Builder Not Returning The Money Spent

I am building the house for the first time and my builder has tricked me to spend some money from my pocket but he is not re-reimbursing the amount now.

The trick he used is for some work he would say that he doesn't have money at the time and asked me to spend from my pocket (cash withdrawn from my account) to fasten the process. Thinking that delay would cost me more rent (As I was renting then; builder didn't have clause to pay rent if delayed) I would pay him cash. The builder would say he will pay me back after the final payment. Now that final payment has been made the builder is saying that that there no money left for reimbursement.

He has not given me any single individual invoices or proof (I guess he was dealing with all tradies with cash). He has given me only builders invoices (which comes upto to the initial quoted amount). Is there any way to get all the invoices towards my construction cost to understand where I have overspent according to my builder.

I don't have any proof of money handed over to him as it was cash and he would only talk over the phone at that time.I know I am at fault here for not taking anything in writing. I am living in Australia only for the past 6 years and have never experience such thing from anyone so didn't expect this type of thing.

Any suggestion to recover the money is greatly appreciated.

Please don't discourage as I'm already under a lot of stress.


  • +1 vote

    Civil action but how much we talking?


      around $40k

      • +109 votes

        You gave a builder $40k in cash with nothing in writing and no receipts?

      • +17 votes

        What the…?

        $1000 or $2000, you could probably let it go.

        But $40K.. that's a huge amount to just write-off in your head. Given you've got no proof, it's going to be a long rocky road trying to get that money back.

      • +13 votes

        (profanity) a duck! Get a lawyer!

      • +3 votes

        40k???!! That's like more than the value of my life! Hahaha gg my friend….

      • +1 vote

        oh boy, sorry to hear that OP. Hard to proof money exchanged hand with cash payment. So you took your money from branch and give the cash to the builder in the branch too or?

  • +7 votes

    Your going to need some proof before you can do any thing. Maybe record a conversation in which you ask about it (check the laws in your state)

  • +1 vote

    Not sure there is much you can do as you have no proof, other than you withdrew from your account. That can be explained away easily enough.

    Sorry to say, but I doubt you'd see any of it back. Never, ever hand over anything more than required, and without any proof/receipt/paperwork.

    Fraudsters are plentiful worldwide so I don't see what you living here for x years has to do with anything.

    I have vaguely been involved in a similar situation whereby a dodgy bastard tried selling my brother a faulty car. My dad, brother, and I (all 6ft+) kindly escorted the gentlemen from his house to the nearest ATM, so he could return the $1K deposit.

    • +4 votes

      My dad, brother, and I (all 6ft+) kindly escorted the gentlemen from his house to the nearest ATM, so he could return the $1K deposit.

      Could I have your number? I'll call on ya if I ever need some mean macho looking men to back me up………

    • +1 vote

      "Bikies" is usually the top recommendation for problems on the forums. Perhaps "bikies" should be replaced with "xuqi"?

  • +2 votes

    What kind of contract did you have with your builder? Did you make changes to the design along the way?

    What I'm trying to understand is how 'overspent' can come into it. If you had a fixed price contract and didn't make any changes along the way you should have only paid the agreed price.

    • +2 votes

      he paid cash to builder without any paperwork


        There is some paperwork:

        He has given me only builders invoices (which comes upto to the initial quoted amount).

        Sure, the extra cash is not documented. What I'm trying to find out is whether that extra cash could have been justified to pay for changes OP made to the agreed plans after they were initially quoted, or whether asking for the extra cash was a plain case of fraud.


          He paid some cash in advance without paperwork but latter he also paid the builders invoice in full on top of what has already been paid in advance.


      it was fixed price contract. No major changes. Only minor changes like extra electrical switch some sort of things like that
      Also I have spent $6k on appliance for which I invoice.

      • +4 votes

        So 6K for an Appliance and 34K for a powerpoint?

        If I had signed a contract with a builder and they then asked for extra money upfront I would direct him to my solicitor to sort it out. But seriously, why didn't that set your alarm bells off in the first place?

  • +1 vote

    We need more details.

    1. What kind of Contract did you have? Fixed cost? Cost plus?

    2. What exactly did the builder say your cash payments were for? Materials? Appliances? (some of these might even be validly your responsibility to pay for).

    3. What did the builder say about reimbursement? Was it he would reimburse the full amount (and why?) or he would reimburse if there was an excess?

    I am living in Australia only for the past 6 years

    That's a hell of a long time, not really an excuse (or relevant) here.


      fixed price contract
      the cash was for retaining wall, escavation, ect (allocated amount of $8k and $7k in the building contract ). I paid in cash
      Builder said there was an excess of only $10k until the final payment was made and rest he would reimburse (only verbally ). Once the payment was made he said there was no more reimbursement.


        *excavation, *etc

        the cash was for retaining wall, escavation, ect

        Check your contract - these can be in addition to the fixed cost portion of your contract. For example - if the actual costs are more than the allocated amount (or if the allocated amounts were included in the building contract base price).


          yes I have checked and its in the inclusion list and amount is in the allocated base price

          • +8 votes

            @newuser1984: For $40,000, you should be talking to a lawyer.

              • +7 votes

                @newuser1984: To help any lawyer you go to, prepare the following:

                1. All the documents you've signed, including the Contract, invoices, receipts, etc;
                2. All your written correspondence with the Builder, in reverse chronological order;
                3. A concise timeline of what happened, including calls, cash withdrawals, verbal conversations, meeting to hand over the cash, etc; and
                4. Any other supporting documents (bank statements showing the withdrawals, for example).

                @newuser1984: It'll only cost 300 an hour to see a construction lawyer but will help you significantly more than asking us ozbargainers. However it makes for a good read lol

              • +1 vote

                @newuser1984: Send email or SMS mention about payment you made (mention amount)by cash when will u get back surplus money ? When he say no more left money it means he accepted he received money. Also statement that shows same amount you withdraw. It will help you to prove money what you withdraw paid to guy. If he will not replay anything then good luck to you.

  • +3 votes

    I dont have any proof of money handed over to him as it was cash and he would only talk over the phone at that time.I know I am at fault here for not taking anything in writing.

    You already know the answer.


    Is the builder a member of HIA?

  • +13 votes

    Why didn't you subtract it from the final amount? I'm not sure you can get it back without proof unless you can try and get something tangible to prove it. Try and txt him or email him about the money, hopefully he will acknowledge it and say yes I will pay you back (even if he's lying, so you have some kind of documented proof). I think you need to speak to a solicitor though.

    As the mysterious Ivan Cerjak says, "Keep receipts."

  • +5 votes

    a fool and his money are soon parted

    • +5 votes

      Logged in to post the same lol.

      Living in the country 6 years and has a lazy 40k to give away. I want OP's job.

  • +19 votes


    newuser makes a payment of $40k in cash and doesn't get a receipt.

  • +1 vote

    Definitely speak with a solicitor. The linking of phone records and ATM receipts/bank statements may at least go some way to proving it, but it likely going to be tough.


    HI Welcome to the Forum

  • +15 votes


    Firstly, I would say FWIW I'm sorry you've encountered a real ratbag - the money aside as you've alluded to it can really end up getting to you personally when you have another person essentially defraud you - IGNORE the silly comments by people on here - they'll just get you down more and really are more indicative of them than you.

    It's a really tough lesson to learn for such a significant amount BUT don't get down about it as that won't help you getting whats rightly yours back.

    I think there's already been some excellent advice e.g talking to a lawyer - but before you go down that path I'd consider calling a few of the industry bodies that might be able to assist e.g Dept Fair Trading

    It's free and while I'm not saying they're as good as a lawyer - they might be able to give some helpful advice.

    Above all I'd say ensure all of your communications with the builder are in writing and as others have said document a timeline of this matter in AS MUCH DETAIL AS POSSIBLE.

    There's likely no easy way to force the builder to return the funds, so try and avoid being confrontational with them - what you instead want to do is make them feel it's too much issue, hassle, risk to keep your funds and decide to return all or most of them to avoid possible prosecution, bad PR, hassle etc.

    And again the mistake is already made - and you've suffered more than anyone through this - so learn from it and investigate all reasonable options to get your funds back. You're in the right here, so don't get down about things or allow this crook (as he's likely done this or similar before) to walk away easily with your hard earned money.

    Best of luck.

    • +1 vote

      Thanks for the support and suggestion. I have contacted two of the previous owners who have built from this builder and come to know that they had the similar experience with this builder. They dint tell me the amount builder owes . I am not sure how I can warn others who are currently building with this guy.
      I have already started collecting information . will consult solicitor soon

      • +1 vote

        Happy to assist or atleast try to. :-)

        It's a balancing act for you as presumably this shoddy chap is STILL building your house! And so going at him too strong is not only likely to be seen as challenging him to a showdown but also perhaps he also delves even deeper into his builder bag of tricks as to how he can do a less than 'proper' job for you.

        Thats why gathering all info on whats occurred, whats been said by who to who and when etc - you don't have to recall word for word but try and have it as accurate as possible. It's a time intensive process but the idea is that with this and phone records, bank records etc you're able to build a picture that supports your side of things.

        But before you go to too much trouble with that I would speak to experts (not that OzB is bad but lets face it - its often just pure opinion from gawd knows who) and get their recommendations. Otherwise what can happen is you put in a lot of effort and then find it was all done the wrong way or wasn't the right type of effort - so doing it RIGHT is important.

        That was a good suggestion by another person to potentially contact the Tax Dept - but again these are things I'd KEEP as options so you can essentially make a business case to him to return your funds otherwise you will feel you have no option but to do this, that and another thing etc - the idea being that he figures - 'Ah it's too much hassle'.

        I am sure he's likely to be very reluctant to have the ATO looking into his books or to have the threat of a civil law suit hanging over his head - these type of people prey on people they feel they can get away with such dodgy tactics on - but often back down when they realise they've got a fight on their hands.

        Don't jump in with the first solicitor you find - perhaps Dept of Fair Trading can recommend one that specialises in this area - I'd speak to a few and make sure you're going with one you feel is both competent and also you can work with as a person.

        PS. When it comes to the whole he didn't issue you receipts matter - I'd broach this with Dept of Fair Trading stating clearly you paid the funds in good faith to the builder and he refused to issue a receipt/s once he had your money - say he put you off at first saying he had to get it printed or whatever but then refused to give to you.


          as presumably this shoddy chap is STILL building your house

          I think OP at least doesn't have to worry about this because:

          The builder would say he will pay me back after the final payment. Now that final payment has been made the builder is saying that that there no money left for reimbursement.

          The final payment is usually made after everything's already done. If not though…

          • +1 vote


            The final payment is usually made after everything's already done. If not though…

            I wouldn't assume anything. After all…

  • +11 votes

    And when all avenues fail I'd be getting in touch with the Tax Office and explaining how the builder wanted cash and didn't supply a receipt. That should make his life a misery.

    He must be a lousy businessman if his cash flow doesn't cover the work done.

    • -1 vote

      g'day brad1,apparently he asked him for a $40,000 personal loan that would be repaid personally by the builder at a time in the future,not a payment off the erection of his house,looking at the problem deeper both the HIA or the MBA may not even look at the loan as it is not against the Australian Law to ask anybody for a loan even if he states the reason he needed it, he probably lied ,also he does not have any solid evidence that the builder even asked him for it,you cannot just use 2nd hand information of other people that had problems with him because the law must also look at the fact that anybody can change their way's

    • +1 vote

      Good idea brad1-8ts. I know a tradie that was audited by the ATO and it was stressful as hell for him. I'm not sure if he was dodgy or not with his taxes, but it wasn't a fun process for him.

  • +1 vote

    Sorry to hear about this OP…
    It's a shame a silly mistake can hurt so much :(

    Going to Dept Fair Trading, Lawyers, etc. (which is good advice), is great… but unfortunately I expect they will all need ammunition (i.e. proof that the $40k was given to the builder)

    So, I wonder if it might be an idea to see if you can get some now…. perhaps by asking (in writing!) about the $40k (e.g. breakdown of how it was spent or something). This was you can obtain a written admission from the builder that they did in fact receive the $40k. (even if he doesn't do it… as long as his email/letter implicitly acknowledges the $40k)

    This might be something that Dept Fair Trading, Lawyers, etc can then use to help you.

    Good Luck!


    A Current Affair (tv show) expose scammers like these. Might be worth contacting them if all else fails.

  • +5 votes

    The OP is already in the penalty box. RIP


      How did that happen?

      • +7 votes

        OP probably was sockpuppeting.

        The whole scenario probably isn't real.
        I'm always wary of new accounts with these posts that attract attention. Some dude decides to make a fake post gathering attention and sympathy and lavishes it.

        Come to think of it, in this day and age you'd hand over 40k cash without proof of receipt?

        • +1 vote

          Plausible explanation.

          Guess I'm too naive and took OP for real.

          Perhaps OP should see a psychologist, that's not a healthy way of filling a need for attention.

          And no, I wouldn't hand over any sizeable amount under those circumstances. Perhaps I'm too attached to my cash and should see a psychologist to deal with that ;-)


    someone get this guy the number for ACA

    • +6 votes

      This has nothing to do with any country. It could have happened anywhere.

      Our cashless culture, formal trading, mature invoicing and receipt system… every policy here discourages undisclosed cash transactions.

      There are frauds and fools anywhere you go.


    He will return the money to you if he's a nice guy. A nice guy who doesn't have problems with drugs, gambling and drinking.


    Tell him you'll dob him in to the ATO for doing cash in hand work.

  • +1 vote

    Did the builder do a good job with the Reno?


      Too true. Shiftiness aside, there have been projects where I would be happy to tip the boys that $40k if they can promise no further Fk ups.


    Should name and shame the builder.
    I was in similar situation before…..but not at 40k cash…..

    Good luck with your fight. Looks like a long battle.

    I am not sure if it's legal. But I would download ACR app to record the phone conversation.

    Use the app, call him up and get him to talk about the 40k he borrowed from you without receipt. Lure him into talking about it and if he will reimburse you later.

    Maybe you can use it as evidence that he did have that money from you.

    I am unsure if you are legally to do that, but for personal use, it should. Even if it is illegal, at least it proves to the judge or whoever is handling the case, that they will know that he DID scum 40k from you back then.(regardless of your illegal recording)

    • +1 vote

      If it is not legally obtained, it is not admissible evidence and will not be used as consideration. If you choose to play the recording, you will be held in contempt and likely trigger a retrial at your expense.

      • +1 vote

        I would still consider doing it and then check with the lawyer if it can be used as evidence.
        Worth a try.
        If lawyer says no, then gotta be other ways

        • +1 vote

          You can present it to your lawyers.

          There's really not much to be done. This is almost no different to losing a bag of cash.

          For this reason, I never do cash transactions at work, regardless of how lovely some patients are and their well meaning intentions. Every payment has an invoice, receipt and I even have banking slips for cash payments stored.

          Money is a terrible subject when there's a dispute.


      No - as tshow said it's illegal and you only risk getting yourself in trouble by producing this in a formal setting.

      This is EXACTLY why for a matter of this level ($40k defrauding) you get proper advice from a professional, rather than random opinions/guesses from people on a bargain shopping website BEFORE you go doing/trying things.

      The ONLY logical basis for trying to record the builder acknowledging he took the money via a call etc would be to try and use against him in a private settlement i.e bluffing him he has to return the funds as you have him on tape saying he took it - but you'd be relying on him being oblivious to it being inadmissable evidence and is still a questionable exercise vs doing properly via Dept Fair Trading & then solicitor.

      You will find most morons/bullies (which is what I suspect this builder is) are pretty terrified by a strongly worded letter of demand & threat of civil suit + possible criminal charges + ATO audit etc on legal letterhead. Trying random things will just muddy waters and make builder more likely to ignore contact &/or get advice legal himself.


      at least in NSW, you can't do phone recording without consent of the other party. Some states you can, but not in NSW


    write a letter of demand for the amount and allow 10 days,if he ignores it write a second letter giving him 7 days to respond, include should he not respond within that period you will take further action including contacting The Master Builders Association, contacting a solicitor and will report him to the taxation dept for asking for cash payments and especially for paying his contractors by cash,you may have done your dash by agreeing it was a requested as a loan whereas you claim "ignorance to the system"and see how you go-good luck


    Give me 30K and and I get you back 20k ASAP.

  • +1 vote

    Lets say you owe him $100,000 and he owes you $40,000. You give $100,000 with no offset?

    It's like a bank error in builder's favour.


    "he would say that he doesn't have money at the time"

    Cue: Alarm Bells


    What person migrates to a country and has that kinda money to blow, but dumb enough not to have proof of transfer.

    Fake news you all got suckered in.

    Wish admins IP cross checked logins and their post history so ban hammers would be handed out.


    Name and shame?


    I don't have any proof of money handed over to him as it was cash and he would only talk over the phone at that time.

    Yeah, that was a big mistake. Giving him cash, no receipts, nothing in writing, you're going to have to take this to a solicitor. Legal documents and statutory declarations are in your future.

    I am living in Australia only for the past 6 years and have never experience such thing from anyone so didn't expect this type of thing.

    Scumbags exist in all professions and in all countries, but in my experience Australian tradies and builders have an unusually high percentage of scumbags. Half of them are thieves who will steal from you and then lie to your face.

    Sorry to hear this happened to you. I'm going to guess the builder saw an easy mark in a recent immigrant - perhaps your English isn't so good? - and he took advantage. You won't resolve this without a solicitor. Go get one now.

    And if all goes terribly don't worry about it. Money comes and goes. After a few years you forget about it. Even large amounts don't matter much in the long run.


    Are you located in Adelaide by any chance? This is very very similar to a builder I had as well.


    Welcome to, Australia's forefront construction law forum. One of our lawyers will be with you shortly.


    Does he drive a ute with lots of expensive tools? Would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.


    F in the chat

  • +5 votes

    new account - check
    first post - check
    outrageous post to attract Ozmembers to comment - check
    Penalty box - check
    lack of information on first post - check
    troll thread - check


      Could be a throw away account so as not to implicate the main account.


      Really? Dunno whats the end game of doing that?

      Seems hardly a classic 'troll thread' type topic - usually thats something a bit more divisive.

      Not saying you're wrong but seems an odd way to amuse one's self - as OP was coming and replying in seemingly normal manner and hardly seemed like a troll IMHO.


    name and shame


    Builder saw op from a mile away

    The type op has delat with, are cunning and smart, players in their field, and op got played hard

    Write that $40k off, the builder knows how to talk the talk and will outsmart you in the legal process

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