Fair Go: Rogue roofer charges elderly homeowner $1200 for job valued by others at $150

Ina Hearns likes to think of herself as pretty switched on, even at the age of 95. 

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Ninety-five-year old Ina Hearns turned to Fair Go for help. Source: Fair Go

So she's cross with herself that she employed a roofer who she now describes as "a conman".

She found him in her local paper. His name is Steve Harris, and she rang to ask him for a quote. 

She'd had someone else do a previous repair, problem-free, for a total cost of $280, so she was expecting something similar. 

This time, though, the quote was for $1200. Yes, $1200! She says Steve was "so polite but so convincing", so she agreed to the price. 

She says for that money, she thought he must be replacing all the corrugated plastic sheets of the porch. 

But the sheets weren't replaced, in fact, there were just a few patches over the problem areas. 

We asked an accredited roofer to take a look. He said, "It looks like a DIY job, spread around mastik [premixed adhesive], probably around $8 worth of mastik."

He added that he thought the cost should be $100 or $150, and that charging $1200 is "disgusting and not good for the trade when people are willing to ... take advantage of someone in that position".

If the repairs had worked, Ina would have accepted the cost, just happy to have the job done. But she says within a week the leak was back. And when it rained outside, it poured in her porch. We know that, because we checked it out for ourselves.

Still, she was willing to give Steve the benefit of the doubt, and rang him to ask him to fix it. 

That was in July 2018. 

According to Ina, there followed months of chasing Steve. He would promise to come and not turn up, giving feasible excuses for the delay, such as illness or bad weather.

But eventually Ina began to lose faith, and went to the Citizen's Advice Bureau to get help with getting her money back. An advisor tried to track Steve down, but they couldn't trace him to the address he'd supplied. In fact, the only information they could find was his mobile number. No email, no address. 

Feeling like she was getting nowhere, in December, Ina turned to Fair Go. 

We rang Steve and put Ina's concerns to him. It was quickly clear there really was very little agreement between the two of them. 

They were at odds about whether the cost was justified, the hours it took, even the date the leak began. Steve called Ina "one of the most awkward old biddies I've ever met", and suggested she may have dementia, accusing her of never answering her phone. Yet Ina's phone records show there were many chances for communication, as she repeatedly called him to try to sort things out. 

In his defence, Steve told Fair Go he had cancer which was making everything extremely difficult. 

However, Fair Go often gets tradesmen saying this so we asked for proof. At first he said he was happy to provide it, but later refused, although he did send a photo of what he says were cancerous nodules on his tongue. That photo may well be legitimate but it may have come from the internet, so Fair Go remains none the wiser about his state of health, and believes Ina had given him ample opportunity to do the repair or give her a refund.

Ina no longer trusted Steve to do the work, so with Fair Go's help, both parties agreed to a payback of $50 a week, until Ina had receives a full refund. 

However, when we checked towards the end of January, nothing had been paid. 

We rang Steve again. He blamed Kiwibank and promised he'd just put the first payment in, admitting his work "wasn't up to scratch".  

A day later, Ina was thrilled to see her bank account was fifty dollars better off, and Fair Go is happy to report the payments have continued. 

Even better, the accredited roofers Fair Go asked to assess the job announced they'd put a brand new roof on Ina's porch for free, with all the corrugated plastic supplied. 

And so, it was a very tearful, but happy, Ina who stepped into her completely dry porch to look at the finished job. And not a single leak since.