How do we protect our loved ones from doorstep scams or paying too much for work? In this guest post, Ian explains how his mum spent nearly £200,000 on building work – much of which Ian felt wasn’t necessary.
My mother is 83. When my father was alive he always dealt with their financial matters.
After his death, Mum wanted her garden made more accessible so she contacted a builder who had previously done work for her and who she trusted.
A long line of jobs began. It seemed that whenever the builder was short of work Mum provided some. There were never written quotes and with one exception, no invoices. Mum felt that they were friends and trusted him. He began using her garage as a store room frequently visiting to collect and drop off stuff.
Why I became concerned
I became worried that some of the work wasn’t necessary, but Mum had a right to spend her money as she saw fit. She had set up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) naming me, but I was conscious that ‘unwise or eccentric’ decisions are not enough to invoke an LPA.
Separately, I was administering the will of another relative and, while dealing with the proceeds, reviewed my mum’s financial needs. During this she confirmed that she had no more plans for any work.
As part of the distribution of funds from the relative’s will, a significant sum of money went into Mum’s savings account. A few months later one of my siblings rang to say that Mum was short of money. It appeared that she had continued to have work done on her house.
She trusted people to charge a fair price
I immediately went to visit and reviewed her bank statements. I was shocked to see she had taken out nearly £200,000 over the previous three years, the amounts steadily rising.
When discussing with her the cost of work it became clear that she had no idea how much she’d spent, what each job cost and what a market rate was. She just trusted people to charge a fair price.
While I was there, a window salesman visited. He had been passed her name by a roofing company that had cleaned and painted the roof after telling her that the moss etc would weaken the tiles.
When I sent the window salesman away saying the UPVC windows didn’t need replacing, Mum offered him petrol money for his troubles! I recognised how suggestible she was, willing to hand over money without even being asked.
My advice is make sure you set up an LPA. Without one it would have been much harder for me to step in and protect my mother. If you are having work done always get several quotes, however well you think you know the tradesman.
If you are a relative, it’s hard, but maintain regular contact, ask questions earlier rather than later and don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off because you are too embarrassed to get involved.
Have you faced a situation like this – how did you deal with it?
This is a guest post by Ian Morgan. All opinions expressed here are Ian’s own and not necessarily those of Which?