Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ben Harp - To Hell and Back Again - Chapter 1

I am going to spend the next few days posting about our experience with Ben Harp Narrowboats.  My intention is to explain where I think we went wrong so others may avoid the same situation.

A fellow blogger and friend referred to this situation as “To Hell & Back Again” which seems rather applicable hence it being in the title.

However, before I start I must acknowledge all the comments of support that have been posted on our blog from readers.  They are most appreciated!  And so to the story

Booking the Slot

Once upon a time........... There was a couple named Tom & Jan who decided on their retirement to have a narrow boat built so they could continuously cruise the canals and rivers in England.

This is the story of how the boat builder defrauded us of £62,000 and then forced us into expensive legal proceeding to recover our boat. To date our financial loss is in excess of £87,000.   If you every consider having a boat built or worked on by Ben HarpDON’T!  And certainly don’t believe anything they write on their website.

We developed a detailed designed and boat specification before heading to the UK in search of a boat builder who could built their dream boat. Eventually they met Ben Harp of Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders Ltd. He told them “I’ll build you what you want!” Unfortunately this was the first of the many lies that were to follow.

Were weren’t entirely stupid and conducted reference checks. Ben Harp had received good reviews in both major canal magazines and they were able to speak with the owner of a Ben Harp showboat who was extremely flattering in his comments. So in March 2010 we booked a build slot for August of that year and paid our £1000 deposit.

Communication from Australia with the builder was infrequent however we assumed he was very busy with the boat ahead of our own. August 2010 arrived with little communication, however we were advised the shell builder might be delayed because one of his workers was to be hospitalised.Then iIn late September there was a flurry of communication from the Harp’s (the Directors are a husband and wife team – Ben & Kelly). Suddenly everything was urgent. Money was needed and work needed to start now!

I wanted a signed contract and also wanted to know the delivery date. Kelly Harp informed me they would have the boat built by the end of February 2011 and I immediately queried how they would achieve this given their previous build rate. She told me “Ben can build a boat in 4 months and as my specifications were so detailed they wouldn’t be delayed waiting for the customer to provide more information”. Our specifications ran to 32 typed A4 pages and were very detailed so the comment appeared logical. Unfortunately this was another lie! We were asked to make the first stage payment of £20,000. This was the first we had heard of paying in advance. Again we queried it. We were informed the money was needed so Ben could manufacturer all the joinery and cabinet work concurrently with the shell builder building the shell. This provide to by another lie. We reluctantly decided to place £20,000 at risk but I spoke with Ben and requested he provide me with copies of invoices for major purchases. He readily agreed to this! Of course this didn’t happen and when subsequently requested Kelly Harp refused stating they couldn’t show us the invoices as we would see the discount they were getting from suppliers. Yet another lie!

Of course, at the time we didn’t identify these were simply lies to defraud us of our money.

Chapter 2 tomorrow


Amy said...

So sorry to hear about this - how awful! Hope it all works out and you can eventually get out and enjoy the canals.

NB Lucky Duck

Elly and Mick said...

Tom and Jan, we're so sorry to read your tale of woe. How devastating for you both! We're both thinking of you and hoping you will soon be living your dream. Try and stay positive.
Elly and Mick

Colin said...

Hi Tom and Jan.
How sad that you have been put in this situation,I truly hope you manage to get it sorted soon.
How on earth are we to trust our retirement money to one of these builders after reading of your treatment?
You have maintained a dignified silence during these past few months, I think I would have gone mad.
The number of hits on your site during the last couple of hours bods an ill wind for this company, will anyone trust them to build a boat for them in the future? I suspect not.
Good luck for the future.

Anonymous said...

This is truly appalling-have you taken apprpriate legal advice? If you reqiure a good litigator let me know. The trouble will be has this toad got any monies to sue for?

Richard NB pendle warter