This week, Melinda Messenger and Dominic Littlewood head to the market town of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, where Angus and Tracy's relationship is on the brink of collapse. Since a cowboy trashed their extension 12 months ago, the couple have been under extreme pressure - and may not be a couple by the time the renovation is complete.
With five children between them, college lecturers Angus and Tracy decided to create more space in their Dunstable home by building a two-storey extension. The new space would include a wet room, a chill-out area and an additional bedroom. After hearing an advert on local radio, the pair hired builder Tony and invested their life savings in the project. However, 12 months after the work began, the extension is a long way from completion. The walls are bare and unstable; there is exposed wiring all over; the floors are uneven; and shoddy piping leaks raw sewage into the garden. “Things started to go wrong when the foundations were being dug,” says Angus. “The house creaks like a ship under sail.”
Following months of broken promises and missed appointments on the part of their builder, Angus and Tracy realised that the extension was never going to be finished. In addition to the cash they lost, the couple have also been under pressure to pay subcontractors who claim to be owed money by Tony for work they carried out on the project. The stress of the situation has put a huge strain on the pair’s relationship. “We might not survive this,” says Angus. But help is at hand...
Upon seeing the state of the house, Dom and Melinda are determined to put things right. “You’ve reached your lows,” says Dom. “We’re gonna start trying to bring you up again.” While Angus, Tracy and the children move into temporary accommodation, Melinda’s head builder, John, assesses the scene – and is not impressed. A quick grapple with the porch wall brings it crashing to the ground, while a check of the foundations throws up an even more worrying result. The side of the extension is hanging over the edge of the concrete foundations, meaning the whole thing may have to be destroyed. “You’re talking tens of thousands of pounds,” says John. Luckily, a structural engineer advises that the external walls can be underpinned – but the work will still eat up a quarter of the £19,000 renovation budget.
With the work under way, Dom carries out a little research on cowboy Tony, and learns that he has been involved with two building firms in recent years. After the first one was swallowed up in debt and went bust, he started a second and continued to trade under a different name. “We’ve got a basket full of bad eggs,” says Dom.
It soon becomes clear that Angus and Tracy are not Tony’s only unhappy customers. Dom goes to meet Nick, who kept a video diary of the shoddy job Tony did on his rear extension. “That’s the sign of a complete and utter fool,” says Dom upon seeing Tony’s handiwork. And 10 days in to the project, Dom’s detective work succeeds in ruffling some feathers. Tracy gets a call from a disgruntled Tony, who has heard about the investigation and is apparently keen to make amends. He claims he wants to pay back some of the cash he owes, but Tracy has heard it all before. “Right now he’s a worried man,” says Dom. “I’m looking forward to meeting him face to face!”
Back at the site, Melinda and her team have made good progress. The ramshackle porch has been torn down and rebuilt, the new chill-out room is being decorated and the wet room is up and running. However, Melinda is keen to get Tracy and Angus everything they deserve, and sets her sights on a new kitchen – despite the fact that the budget has been spent.
To claw back some cash, she throws herself at the mercy of local builders and traders. Fortunately, Melinda’s charms work, and the team soon has enough spare cash to start on the kitchen. But will the money go far enough, and will the work be finished in time to save Angus and Tracy’s relationship? “There’s still a marathon to run here, but with all our local help and a lot of hard work, I think we can finish on time,” says Melinda.
Melinda and Dom rescue a couple whose South Gloucestershire home was left an unsafe and unsanitary shell by an unscrupulous builder.
Melinda Messenger and Dominic Littlewood head to Bolton to meet a family that has endured 18 months of misery at the hands of a cowboy builder.
Melinda Messenger and Dominic Littlewood meet a family from Sheffield who were left with a derelict house and thousands of pounds' worth of debt.