Damp proofing specialist recommended by your Estate Agent? Beware!

 

I feel that after this weeks event I must put fingers to keyboard.

I have heard rumours of damp proofing specialists recommending installation of a chemical DPC where rising damp could never exist, but Thursday this week was the first time I’d seen it with my own eyes.

The place was Headingly in Leeds. Made famous for the cricket ground it’s a leafy suburb with a nice mix of student and private households. All manner of property, much of which has been converted to flats.

The timber and damp survey I was on, is a very large old house, converted into many flats. Two in the basement, three at ground floor level and several on each upper floor too.

A house in Leeds wrongly diagnosed with rising damp

A chemical damp proof course for the flat above? That’s an unqualified damp ‘specialist’ for you….

My client is buying a flat on the ground floor, which is in effect at first floor level due to the sloping site. He met me there with the words “I have had someone round already to do this, but I wanted a second opinion”. I explained that that is very sensible and made a start.

A full timber and damp survey later, I’d identified one or two minor defects and a small outbreak of Common Furniture Beetle in the loft, affecting some studding wall timbers (mainly clad with plasterboard, but with suspect asbestos panels on them). There was also some very spectacular looking historic damage in the original ceiling laths below a flat roof; dry as a bone and clearly left as it was to save money and because the new flats in the building have lower suspended ceilings so it’s never seen.

 

With a flourish my client shows me the report from the damp proofing specialist .

 

Well I never! – £3000 quote with a recommendation for a chemical DPC to all external walls and a full treatment to the loft for severe wet rot. Also some local re-plastering due to the damp, but most of the walls thankfully, can be injected only.

We can all disagree on our findings, but let’s look at the facts:

1) The majority of the external walls of the flat are 3m above the ground, with an occupied ground level flat below, which is perfectly dry.

2) When tested with my meter, the walls were dry

3) The moisture content in the decayed timber ceiling laths (hidden in the ceiling space), was 9% (that’s air dry) with no structural timbers visible and the roof clearly repaired.

4) The woodworm was clearly visible in the stud walls, where the plasterboards had been removed before.

5) There was very thin board on some of the studding, which looked to have a hard cement/fibre centre….. possibly chrysotile asbestos.

 

I wont name the specialist concerned because I believe in redemption and live in hope that he’ll see the light and get some training and ethics.

So what is the point of this post?

let’s see how this is done:

Nice web site (£300 tops).

Lots of advertising with the usual claims – honest, expert, guarantees, CGS, Safeguard, Triton, Sovereign chemicals, the usual damp proofing and guarantee brand names on the letterhead.

This is a free country so he’s just living the damp proofing dream. The problem is, he is also recommended by some gullible estate agents in Leeds and as such, is fed a diet of unsuspecting victims, who believe he is reputable for that reason.

Pre-purchase surveys put buyers and vendors in a vulnerable position and they are wide open to this type of fraudulent service. Fraudulent is not too strong a word though. This chap is no damp proofing expert, he’s just a chancer who sees the money first and his responsibilities, as far as he is concerned are to nobody but himself. He’s not alone either. These non-qualified and no-regulated damp proofing specialists are like bottom feeding fish and they will always be there.  In fact there is a market for them. However, as the good ones get established, they learn more and want to get recognition, credibility and sustainability; the Property Care Association is full of small guys who work from home to high standards – they really are specialists and deserve support. Others though, do not ‘grow’ in professionalism and like it just the way the market lets them have it.

They want the customers money – that is all.

They are not willing to spend time and their own money getting trained and they are certainly not happy to tell a client that they don’t need any damp proofing (or timber treatment, wall tie installation or roofing for that matter). How can the consumer avoid this trap?

The pre-purchase housing market is no place for this sort of damp proofing idiocy….

However, the pre-purchase market is no place for this sort of idiocy and unprofessionalism.  People are selling their house or buying one – There’s almost no more stressful and expensive endeavour people undertake.

For this reason they use Solicitors and usually RICS surveyors. They may also use lenders. These professionals have to have insurance and are vetted by the very fact that they have qualifications relevant to the service they offer. They are usually bound by a code of ethics and code of practice.

Estate agents too, often have qualifications and may be members of The National Association of Estate Agents or even have chartered surveyors in house.

Why is it then that these professionals allow con men like this guy through the door? They leave the recommendations to their office staff, who frankly have no knowledge of damp, timber or wall tie surveys? It’s so easy to use the friendly chap who is willing to quote for everything on the valuation report – gutters, damp, roofing, electrical, woodworm, wall ties. So what if he has no qualifications on any of these things and treats buyers and vendors as cash cows to be ripped off?

So – you can take an estate agent’s recommendation but you must do your own homework on the firm they recommend.  I’ve touched on this before, but Thursday’s disgraceful report just shows that these guys are there, being recommended by estate agents and costing clients on both sides of the conveyance, a small fortune. Now, with the Asbestos regulations being amendedback in April 2012, massive fines can happen if any asbestos is disturbed – even the white stuff.  Not to mention the health risk to the owner, the cowboy’s own staff and anyone else who treads there after they’ve done their work.

My advice? use a Property Care Association member.  Some are better than others, but they all have vetted for insurance, qualifications and work standards. look at their testimonials in depth; anyone can write there own and I’m afraid this does happen, so look for real images and such to go with them. Testimonial Monkey (a dedicated web-site for customer feedback), just deregistered a damp proofing ‘specialist’ (non PCA member), for including over 50 testimonials, the majority of which were found to come from the same IP address! I wont name this company either –  they are not PCA members.

Dry Rot

 

PS – I will supply a photo of the house 3M above the ground so you can see this stupid quote for what it was, when my client buys it. The good news is that my client has bought the property and I have an order for the woodworm treatment – see the image above.

 

Dry Rot.

Comments

  1. Annabelle says:

    Dear Dry Rot,

    I would LOVE to ask you to post this post to my blog ? ? ? You can be my guest blogger ?
    I would put links back to preservation expert website or can put it on as you with links to brick tie ?
    But rather than re-investing the wheel it would be great to have you blog for us !
    xxxxxx

  2. JohnB says:

    The National Association of Estate Agents really need to issue guidance on this. Maybe the PCA need to contact them to make them aware of the problems that can occur when unqualified damp surveyors are recommended.

    • Hi John,

      It is a big problem, which has been around for years. Many lenders and particulaly RICS surveyors now recommend only PCA members are asked if damp diagnosis is needed. There are independents and contractors and whilst PCA is no guarantee of good service, it does filter out the unqualified chaps like the one featured.

      The PCA would also come down very hard on any member presenting a report like the one damp and timber report I saw in Leeds it breaks the PCA code of practice in many ways

      regards

  3. Annabelle says:

    Hi Bryan,
    Your FANTASTIC blog is now on my blog – with links back to you !
    http://timberanddamp.co.uk/blog/
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

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