I recently got some quotes in for refitting the garage door on my house. This obviously involves the builder making a substantial one-off purchase of a door to my specifications which he is going to find difficult to sell on should I withdraw from the work. As such, I was happy to pay a 25% deposit - about £600 - to him. We're both based in England.

However, after doing so it was bought to my attention that builders do not generally ask for deposits for smaller jobs. To add to the concern, the builder in question is not currently responding to my calls or emails although it has only been 5 days since I paid the deposit and 24 hours since I reached out for clarification.

The builder in question is a local firm and was known to one of the other people who came to quote. The request for a deposit was issued via a formal invoice - sent via email - including reference numbers. I obviously have this email and also a bank record of the payment. Nothing has been physically signed. He confirmed receipt of the payment with a simple "thank you" and that's the last I've heard from him.

If this does turn out to be a dodgy tradesman who fails to get the work booked in and tries to walk off with my money, given the paper trail I have of the invoice and payment, will I have legal recourse to get the money back from him?

1 Answer 1


Legally, yes

At this point you have a legally binding contract. If the builder does not finish in a reasonable time, you can sue.

Practically, no

If the builder is a crook then it’s not worth engaging the law for such a small amount. It would cost almost as much as you’ve spent already to start a time consuming and frustrating legal process.

You would be better off reporting him to the regulator.

  • 2
    While I agree with the "Legally yes" part, I would point out that in the UK MCOL is a cheap and easy option for addressing the "Practically" part. Oct 18, 2022 at 13:00
  • Clarification: Money Claims On Line. Must be for a fixed amount of money less than £100,000. for no more than one claimant and against no more than 2 defendants (people or organisations) served to a defendant or defendant(s) with an address in England or Wales. Oct 18, 2022 at 13:15
  • @MichaelHarvey MCOL is just a convenient way to issue a claim in the County Court on the Small Claims Track. Hence, if you don't meet those requirements (but do meet the requirements for the Small Claims Track), you can still issue exactly the same claim by doing it yourself without the help of MCOL. This will mean filling in a paper / PDF form instead of using MCOL's online form and there will be less hand-holding, but essentially the process and costs are the same.
    – JBentley
    Oct 18, 2022 at 15:50

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