Birgit S. and her husband choose the wrong construction company to renovate their house and ended up with the money gone and (almost) nothing in return!
Birgit, originally from Austria, fell into the same trap that has conned many people here in Luxembourg, a pitfall that residents should guard themselves against.
After living in a couple of places around Europe, they came to Luxembourg where they decided to start looking for a house. She says “the housing market in Luxembourg is not easy!” so they were extremely pleased when they eventually found a house in June this year, through a local Facebook group.
The house was in need of major renovation works and, out of the eight construction companies that they contacted, five showed up for consultations on the prospective modifications.
Their preferred choice of company had no available time to take on the project, so they opted for one of the remaining ones, where the estimated price seemed close enough to what they had in mind. They checked if the company was registered in Luxembourg and were happy to even discover a number of recommendations for it posted online.
The company asked for an initial down payment, which Birgit paid and at first, things went smoothly - business as usual. The firm started out with some smaller construction works and after five weeks they asked for a second down payment which was duly handed over. Soon after that things took a decidedly different turn.
The company deigned to only occasionally show up, or not at all, claiming that they had some license issues. It was then that the alarm bells rung and it became clear to Birgit that something was going wrong.
With an uneasy feeling they went to check on their house, only to find 2 workers taking down the scaffolding. Birgit's first thought was: “This cannot be true” and when asking the two people what it was that they were doing, they replied that they were commissioned by Birgit´s contractor to remove the scaffolding but that they didn't know anything more. They left the house with the unfinished façade exposed.
It took her a couple of days to finally reach the construction company and then she received a rather abrupt email. It said that they were very sorry but that the company needs to close as there was no money left.
Birgit reached out to the police, their bank, a lawyer and the ULC, Luxembourg’s consumer protection organisation but it was not clear how things will develop. What is clear is that they need to wait for the company's official liquidation entry and for the liquidation of their current contract until they can move on. They now need to look for other construction companies which could prove even more difficult since firms are reluctant to take over the work of others.
This is what the house looks like now:
Most importantly, the money - or at least a huge part of the six-figure sum - seems to be gone.
Their lawyer mentioned that even after a potential trial it is unlikely that they will recover any of it. If there is any money left, potentially there are other clients who have been hard done by and from his experience people hardly ever get anything back.
It seems as if there is not very much one can do to prevent anything like this from happening.
The “Chambre des metiers” is not commissioned to check the quality of works done by construction companies. Unlike some other countries Luxembourg also does not have any “black list” where people can have a look for certain companies.
If you plan to invest in a bigger project it might be an idea to become a member of the ULC, Luxembourg´s association for consumer protection.
For EUR 70 per year, members can benefit from a wide range of services. The ULC assists you in case you have an issue by trying to reach an out-of-court settlement / friendly agreement.
Other than this step, you obtain the right for one appointment with a lawyer and a technical inspector for a building project.
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