 2023, HHJ Paul THOMAS KC said of Rees “you are a typical Rogue Trader… preying on vulnerable victims…adding fictitious work and charges”. He went on to say “the effect is not just the financial loss, but the mischief is in the stress and anxiety caused to victims.”
Allowing credit for his guilty pleas, the Judge then sentenced REES to 8 months imprisonment in relation to the first victim, and 6 months imprisonment for the second victim, both sentences to run concurrently. The term of imprisonment would be suspended for 2 years
HHJ Paul Thomas, KC, went on to say that suspending the imprisonment would enable Rees to continue to pay his victims back and ordered him to pay £250 a month for a period of 3 years which would be split between the two victims. The Judge also sentenced him to 20 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days and to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work.
Deputy Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety Cllr Alun Llewelyn said: “We welcome the sentence delivered and are pleased that the court recognised the financial loss and mental harm caused to the victims. Trading Standards takes a hard line on investigating businesses that flout the law and target the vulnerable”.
“The service is promoting a national trading standards run trader approval scheme called ‘Buy With Confidence’. Legitimate and responsible traders are encouraged to make enquiries with the department to join the scheme. Consumers should check the ‘Buy with Confidence’ website for approved traders”.
If you wish to report any such incidents please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223113 or 0808 2231144 if you wish to speak to an advisor in Welsh.