'Conman' hits couple's Mangerton dream home

‘‘He told us he’d better any other quote we found and we thought ‘fantastic’.’’ File image.
‘‘He told us he’d better any other quote we found and we thought ‘fantastic’.’’ File image.

Mangerton couple Amy Wyatt and Brett Williams had just moved into their first home when they engaged Lauren Gavin to seal some faulty valleys in their roof.

The Bellambi contractor and convicted conman, according to the Department of Fair Trading, spent just hours at the couple’s house but it was enough to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to their dream home.

On October 14 this year, Dr Wyatt found rain streaming into her six-week-old daughter’s bedroom from a leak in the roof, drenching the carpet and the wall.

Prior to Mr Gavin’s visit, the couple had not observed any water leaking inside their house – even during heavy rain.

The pair contacted their home insurer, AAMI, and a different roofer, to come out and assess the damage.

Both bodies found the roof leak had been caused by a corroded valley, which had not been repaired by Mr Gavin as requested.

The couple were devastated.

When they did a little more research, they discovered the Department of Fair Trading had described Mr Gavin as a ‘‘travelling conman’’, who had had his licence revoked.

It was reinstated in May 2013, after he appealed against the department’s decision.

Dr Wyatt contacted the Mercury last week, keen to warn other home owners.

‘‘I was anxious about coming forward but I don’t want other people to have the same problems as us,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve read that Gavin targets the elderly and vulnerable people but really, is there anyone who can afford to pay thousands of dollars to fix things like this?

‘‘We had just bought our first home, we had a new baby — this was the last thing we needed to worry about.

‘‘Now we’ve been lumped with a costly home insurance claim and have had to pay another roofer to repair the work...we are thousands of dollars out of pocket.’’

When the couple moved into their home in August, they knew the roof needed some work.

A building report, carried out by Safe House Property Consultants in Woonona, revealed some tiles which needed ‘‘re-pointing and re-bedding’’ and rusting valley channels.

The couple set about engaging a contractor, finding Gavin’s Total Roof Restoration company in the online Yellow Pages.

‘‘His profile seemed really professional and knowledgeable,’’ Dr Wyatt said.

‘‘He had all these testimonials from clients and loads of glowing reviews.

‘‘He told us he’d better any other quote we found and we thought ‘fantastic’.’’

Mr Gavin came to the couple’s house on September 22.

He spent the day working between their house and a neighbour’s home, later providing them with an invoice for $1700 for work including ‘‘sealing valleys’’ and ‘‘sealing around skylight’’.

But less than a month later, Dr Wyatt went into her daughter’s room during a heavy storm to find a ‘‘garden water feature’’ coming in and damage to the ceiling, wall and carpet.

‘‘I could hear the water,’’ she said.

‘‘You could see it floating down the corners of the roof.

‘‘It was bad enough that we called the SES for help; there was just water everywhere.’’

AAMI sent contractor RCC National to the couple’s home to assess the damage.

It found the leak was caused by a corroded valley that had not been repaired as requested.

Another roofing specialist, who was brought in to provide a second opinion agreed, noting, ‘‘work done on the roof has contributed to the water ingress in recent rain’’.

‘‘He jumped on the roof and straight away told us all the things that were wrong [with it],’’ Dr Wyatt said.

‘‘He said Gavin had incorrectly used the product for re-pointing to try to fix the broken tiles, and hadn’t sealed the valley; he felt that the problems had happened because Gavin didn’t do the job we’d paid him to do’’.

Dr Wyatt contacted Mr Gavin on October 14 and he offered to repair the roof the next day.

The couple declined, given the damage and the $1000 excess they had to pay on their insurance.

Dr Wyatt told the Mercury they then asked Mr Gavin for a refund and he refused.

 The Department of Fair Trading confirmed it was investigating Mr Gavin’s conduct.

A  spokesperson said NSW Fair Trading, which was investigating, could only discipline traders who contravened consumer protection laws.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal had the power to make legally binding compensation orders against a trader, the spokesperson said.

Mr Gavin did not return the Mercury’s request for comment.

Public warning about ‘travelling conman’

The Department of Fair Trading is investigating Bellambi tradie Lauren Kes Gavin, amid fresh complaints about his conduct.

But it’s not the first time the roofer has been under the department’s scrutiny.

In 2013, he was one of three men identified by NSW Fair Trading as ‘‘travelling conmen’’, touting their services to unsuspecting home owners across the state.

At the time, NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe warned people about Mr Gavin, noting he should be avoided.

‘‘[He] specialises in ripping off the vulnerable,’’ he said.

Mr Gavin, 27, was fined $5000 in Parramatta Local Court in February last year for knowingly making a false statement to the department in his application for a new licence.

The tradie applied for a three-year roof painting and repairs licence in May 2012.

He had previously obtained a builder’s licence in South Australia and under an interstate mutual recognition scheme, he was granted a NSW licence.

But months later, after receiving complaints from customers about his shoddy workmanship, the department investigated.

It was only then that Mr Gavin admitted to lying to Wollongong staff in his licence application.

He conceded he had told authorities he had never been known by another name, despite holding Tasmanian and UK driver’s licences in a different name.

Fair Trading cancelled Mr Gavin’s licence in December 2012. 

A Fair Trading spokesperson has confirmed to the Mercury that Gavin had appealed against the decision at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

The tribunal ruled in his favour and overturned the decision.

 His licence was reissued in May last year and is current until 2017.

The spokesperson noted as a licence holder Mr Gavin is expected to carry ‘‘out work of a particular standard’’.