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Home wreckers: Counting the cost of unscrupulous renovators

Gloria Jefferies from Edgmead says she has been swindled by a contractor she hired to convert her garage to a granny flat. Image shows incomplete ceiling in what should be the lounge. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Gloria Jefferies from Edgmead says she has been swindled by a contractor she hired to convert her garage to a granny flat. Image shows incomplete ceiling in what should be the lounge. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 12, 2021

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Shining the light on dodgy Cape Town builders’ work.

Gloria Jefferies from Edgmead says she has been swindled by a contractor she hired to convert her garage to a granny flat. Image shows incomplete ceiling in what should be the lounge. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Gloria Jefferies’s bathroom. She paid T-K-G Solutions R81 000 for renovations last year. Picture :Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
This image shows the shoddy work by T-K-G Solutions. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

HOME renovations can be a messy business because all too often people’s dream home renovations turn into a nightmare.

A Weekend Argus investigation into home renovations in Cape Town has revealed how some unscrupulous service providers have left their clients with shoddy workmanship and heavy financial burdens .

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Lance Lotter and his partner Anthea Martin from Kenwyn, are still counting the cost of a very expensive home makeover. They’ve pumped nearly R500 000 into building their dream home. On a family member’s recommendation, the couple contracted N Squared Service. The contractor, Noor Norodien, is now in the wind, and the list of incomplete renovations is lengthy.

Construction started in September last year and ground to a halt in January. Lotter said despite having paid nearly the full agreed amount, Norodien explained that he’d run out of material and needed more money.

Work resumed in February, with a reduced crew on site. By May, after more delays, everything ground to a halt again. "The roofing was unfinished and the site covered in rubble. Suddenly there was nobody on site and no communication from Noor. He dodged phone calls and never replied to messages," said Lotter. "The one time I could get through to Noor on the phone, while hiding my caller ID, he responded saying he is done with us. We must finish the job ourselves because I am Mr Moneybags.“

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By then, Lotter and Martin had paid R430 000 to N Squared Service. They then spent another R80 000 fixing the poor workmanship.

N Squared Service appears to be a family business.

The company registry shows it was established in November 2019, with daughter Nishaat as its director. Noor is the builder; his wife Naz handles the admin, and Noor’s brother Ebrahim does the plumbing.

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Several calls and messages by Weekend Argus to Noor this week went unanswered.

Ebrahim explained that he was unable to complete his work at the Lotter/Martin house, because there was no material. "I don't know the finance part of it (the business). I don't know if he (Noor) under-quoted or just messed up the job and couldn't give the man (Lotter) what he said he was going to.“

Naz told Weekend Argus: "I am not the person to speak to. I am not the builder. I am sorry I can't help you".

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But key parts of Lotter and Martin's paper trail raise questions about Naz's involvement. The Weekend Argus is in possession of a quote sent from her work - not the family business - email address. On September 2, 2020, Naz sent another email from her staff account that read: "Please find banking details below. Noor to meet and discuss deposit with you later. Kind regards NaZ (for and on behalf of N. Norodien)". Naz would not explain if N Norodien was Noor or Nishaat.

The Weekend Argus visited the Norodien's Grassy Park home which is listed as the business premises. Naz refused to answer questions; opening and then quickly closing the garage door.

Lotter and Martin have sent a lawyer's letter to the Norodiens. In the meantime, they’ll be paying their R11 500-a-month mortgage for the next 30 years.

"I am upset about this whole scenario,“ said Martin. ”This has put doubt in my mind when looking for services, can they be trusted or will I be done in again?“

Another unhappy N Squared Service client, who asked to remain anonymous, also paid for work that was never finished. "We just want to put this bad experience behind us. We picked up early warning signs and prevented bigger losses".

Not so lucky was pensioner Gloria Jefferies of Edgemead who is more than R100 000 out of pocket.

She hired Donovan Payne from T-K-G Solutions to convert her garage into a granny flat. The 71-year-old paid an R81 000 deposit to Payne. He’d quoted her R114 000 for the renovations. As the months rolled on, so too did the excuses. "He kept asking for money, saying he had problems with this and problems with that."

Payne eventually abandoned the job leaving the place an absolute mess.

Jefferies said she’d sent Payne a lawyer's letter, which he ignored. She also tried to open a criminal case at Bothasig police station, but was told it was "a civil matter“.

Her husband decided to take Payne to the small claims court, knowing that the most he could hope to get back was R20 000. Sadly, he died midway through the case in May. "I phoned Payne after my husband died and said come on Donovan make this right. He just ignored me," said Jefferies.

She spent another R30 000 fixing the worst of Payne's shoddy work and removing the rubble, but is still not able to move into the unfinished granny flat.

Amanda Bruwer from Goodwood is another dissatisfied T-K-G Solutions client. She paid Payne a R30 000 deposit in November 2019 to give her apartment a facelift. The job is still not done.

“He arrived at my flat on 9 March 2020 with a small Opel Corsa and three workers. That was very suspicious and I asked him about it. He then told me the truck with the supplies and rest of workers will come through later. It never did. That same day he asked for another R10 000 to buy materials, but couldn’t explain what happened to my deposit."

Bruwer demanded all her money back. "I used some of my hard earned pension money to make my flat nicer and now all I see are problems. I do not have any extra money to fix up the mistakes he made.“

Payne responded to Weekend Argus. "I'll be phoning my lawyer about this, because you're not allowed to just put my name in the paper."

We tracked down the co-director of T-K-G Solutions, Angelica Walters. She claimed she hasn’t been involved in the business since 2017. "It was more to have a second person on the thing (registration papers). He (Payne) just forgot to take my name off (the company registry)."

But Jefferies said Walters accompanied Payne on a site visit to her home last year.

Payne called Weekend Argus back on Wednesday afternoon. He said he’d contacted Amanda and Gloria to make the article go away.

Bruwer confirmed Payne offered to pay her R3 000 a month until his debt was settled. Jefferies said: "He's lying. I made no payment plan arrangement with him."

Weekend Argus offered Payne several opportunities to respond. Questions were sent to his personal and company email addresses and via text message on Wednesday. He did not reply.

Natalie Bowman, said the body corporate at her apartment complex in Table View paid Payne a deposit of R32 100 in April 2018, for work that was never done. A lawyer’s letter was followed by a complaint to the Consumer Services and Goods Ombudsman, and eventually a fraud case was opened at Table View Police station.

Well-known consumer lawyer and director at Norton Rose Fullbright legal firm, Rosalind Lake, said: "My advice to people dealing with these kinds of issues is persistence. Keep pursuing all avenues available to you. Consumer bodies are free. The Consumer Commission can refer cases to the National Prosecution Authority for prosecution."

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