For seven months, Thill Dissanayaka hasn’t been able to look at his front yard without a sinking feeling.
The ten holes, each more than a metre deep, cost him $4000, many nights’ sleep and his ability to trust others.
And he’s not alone.
Only streets away, Mick Gribble knows all too well Mr Dissanayaka’s frustration.
He paid the same man, Colin Basil Vincent of BCON Concreting and Retaining Walls, a $5000 advance for construction of a retaining wall, but alleges after one day’s work digging holes, Mr Vincent vanished.
“I thought he was just an Aussie battler, working to make a living,” Mr Gribble said.
“In the future I wouldn't trust anyone, no one would be getting money until the job is done.
“I thought he’s a sole operator, a hard-working sort of bloke, he isn’t a big business so you want to give him a chop out but he’s just let me down, big time.”
Mr Vincent claims he “bent over backwards” for Mr Gribble and Mr Dissanayaka and has no idea why they’d be taking the matter to VCAT.
Mr Gribble hired Mr Vincent to build a retaining wall at his new construction in Daintree Way, paying him a $5000 advance for materials on July 30, for a $7600 job.
He claims Mr Vincent and a labourer attended for one day, digging a number of holes over five hours.
“They’ve never did any work there again,” he said.
But Mr Vincent said the claims were “bulls--t” and “lies” and he had “copped hell” from the pair.
He said the reason work on the Daintree Way property ceased was because Mr Gribble came to him and told him not to finish the job because he was out of money and needed a refund.
Mr Gribble has since paid for someone else to complete the job, which he claimed included filling in and re-digging the incorrectly aligned holes.
He said in two days the new workers had completed the job with no delays or problems.
In the future I wouldn't trust anyone, no one would be getting money until the job is done.Mick Gribble
Mr Gribble alleges the delay caused by Mr Vincent’s absence held up work on his home, meaning he had been unable to move in and has had to pay rent, storage shed fees and payments to the bank all at once.
“Ever since then he has kept saying ‘I’ll have the money next week, I’ll have it for you today, I’ll have it for you tomorrow’, it’s been going on for a long time now,” he said.
“It’s not just the money.
“He’s held up the whole build because I’m not even in the house yet.
“The longer I’m not in there, the more I’m paying.
“It’s costing me more than what it was worth.”
Mr Gribble said he was willing to pay Mr Vincent for the single day of labour, his labourer’s costs, the hire of a digger and permits he lodged – but wanted the rest of his advance refunded, about $3500 he estimated.
Speaking to The Border Mail Mr Vincent said he would be happy to give $3000 back, but didn’t have the money.
He said he hasn’t avoided either man and was not aware Consumer Affairs Victoria had tried to contact him, or why the pair were taking the matter to VCAT.
“I’ve bent over backwards to get jobs done, more than enough and have been more than friendly,” Mr Vincent said.
“At the end of day I’m the one out of pocket, not them.
“They won’t let me do the jobs, they’re the one kicking me off jobs. How is it fair to a human being? It’s absolute bulls--t.”
Mr Dissanayaka says he is also counting the costs, claiming he paid Mr Vincent a $3000 advance and $1000 for materials, leaving him just $750 away from paying the full $4750 job.
He said the $4000 came directly from his savings, and now he has to choose between paying to study a course to further his architecture career – or paying someone to redo the front yard.
“He got my money and he vanished,” he said.
“He never came back.
“He’s got his life with my money so why should he come back to finish.”
Mr Dissanayaka alleges Mr Vincent said the work did not require permits from North East Water or Wodonga Council, and months later when he submitted the permits, submitted one with a rudimentary sketch instead of a technical drawing and another with no payment.
Mr Vincent said he was initially not aware permits were required, but it was Mr Dissanayaka’s responsibility to pay.
He said the seven-month delay at the job was because they were waiting for permits and couldn’t do work until they came through.
He later claimed Mr Dissanayaka had told him not to complete the job.
“It’s the first job I ever needed [the permits] for, it was all new to me these permits,” he said.
“I’m one of the fairest blokes out there, I’ve not done anything wrong.”
But Mr Dissanayaka and Mr Gribble say they’re at their wit’s end after months trying for a resolution.
Mr Dissanayaka said that neither Victoria Police nor the Consumer Affairs Victoria were able to help him, leaving him with no choice but to fork out more money to lodge an application to go to VCAT.
He said there should be more protections in place for consumers and that Consumer Affairs Victoria should be given more powers.
Mr Dissanayaka and Mr Gribble hope their stories act as a warning and encourage others to be diligent and consider using workers accredited by industry bodies.
“I’m really disappointed because this is a little town, I really love the people in this town,” Mr Dissanayaka said.
“It’s a lovely community.”
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