A contractor who claimed he had not been paid for the work he had done on a residential development, decided to take the law into his own hands by demolishing five newly built homes with a digger.
The damage to the homes – which had all been sold subject to contract and had been nearing completion – is estimated to be worth around £4million.
Police were called to the scene of devastation in Buntingford, Hertfordshire and arrested 30-year-old Daniel Neagu, who was subsequently charged with causing criminal damage.
Magistrates, who remanded Mr Neagu in custody, heard that the houses belonged to retirement home developers McCarthy and Stone but Mr Neagu had been working for subcontractor, Fenton.
The court was told that Mr Neagu had demolished the homes that he had helped to build because he was upset that he had not received payment for the work he had carried out.
It is alleged that the money was withheld, following Mr Neagu’s purported removal of a company-owned digger from the construction site.
Prosecutor, Elaine McMillan told magistrates that, to date, the equipment had not been returned and a tracking device allegedly shows that the vehicle is currently in Romania.
Mr Neagu was remanded in custody, with the case due to be heard before St Albans Crown Court in September.
Suryen Nullatamby, an Associate with Palmers who specialises in Construction disputes, said: “We await the full court hearing with interest but, in the meantime, the general advice -for any parties involved in a dispute over unpaid money – is not to take the law into your own hands but to consider using adjudication as a means of resolving disputes.
“It is fundamental, at the outset, for businesses to have in place a dispute strategy and also ensure that its resources are properly channelled to obtain a quick resolution.
“This includes the selection of experienced representatives and experts for the adjudication, who will be responsive and keen for matters to be resolved proactively, as quickly as possible and with an agile and commercial approach.
“A phone call to obtain appropriate expert advice at the outset of any payment dispute costs nothing, in comparison to the cost of resolving an escalated dispute, as well as avoiding the occurrence of such incidents where contractors take the law in their own hands.”
For advice on all aspects of construction contracts including payment disputes and the adjudication process, please contact our Construction Specialist, Suryen Nullatamby.