Graham Steele AKA Alan Johnson and his associate Stephen Hawes.

Every conman, who has been found by the High Court to have told enough lies to fill the pages of a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica, needs a posse of followers who are happy to reap the rewards from ill gotten gains to make him successful in what he does.

For years Steele has has a ‘core’ of individuals who followed him and closed their eyes to the conning tactics of Graham Steele aka Alex Owen, Peter Robinson, Alan Johnson, Mike Walker, Peter Walker, Paul Harris, Graham Johnson and Peter Scott and host of other names.

One such individual is Stephen Leslie Allen Hawes director of Aaron Building Solutions Limited (05311696). Hawes has been a sidekick of Steele for many years, gladly reaping the benefits of the conman Graham Eilam Steele and ultimately helping to spread misery to customers who have fallen prey to the Lifecote Group ‘thing’. I say ‘thing’ because the Lifecote Group is nothing but a name. Let me tell you how it works.

Years ago, Steele owned various limited companies with the name ‘Lifecote’ in the title such as Lifecote Ltd, Lifecote Europe Ltd and so on. Each of these companies have gone under with unpaid CCJ’s or High Court judgements against them. Steele, through these shell companies, sold franchises to people desperate to get into the damp proofing industry. Some paid £20-30k for franchises that existed of nothing more than use of the trademark name ‘Lifecote’, leads handed out by Steele and his daughters who work for him, and if they were lucky, 1-2 days training. Training involved Steele or one of his cronies turning up on site and showing you where to drill holes and squirt damp proofing fluid.  You may ask how I know this?

I exposed Steele and then successfully sued him in the High Court when he libelled me over a period of 2 years. Being found guilty and owing me the thick end of £300k, I made him bankrupt this year. All the franchisees that he has ripped off along the way meanwhile, contacted me. At one point, there were probably in the region of 12 franchisees who contacted me and all told the same story. At that time I had more franchisees talking to me than Steele still had on his books!

In return for these business leads from Steele, he in return charged them 9% of the their turnover described as ‘royalties’ and forced them to buy chemicals through him where he made a healthy 30% profit. Most franchisees fell by the wayside and never made any money. A small group who he favoured got the best leads and managed to scrape a living out of being fairly un-knowledgeable damp proof installers.

So now we have a core of people who have been with Steele for a number of years and one of these is Stephen Leslie Allen Hawes. Hawes can still be found on Linkedin with the grand title of Regional Manager at Lifecote Damp Proofing and with the impressive letters Cert CII M.ISRT after his name. The Cert CII is a ‘certificate in insurance’ which provides a grounding in basic insurance principles according to the CII website. But it gets better. M.ISRT stand for ‘Member of the Institute of Structural and Remedial Treatments’. This was a company set up by Steele and some other ghost director which was dissolved before accounts were due to be submitted. However, despite ‘underwriting’ Lifecote guarantees it never had any money or any assets to underwrite anything more than a Bic pen! Guarantees were given out to customers headed ‘ISRT SECURED DEPOSIT BOND PROTECTION’. I’m afraid folks, if you have one of these guarantees…it is more than worthless. Hawes is in fact doing himself down by only using M.ISRT as it seems he has now been elevated from a simple ‘Member’ to ‘Fellow’ status as can be seen on this Lifecote blog.

Hawes can also be found at www.dampproofingnationwide.com/our_offices.php (update: 26/10/2016- this link is no longer working funny enough?) as part of the Lifecote Management Team along with many other names who are not even part of the con anymore. For example Scott and Chris Maynard, a father and son team were ripped off by Steele for £40k. They have not bothered to chase the money given they were aware that I would have first claim on his assets.

Hawes is not only a former director of Lifecote Europe Ltd, a company found guilty of defamation and eventually going bust, but he also helped Steele run the Damp Proofing Association Ltd (DPA), a company that is still trading but heavily in debt and trading insolvently. It has a court judgement against it for £150k which he fails to show in the accounts.The DPA is now also director-less since Steele was made bankrupt and disbarred from being a director for the foreseeable.

An email to all the franchisees on 22 December 2011 stated

Steve Hawes and I will manage the DPA initially…We are in advance negotiations to seal an insurance backed guarantee (same as PCA)…and will replace the ISRT. The DPA will be open to the entire industry to include estate agents and property companies….Our aim is to have 400 members by the end of 2012′.

On 8 January 2012 Steele sent out another email having already told his franchisees including Hawes, who was helping to manage the DPA

‘Please note the DPA is essentially a Lifecote marketing tool and will not favour other members I can assure you!’

In other words, like the rest of Steele’s businesses, the DPA was a scam, a marketing tool for Lifecote and all the franchisees were now aware of this fact.

So Hawes continues to keep his head below the parapet trading from his rental office at Suite 1 Rockware Business Centre, 5 Rockware Avenue, Greenford, Middlesex, UB6 0AA. 

The thing is, a leopard rarely changes it’s spots overnight. In 2012 Hawes was providing reports to customers using just ‘Lifecote’ on his letterhead but with the Rockware Business centre address and phone number 0280 578 5554. When his customers paid him for damp proofing, where did the money go? The money certainly didn’t go into Steele’s bank account at the National Westminster bank at Waltham Cross. Hawes was doing what all the other franchisees were doing, that is using the name ‘Lifecote’ but trading from a limited company namely Aaron Building Solutions Ltd. The accounts for this company submitted to Companies House show the franchise fee being depreciated each year. So, in fact Hawes has been doing damp proofing work under the true name of Aaron Building Solutions Ltd t/a Lifecote. Therefore any claims for faulty work should be made against Aaron Building Solutions Ltd.

In 2012, Hawes was producing poor standard damp proofing reports which included phrases such as

‘Firstly I would like to assure you Lifecote (Aaron Building Solutions Ltd?) is a Damp Proofing Association approved contractor. To achieve the criteria necessary our work has been fully checked and approved by the Damp Proofing Association. This is on-going with regular site visits at random during the working year’.

Hang on, Hawes is managing the DPA and it is only a marketing tool for Lifecote? Obviously the above statement is not totally honest.

The report goes on

‘Lifecote offers a totally FREE 10-year guarantee for basement damp proofing excluding consequential loss…’

Who issues this guarantee? This is where Steele comes in by issuing guarantees underwritten by the ISRT Ltd or the Damp Proofing Association Ltd or the Guarantee Protection Indemnity Ltd. The DPA is insolvent and the other two do not exist! People have found that out to their detriment because trying to claim against one of Steele’s guarantees is just a way for Steele to extract another £300 to inspect the work and then tell you to get lost.

‘All banks, building societies, local councils or chartered Surveyors, recognize (sic) our approved status treatment certificates.’

No Hawes that is not even slightly true. Lifecote is synonymous with Bogitt and Scarper Ltd.

And this is the best quote

‘It should be noted that we have been trading as a national company with the same telephone number for the last seventeen years. We have an impeccable trading record and long-term commitment to this business. The company is soundly financed.’

Where do I start? Lifecote has morphed into various companies over the last 17 years and each one has gone bump in the night. The whole industry knows that Lifecote has a far from impeccable trading record and it certainty is not soundly financed. What about Aaron Building Solutions Ltd. Maybe he is talking about that company. This was incorporated in December 2004 so short of 17 years old this year.

Hawes could be forgiven because these quotes were from 2012 and before his paymaster was made bankrupt. However, roll on to 2014 and after Steele was found guilty of cyber libel bullying in the High Court with costs of circa £300k which he cannot pay.

In December 2014 Hawes was still making profound statements about Free 30 year guarantees, approved status and now the company has been trading for 18 years! So in 2102 it was 17 years old and 2 years later it was 18 years old? Clearly, maths was not a prerequisite of gaining the letters F.ISRT.

One thing has changed on his letterheads though. The company is now the ‘Lifecote Group’. And here the problem lies for Joe Public.

Steele and his cronies use a multitude of names to suit a particular set of circumstances. Nobody can be sure whether they are trading with Aaron Building Solutions Ltd, some Lifecote sole proprietorship, or some conglomerate of Lifecote companies who are all working as one and guarantee collectively, each others work. Steele describes the Lifecote Group as a group of ‘individual businesses under the Lifecote name’.

In 2015 after completing a particular contract for dampness, the damp returned. The customer contacts Hawes as he signed the ’30 Year Lifecote Group Guarantee underwritten by the Damp Proofing Association’ himself.

His reply was that he had nothing to do with Lifecote and had retired…really? Companies House still name him as the sole director of Aaron Building Solutions Ltd. He then provided an email address which happened to be the one and only Graham Earlam Steele pretending to be Alan Johnson. Steele does no more than extract £220 plus VAT from the customer to undertake an ‘expert report’ where he would ‘take samples for analysis to determine if rising damp exists’.

Steele turns up still claiming to be Alan Johnson but the client has his picture from this website. He then provides an email which the client has paid £336.00 for. Steele has provided a VAT invoice eventually and low and behold the invoice is from the ‘Lifecote Group’ and the VAT number is registered to ‘Graham Steele, 27 Kestral Road, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 3NB. Cleary, Hawes has lied and sent round his good pal to rip off his client for another £336.00 to get out of a guarantee claim for damp proofing work carried out in March 2015. That is only last year! From damp-proofer to party wall surveyor in a few months! What I want to know is what checks do people and organisations make when allowing people in? A simple google search would provide a red light.

The address on the guarantee is 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PY whereas the address on the invoice from Steele is 34 New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London, EC1 8JY. Both are mailbox addresses. The whole charade is a con designed to make it as difficult as possible for customers to complain.

The email states that he (Graham Steele) is a ‘technical surveyor’ undertaking an independent report without affiliations to to the Lifecote Group. This is the first lie and con. Steele owns the Lifecote trademark and was until recently the only director of the Damp Proofing Association Ltd.

The report goes on that he will discharge his duties in a completely independent and factual manner based on extensive experience and physical science.He then goes on the say that he has studied Materials Technology at Hertfordshire University with a ‘final year research project and investigation into moisture diffusion in building products’. The thing is, when challenged in court back in 2014, Steele could not substantiate any of these claims about his purported BSc and claimed he had lost his certificate. Enquiries with the university led us to the conclusion he was a fantasist who had never obtained a degree or anything near that.

The report then strangely slates the Property Care Association qualifications. The PCA happens to be the main association for the preservation industry with a long history behind it. In fact, you would be wise to always use a recognised PCA member for damp proofing works and not confuse this organisation with the insolvent corrupt Damp Proofing Association.

The ‘report’ claims that Steele has undertaken 20,000 surveys over the past 20 years! As I say, a fantasist!

One paragraph explained that no moisture was found in the work Hawes carried out but only above that level and that was due to either ‘trapped moisture from the wall breathing but unable to expel the moisture due to poor render and gypsum or ingress of rainwater.’

The recommendation was to contact the owner of the property to the rear of the subject property and establish the cause of ‘any ingress’. Surely that was why the customer paid the inept Graham Steele to take samples for analysis? The email is signed off by Alan Johnson.

The address of the report is the Lifecote Group, 34 Hatton House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8JY which also happens to be the same address for the Damp Proofing Association Ltd.

In other words, Hawes has told lies to the customer attempting to get out of work he completed just over a year ago and passed the unsuspecting customer onto Steele who then cons her out of £264.00 and claims to be someone else.

Now where am I going with all this?

Last year, Steele decided to try his hand at being a party wall surveyor where he has wreaked havoc like he has done for years with his damp proofing scam. Stephen Allan Leslie Hawes Cert II F.ISRT has also become a party wall surveyor and gained entry into a respected organisation’ for party wall surveyors (which I shall not publicly name at this point), despite my concerns and warnings over his business ethics and connections. Now trading from the same address in Rockware Business Centre and using the same number that he used for his damp proofing business Lifecote, he is now called Aaron Surveyors Ltd incorporated on 25 April 2016 and can be found at www.partywallhelp.com. This should be warning enough of his inexperience, given his company is only a year or so old.

So on one hand he is telling his former damp proofing customers a lie by stating he has retired and now playing golf whilst on the other hand he is working as a party wall surveyor.

You will note that the website is as shy on information just like his damp proofing business letterheads. It is against the law not to display the full company name, its place of registration, registered number, registered office address and vat number. These are just the basics. Have a close look and apart from the address, can you tell who you are dealing with? Mr Hawes born in 1955, you should know better and as far as I am concerned, a leopard does not change its spots. His connections and association with Graham Steele alone should disbar him from gaining entry into the party wall organisation but then I am not in control of who they let in.

If Mr Stephen Leslie Allen Hawes believes the above information is inaccurate, he can contact me and I will gladly rectify any inaccuracies. Alternatively, he can engage the services of a solicitor and claim the above is inaccurate and libellous and sue me. I wonder which it will be?

UPDATE 10/05/2017

A theme that runs through the business practice of both the bankrupt conman Graham Steele ‘aka’ Alan Johnson and Stephen Hawes is that they always ask for money ‘upfront’. Their venture into the party wall surveying industry has not changed this practice. If you appoint either of these men they will ask for ‘50% up front gov’. I have never encountered any party wall surveyor asking for money up front to make an award where there is a dispute, but enter Stephen Hawes! He asks for his £600 ‘up front’ and the remaining £600 on completion of the award. I do not know whether he will only serve the award on production of his fee but if he does, this is contrary to the Act. Take my advice and pay nothing upfront. No other surveyor that I know will ask you to and for £1200 you can engage a competent surveyor who more than likely does not have the morals of an alley cat and who has not for years, deceived and ripped off customers. 

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