Another one bites the dust (or when is a guarantee not a guarantee).

Oh dear. Another call this week from someone in Leeds, looking for a damp-proofing firm so they can claim on their guarantee.

Most companies involved in damp-proofing, timber treatment and basement waterproofing offer some form of guarantee. This may vary in length from 10 years to as long as 30 years.

Once issued, the guarantee usually lies in a desk drawer, gets lost or, in rare cases, is filed away for easy retrieval.

As a wall tie and damp specialist, I have perhaps 10,000 of the things stored away in my back office in Sherburn in elmet.

Anyway, back to this week’s enquiry, from a nice chap in Leeds, who is looking to claim on the guarantee certificate he has.  “Can you help me please…I’m looking for Leeds Damp-proofing Limited, but their number is unobtainable and as you are based in Leeds I wondered if you knew where they’d moved to”?

I explain that they are one of the many specialists who spring up now and again, do work cheaply, working from home, issuing guarantees to aid their lack of credibility and then go bust because: they never make any profit; save for a rainy day; they just get bored; or they die; are divorced and fleeced; retire; fall out with their business partner; or get locked up for drug dealing…the list of reasons I’ve been given is almost endless.

This leaves the guarantee holder up the creek. usually the reason he has sought out the certificate is either to make a claim, because his house is damp, or more commonly, to get the guarantee validated, because he is selling or remortgaging the house. In these circumstances a buyer or lender is the person needing the reassurance of a guarantee, be it for wall tie replacement, damp-proofing, woodworm or dry rot treatment.

This isn’t the little cowboys fault (apart from the drug dealer), the contractor has to offer a guarantee because the market expects it.  Customers have become used to guarantees and lenders demand it. The majority of guarantees are never claimed on.  Those that are claimed on or are required for assignment when a house is sold reveal a serious problem.  This is the fact that any guarantee is merely a promise from the contractor.  As a result, if the contractor fails, for whatever reason, the guarantee is worthless.

Furthermore, there is no statutory duty for specialist contractors to insure their guarantees against their own demise.  A few do, but it is purely left to each business to do so, or not.

Even when such insurance is available it is not clear cut. Some insurance offered is very poor and covers only the cost of the materials used or has so many conditions it is impossible to claim on.

There is good insurance such as The Guarantee Protection Insurance (GPI), which I and many Property Care Association members offer. This covers the work for up to 20 years if the contractor disappears for any reason.  Yet, documents can be lost and even the insured may come unstuck.

So, that’s enough about guarantees.  what customers really need to focus on is getting the work done properly, so that a claim will be less likely. Obtain a guarantee too, so that it can be passed on to a buyer or lender and insure with GPI so it lasts for the full period. But, guarantees in themselves are not what a customer should focus on. It is this piece of paper which has allowed poorly trained, unscrupulous and often dishonest and incompetent ‘specialists’ to function.

Clients are blinded by the offer of a guarantee and so common sense goes out of the window. “Oh, I know they’re very cheap and can start the wall tie installation work tomorrow Mr Hindle, but they are offering a 30 year guarantee. Your quote is higher and you are booked up for the next three weeks, my estate agent says they are very good…..”

I paraphrase, but this is a familiar scenario.  Years later, I get calls like the one from the chap in Leeds.

I had to tell him that yes, Leeds Damp-proofing don’t exist and his guarantee is worthless. “Typical”, he mutters “they’re all the same, these bloody damp-proofers”.

Actually, they aren’t.

These are just a few statements made by damp, timber and wall tie specialists, on web sites in Yorkshire alone:

“Yorkshire’s Leading damp & Timber specialists” (trading for 18 months – no accounts yet filed).

“Trading since 2000”  ( This company was incorporated in 2007)

“Established since 1989”  (dissolved  in 1993 and started again with a similar name on 01/12/2005)

To check any company’s claims for longevity, visit the companies house web site where you can type in the name and see when they actually started trading. If a company is cheeky enough to lie about such a fundamental thing – should they be trusted to carry out work, much of which is hidden from view?

For information on GPI guarantees visit their site . Companies (like mine), which are members of the Property Care Association can issue GPI cover. Members all over the country, can be found at the PCA web site – see in useful links on the right.

Or if you need wall tie replacement, damp proofing, woodworm treatment, or basement waterproofing in Yorkshire, try my company, we’ve been going since 1986….honest..

Dry Rot.

STOP PRESS – My company, Brick-Tie Preservation, have just received an order for the remedial work, which should have been covered by the worthless guarantee.  This time, the client has GPI insurance cover.

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Comments

  1. Shaun Hodgson says:

    Hi I have a property in Bridlington bought in 1999 , I had to have some damp roofing done now I have got it back. I have my guarantee of 30 years but can’t contact the builder some one answers the phone but says Damproof Limited no longer trade after reading your site sounds like I don’t have much chance of perusing him even though I have all paperwork and his vat number.
    Do you do work as far as bridlington I have already had one quote but now after reading your page I need to ask more questions
    Thanks

    • Hi Shaun,

      We do travel to Bridlington and I’d be happy to help. I’d say that the best bet is make sure you follow my advice about asking questions of the installers and ideally make sure they are PCA members. If insurance is offered via GPI it is worth taking that out as it’s cheap and protects people in your position.

      Bryan

  2. angela bunting says:

    I have a damp-proof course guarantee from 2009, when the previous owner of my property had a new course installed. The course has entirely failed. I contacted the installer, who charged me £49 for an ‘inspection visit’. He already had my written confirmation that the only paperwork I have is the Form of Guarantee itself and a quote. He now refuses any form of contact and his insurers say he will not honour the guarantee because I don’t have the ‘schedule of work’. Can he legally refuse to honour a Guarantee on the basis of missing paperwork when I have the 30 year Guarantee document itself?

    Many thanks!
    Ange

    • Hi Ange,

      This is a common problem with some companies. It arises because these long term guarantees extend customer rights way longer than ‘statutory’ rights. In effect this means that the company can apply any conditions it wishes, at the point of sale. It is likely that the original client signed a contract which had these conditions in it, so in effect the company can apply these clauses. I am not a lawyer, but as the contract was with someone else it doesn’t look like you can ignore the conditions. However, if as you say, the company knew that you only had the guarantee then they at least owe you the ‘re-inspection’ fee and should not have taken it from you, knowing full well that in effect they were never going to honour the guarantee in first place.

      I’m not sure what you mean when you write that he ‘refuses any form of contact’. Do you really mean he is ignoring you and not in any way assisting? This seems like terrible service to me, quite apart from being incredibly rude. As you have one of his guarantees he owes you some curtesy and in my view has a duty to at least try to organise a resolution, even if some money was involved – as a contractor he should be able to assist. This is what building long term goodwill is all about.

      I cannot get involved in disputes as I have my own contracting firm so could never be called independent. However, perhaps he is a member of a trade association like PCA, Which trusted traders or something? These may be able to apply pressure for you…

      Good luck with this one Ange and thank you for getting in touch.

      DryRot.

      • angela bunting says:

        Hi, thanks for your reply.

        It’s now in the hands of small claims court – he’s ignored several letters summarising why he owes me the inspection fee at least – i.e. he was fully aware I didn’t have the missing paperwork,
        As far as the refusal to honour the guarantee, I’m now looking into Contract law as it seems companies are not allowed to put unfair conditions in their T&Cs. His company should have a record of everything required in any case. He did not provide the previous owner, which whom he had the contract, with the documents in question in any case so he won’t be seeing the last of me.

        Best wishes and thanks again,

        Ange

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Copyright © 2010 Preservation Expert. Legal Stuff: All the advice and information in the posts on my blog is made in good faith and is based on my experience and knowledge at the time of writing. However, nobody is infallible and whilst I’m confident that most of what I write about preservation issues is accurate, there’s a good chance there’ll be an error or two somewhere. I do change my mind about stuff, as I gain more experience. In view of this you must make your own decisions on whether to follow any advice I write and think about this; I could be wrong. No responsibility will be accepted by the author for any losses anyone may suffer as a result of any mistake or for the consequence of any action you take as a result of reading this blog. If you do suffer a loss, resulting from anything I’ve written, a verbal heartfelt apology will be your only compensation.