The removals firm that loaded up the furniture… and disappeared

What happens if your house-mover vanishes and takes all your belongings with it?

Homeowners in Yorkshire who were left thousands of pounds out of pocket when the removals firm they hired disappeared with their cash have been promised their money back after The Observer intervened last week.

Brown and Sons, a removals company with a business address in Hull, employed a team of salesmen to call on local people who had For Sale signs outside their properties. The firm, run by sole trader Richard Brown, then gave people discounted quotes for their removals bill and in many cases for storage as well.

The company had large adverts in the local Yellow Pages and came highly recommended by the neighbours of some of those about to move. But about a month ago, just before the floods hit Hull, Brown and his team disappeared from their business address and have not answered any phone calls since.

Anne Cottingham, a retired headmistress, was five days away from her move to Norfolk when she realised something was amiss. ‘It wasn’t until I wanted some more boxes the Thursday before I was due to move that I started to worry, as the company was not answering the phones,’ she says. ‘I had paid them for half the price of the move, £594, and I have since had to pay again to get another firm to move me. The very thought of getting to Tuesday, the day I was due to move, and no one turning up filled me with horror.’

David Taylor and his wife Marjorie, and husband and wife Roger and Val Bachelor, are, by coincidence, all retiring to the same town in Devon in the same week in August. Both couples had put all their possessions into storage with Brown and Sons – or so they believed. ‘We had paid £1,127 to Brown and Sons, half the cost of removals and storage. We became suspicious when they didn’t answer the phones for days or send us the boxes we had asked for,’ says Mr Taylor.

The Bachelors had paid for removal but not storage. ‘The realisation that we had lost our money was bad enough, but what was more of a worry was what had happened to all our furniture and personal belongings,’ says Mrs Bachelor.

The Taylors and the Bachelors eventually came across their belongings when they started to ring other removal companies. Their containers were being stored with Arnolds, another local firm which had leased storeage space to Richard Brown before he disappeared. Both couples have now paid Arnolds to move them. Arnolds was also storing the goods of another couple who were customers of Brown and Sons, Ted and Rachael Chamberlain. The newlyweds had over £4,000 of wedding gifts in storage as well as the rest of their household possessions. ‘We spent a very stressful weekend not knowing if we would ever get our stuff back,’ says Mr Chamberlain.

Carl Arnold, who runs Arnolds, says he is still coming across people desperately searching for their belongings. ‘We are in the process of tracking down the last couple of customers,’ he says.

The Observer has been in contact with Hull City Council’s trading standards department over the last fortnight and last Wednesday it said it had located Brown and spoken to him. ‘Richard Brown has confirmed that his business has folded,’ says Mike Pindar of the council. ‘He has given us reassurances that he will return everybody’s money and their goods. We will be liaising with him over the course of the next few weeks.’

Both Arnolds and another local removals firm, Hardaker’s, say they are also owed money by Brown after he leased storage space from them.

‘The man is a sole trader and therefore a law unto himself. But I don’t feel this is an isolated incident; I feel this is going on throughout the UK,’ says Tony Lawson, managing director of Hardaker’s. ‘I am disappointed that the industry is not regulated. Anyone can buy a van and some glossy brochures and set themselves up as a legitimate removals firm.’

Arnold says people need to be more careful in choosing a removals company. ‘People will pay £800 to get a survey done on their house without question, but they won’t pay someone proper money to move their possessions. They need to do proper checks on a company; otherwise it’s like getting your gas boiler inspected by someone who is not Corgi registered.’

Jon Allen, a policeman, says he is also owed money by Brown and Sons. Mr Allen believes he did everything reasonable to check on the firm before he chose them. ‘After I had given him some of the money for storage, Brown even called me to tell me I had overpaid,’ he says.

It was only when the floods hit Hull in early July that Mr Allen began to worry. ‘I called the firm as I was worried our stuff, which we believed was in storage at their offices near the river Hull, could have been flooded. I was reassured everything was fine and Mr Brown asked me to send a cheque to cover the next week’s storage. I never heard from him again.’

Alan Cocksworth, a retired policeman, also says he had no reason to distrust the firm, which he says has disappeared with £761 of his money. ‘A neighbour of ours moved with them and recommended them, as did the lady who moved in across the street. They were in the Yellow Pages with three different adverts and sent us a glossy brochure, so we had no reason to think anything was wrong.’

Richard Brown did not respond to The Observer’s attempts to contact him.

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Landscape Gardening Prices Slough

Costs of Landscaping Your Garden – Cut Your Design for a Cheaper Outdoor Space

If you’ve ever caught a few minutes of The Chelsea Flower Show on television, or happened upon a Homes & Gardens magazine, then you’ll no doubt have craved one of those gorgeous landscaped gardens.

There’s a growing popularity for indoor outdoor living, and this means we’re taking more care of our gardens than ever before. So if you’ve got a rather weedy lawn and some sad looking flowerbeds, you might be thinking of getting a little help.

Landscaping prices vary vastly depending on what you want – professionals can come in and renovate the entire garden or just pop in a garden path and a few pots. Luckily, this does mean that you can get some horticultural aid regardless of your budget.

The Full Design 

If you’re really in need of inspiration and want to hire a design team and a landscaping crew, then you’ll need the budget to pay for it as it’s far from cheap. Even with small garden design, costs will start at an expensive £7,000 once designers have been hired and all the landscaping is finished.

Get Your Landscape Gardening Quotes Today

However, it’s important to remember that you will be getting a custom garden that no one else has. There are thousands of designers available, and though they’ll bring their unique style, you’ll still get a one-off garden customised to your needs.

For Low Budgets, Break the Project Down

beautifully landscape gardenIf you haven’t got a few thousand pounds burning a hole in your back pocket, then there are still ways to get a beautifully landscaped garden for a cheaper price. There are many jobs you can do yourself which don’t require a lot of skill.

In addition, if you’re desperate for a gorgeous garden, then you’ve probably spent some time poring over books, blogs and magazines; you’ll have a few ideas or two.

After taking some time to get your garden design just right, break the project down into manageable chunks and decide which bits you’ll need to get landscapers in to help with. For example, you might be confident in putting in a simple shingle garden path but want help with laying a new lawn.

Or, perhaps, you need a skilled carpenter to come and help build some raised beds but will happily clear the garden and put your own shed together. If you head to a trusted site like RER Group Quotes you’ll be able to find a host of landscapers more than happy to give you a quote.

Garden Landscaping Components

The cost of landscaping will depend on how many components you want to have, and how complex each of these are to construct. Following are some of the most common garden features and the average costs involved.

  • Patios. If you want a new patio laid on an area that’s already flat, quotes should average around £800 for a 4m x 2m area. Make sure your quote includes the removal of excess soil, and that landscapers lay the patio on top of sand, hardcore or cement. Any trader offering a quick job and suggesting they lay the patio on top of soil should be avoided. On average, this size patio should take around two days to complete.
  • Patio removed and replaced with lawn. If you want your existing patio pulled up and a lawn put down, it should cost about £500 for a 4m x 2m area. Again, it should take about two days to complete, and you must ensure landscapers will take away the waste. Many gardeners will include the cost of hiring a skip in the price. 
  • Decking. Provided the area is already laid to a flat lawn, a deck that’s 4m x 2.5m in size should cost between £800 and £1,000. Allow up to two days for installation. 
  • Raised vegetable beds. Home grow vegetables are all the rage, so if you’re looking at giving it a go, it’s a good idea to start with some raised beds. These are simple to construct, especially if the ground’s already flat. Creating two beds with a total size of 4m x 1.5m should cost between £200 and £700 depending on your region and the materials used. 
  • Build a rockery. Though it might seem rather old-fashioned, small rockeries have actually become popular again due to the beautiful modern plant varieties on offer. Including all the plants and rocks, you can expect costs to average about £350. Be sure to have a set size for the rockery included in your quote to ensure you’re not disappointed. 
  • Build a shingle path. Shingle paths are the easiest to build and should be fairly inexpensive. A 6m x 1m path should cost no more than £500 and take only a day. Make sure landscapers put down a weed suppressant membrane beneath. 
  • Build a garden pond. For any wildlife enthusiast, a small pond is a must. There’s quite a lot of effort involved in digging out a pond, so it might be a job you’d prefer someone else to do. Building a pond that’s 1.5m in diameter should take a couple of days and will cost between £400 and £800 including digging, lining and filling. 

Landscape gardening prices will vary across the country, so it’s important to do some local research to ensure you’re getting the best quotes.

If you’re on a budget, try to limit the number of components and do as much as you can yourself, leaving the harder, dirtier work for the professionals. That means you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your oasis quicker than you think.

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