Croydon Council’s trading standards team has issued a warning to homeowners after a landscaping company allegedly took £2,000 from elderly woman then demanded £5,800 more - after she asked it to jet wash her patio.

The council has named and shamed Everest Drives and Patios for the “despicable” treatment of the lone woman, in South Norwood, who contacted the firm through a leaflet which came through her letterbox.

A council spokesperson said: “It was agreed that the visit to the householder would see the company provide a written quote for lifting the slabs on her garden’s patio, laying a new substrate and then re-laying the paving slabs.

"But instead of the one person she had expected to assess the work, a team of men turned up, while the woman was alone in the house.

“The men told her that she would have to give them a deposit – despite the fact no estimate of cost had yet been prepared, and that the flyer to which she had responded clearly states ‘No deposits required’.

“The men drove her to her bank, and waited outside while she withdrew £2,000 cash. One of the men, who said his name was John, took the money but gave her no receipt.”

When the woman’s adult son learned of what had happened he called the company to demand the money be returned but was told it was in the company safe.

The team of men returned three days later when they lifted the patio and left a written quote of £2,775, says the council.

But a different man from the team later told the son that the lifted slabs could not be reused and new replacements were needed, at a cost of £5,800. The son refused to hand over any more money.

The council spokesman added: “The team returned two days later saying that new slabs had been ordered. The son again said that he would pay no more, at which point one of the team became argumentative. The son had previously called the police on 101 and now rang 999. When the police arrived, the team had gone. The officers took details and then drove around the area but could find no sign of the team. The traders have subsequently called on a number of occasions, leaving messages saying that the company was keen to finish the job.”

The council has now issued advice to homeowners, including never to do business with cold callers or to pay cash.

Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “The manner in which this company took advantage of a lone, elderly woman is despicable.

“Quite apart from the morals of their actions, they broke the law by not providing a written detailed quotation for the work, nor a receipt for the money she paid, and by failing to point out that she was legally entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period."

Everest Drives & Patios, which claims to be based at High Road, Chadwell Heath, Romford, has no links to other companies with the same, or a similar, name.

The events happened last month.