A ROOFER who left his vulnerable victim £5,300 out of pocket – for work that should have cost around £180 – has avoided a prison sentence.

Toby Price, 25, of Best Price Roofing Services, faced four charges of fraud by false representation and one  charge of engaging in unfair commercial practices which were misleading by omission.

The offences involved in the same victim, from Merlin’s Bridge, in July last year.

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The court heard that the victim had noticed a damp patch on his ceiling, and when he checked outside, saw that a roof tile had slipped.

His usual property maintenance firm was unavailable, so the victim searched for a firm on Google – finding Best Price Roofing Services.

Price attended the man’s home on July 1, and quoted him £800 to fix the tile. He claimed, prosecutor Christian Jowett said, that this price was to cover the insurance costs.

The court heard that an independent contractor subsequently valued the work at £80 plus VAT.

Mr Jowett said Price failed to give his victim information about his consumer or cancellation rights.

Price then told his victim that the chimney stack on his house was “leaning” and “warped”.

He said he would complete the work at a discounted fee – although the amount quoted was still several thousand pounds.

The man said he would think about it, but Price pressured him in to accepting the job, saying “it was at risk of falling down”. The victim’s wife – whose mobility was severely limited and who the victim cared for – was directly underneath the chimney stack inside the house, the court heard.

Price spent “30 to 40 minutes” on the roof on July 4 and the victim paid him £4,500 for the work by bank transfer.

An independent contractor found that the rendering work on the chimney stack “was of poor quality” and the debris left there “made it worse”. The contractor said the work should have cost “approximately £100 plus VAT”, Mr Jowett said.

On August 5, Price rang the victim and said another roof tile had slipped. He asked whether the victim wanted him to fix it, but the victim declined.

An investigation began in to Price in October last year after the victim’s usual property maintenance firm contacted Pembrokeshire council’s Trading Standards team.

Trading Standards attempted to contact Price, but the number on the business card he had given to the victim was not in use and the email address did not exist.

When an alternative number the victim had been given was called, the defendant refused to identify himself as being from Best Price Roofing Services, and then claimed it was a wrong number and his name was ‘Glyn’ when he found out the call was from Trading Standards.

Nik Strobl, defending, said the main mitigation he could put forward relating to the offences was Price’s guilty pleas at the plea and trial preparation hearing.

He said that Price had not initially targeted the “vulnerable” victims – both the victim and his wife have learning difficulties – as the victim had contacted him about the work. He did admit, though, this didn’t apply to the offences relating to the chimney stack, and that after being initially contacted, Price “turned up and took advantage of the situation”.

Mr Strobl said the custody threshold had been passed, but argued that Price’s sentence could be served in the community. He added that Price had two young children, and was a carer for his mother.

Judge Catherine Richards sentenced Price to 15 months, suspended for 18 months. As part of this, he must complete 250 hours of unpaid work and 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Price, of Broadmoor, near Kilgetty, was also ordered to pay compensation, but due to his “limited means” – being on Universal Credit – he was ordered to repay just £900 to his victims.

“It is clear that the debt you owe to these vulnerable victims is considerably higher,” said Judge Richards.