12:00PM, Thursday 18 January 2018
A building contractor charged a Maidenhead family more than £75,000 for an extension before leaving their home like a ‘dusty building site’, a court has been told.
Stewart Rasala, of Portsmouth Road, Cobham, stood trial at Reading Crown Court this week after being accused of 10 counts of fraud.
The court heard how Rasala, also known as Stewart Regent, was paid £429,945 to carry out work at five houses in Maidenhead and Windsor through his company Regency Home & Co. But, prosecutor Stephen Donnelly said, after agreeing contracts to renovate the properties between February 23, 2014 and October 16, 2015, he left them in ‘a state of disrepair’.
He said: “A common theme was for Stewart Rasala to commence work, for him to make a lot of promises, but these promises quickly developed into a litany of excuses to explain the delays.”
“The crown’s case is that he is, to put it simply, a fraudster.”
On Tuesday, Laurel Ashton, of Belmont Road, Maidenhead, told the court how after submitting a planning application to the council, she
received a letter out of the blue from Rasala, 61, offering to complete a double-side extension at her family home.
She and her husband Laurie Shotton signed a contract with the builder in February 2015, with the work expected to take 12 weeks.
Mrs Ashton told the court how in mid-April she had to stay in an Airbnb with her husband and two young children for almost a month to allow work to progress.
But on their return, they discovered no builders had been working at their home, the court heard.
The jury was told the family was also left without the use of their bathroom, lounge and kitchen despite making the requested two-weekly payments to Rasala of £11,666.66 as well as extra unscheduled payments.
Mrs Ashton said: “Strangely, nothing really happened after he’d had the majority of our money.”
The court heard how once the anticipated finish date of May 1 had passed, Rasala continued to delay the project’s completion with Mrs Ashton describing her family home as a ‘dusty building site’.
With Rasala failing to finish the job, the court heard how the couple had to borrow from family members and their banks to pay £85,000 to get another builder to complete the work.
Defence QC Rupert Hallowes cross examined Mrs Ashton yesterday (Wednesday).
He suggested that work had in fact been taking place during the period they stayed in the Airbnb and that work was only delayed because of an issue with some supporting steel work.
He added the original contract between Rasala and Mrs Ashton allowed for the resulting associated costs of any additional work.
Mrs Ashton said they were reluctant to pay
because they had already given him so much money already, and made additional payments only because they were
desperate for the work to be completed.
The court heard that by July 2015 Mrs Ashton ‘had given up hope’ and in a number of correspondences told Rasala he may be liable for
She later billed Rasala for £107,000 as that was the amount ‘considered to be what the experience had cost us’.
Mr Hallowes questioned why Mrs Ashton had not responded to a request from Rasala’s solicitor for a breakdown of the figure. Mrs Ashton could not recall receiving any letter.
Rasala has pleaded not guilty to all 10 charges.
The trial continues.
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