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How to build confidence in your home improvement project

Press release

Home improvement – DIY or get some help?

Home improvement has seen a huge rise throughout the pandemic. The increased amount of time people are spending at home, improving mental health and wanting their home to look nice for Christmas are all contributing factors to the 12.8 million people planning to do improvement work at home in the next few weeks.

In the run up to Christmas, 46% of Brits plan to undertake home improvements and 54% of them are planning to do the work themselves, with a whopping 61% admitting that they are not competent to do the job! That’s according to figures released today (16/11/20) from research undertaken by the financial services comparison company, GoCompare.

At the start of the second lockdown, Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, confirmed that tradespeople would still be able enter customers’ homes to carry out work.  However, in yet another example of confusion around the COVID-19 restrictions, the research reveals that 13% of those wanting to work on their homes believed that they couldn’t have tradespeople in their home and 23% didn’t want them in their home at all.

With so many risks associated with undertaking works in the home, what else do you need to consider when using a tradesperson?

wooden joints

10 Top Tips for taking on tradespeople

1)  Get at least 3 firm quotes, not just rough estimates. Ignore any that are very different to other quotes.

2)  Ask friends and family for recommendations of companies who have already done work for them. If you don’t know anyone who can make a recommendation, ask traders for details of customers willing to show you their work. TrustMark can provide a list of recommended traders in your area, each of whom in turn is registered with a professional trade association. TrustMark say they are the Government Endorsed Quality Scheme and if something goes wrong with a trader – and their process doesn’t put it right – you will be able to use the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman for free. Check out reviews. Be careful and cynical of reviews on Facebook, particularly on the builder’s own page. Scams abound on many sites. So, check carefully before making a decision!

3)   All professional builders should willingly agree to a written contract which includes an agreed staged payment plan. In addition to the contract, continuous communication throughout the project is the best way to avoid problems arising. Many traders are signed up to reputable trade associations which help them to get their paperwork in order, but remember, what comes naturally to a lawyer doesn’t necessarily to a trader.

4)   Beware of websites that just offer to help you to find tradespeople. Often traders pay to be listed on these websites which generate leads for them, sometimes without the trader being vetted or required to abide by an Ombudsman or Alternative Dispute Resolution Service. If the website only helps you to spend your cash but doesn’t help you put things right if they go wrong, avoid it and look for one that will help you at both ends of the project.

5)   In addition to providing lots of advice and information on services, Which? operates the Which? Trusted Traders scheme. Unlike a lead generation site, this carries out checks and requires traders to abide by a comprehensive code of conduct, all of which is underpinned by the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman which can independently investigate complaints if things do go wrong.

6)   Be wary of any builder who can start straight away! Any builder worth their salt will be busy!

7)   Check to see if the builder has public liability or employer’s insurance which will give you peace of mind. Consider a building warranty that either they or you can take out to give you further peace of mind.

8)   Take photos before, during and after the work.

9)   For some larger projects, both parties can agree that an independent expert will value the work and payments can then be made at various stages during the project.

10) If you’re using a home improvement retailer to fit a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, check that they are a member of the Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman before you buy. If they are registered, you’ll benefit from free and independent dispute resolution if things go wrong.

Top tips – what to do if things go wrong with tradespeople

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, a consumer champion, has these tips:

1)  Try to resolve the matter in person or over the ‘phone before formally writing if you have a complaint.

2)  Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods of satisfactory quality, that last a reasonable length of time and services (such as fitting) to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

3)  Give the trader an opportunity to remedy the work. If they refuse to do this or they fail to do it satisfactorily, then you can take the matter further. Ensure that you state that you retain your legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so that you are still able to claim if necessary afterwards when you write to complain.

4)  If the trader does not respond or does not remedy the faulty work, proceed with getting an independent report and 3 quotes.   Get the work done and write to the trader requesting this amount, attaching the paperwork. You could attach a quote before the work is done to give the trader one last chance, if you wish.

5)  The Defective Premises Act 1972 relates to work undertaken by builders, developers, surveyors and architects. “Defective”, in legal terms, means work causing the property to be unfit for habitation as a result of design, workmanship or materials. Improvement, small jobs and refurbishments are not covered by this Act, so use the Consumer Rights Act 2015 instead.

6)  If the trader is a member of a trade association, you can contact it and see if you are able to use their dispute resolution scheme.

Kevin Grix, Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman at the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, says:

“Sometimes even the most straightforward home improvement projects go wrong – and when they do the consequences for everyone involved can be dire. The temporary loss of amenities such as plumbing and electricity caused by a problem are often just the tip of the iceberg. Often when jobs go badly, traders and their customers find themselves in a stand-off, with work left incomplete and arguments over payments escalating.”

There are few more emotive disputes than those that involve the home. Dewdney says that good builders and tradespeople are not just adept with their tools – they also have processes in place to look after their customers. “For extra peace of mind, select those who demonstrate a commitment to standards and putting things right if they go wrong. Look for the ones who are registered with an endorsement website and with an Ombudsman.”

What to include in a contract with the builder etc

A contract should include the following:

  • Total price inclusive/exclusive of VAT
  • Timescales
  • Start and end dates to include delays and disruptions
  • Payment stages
  • Specifications of materials to be used
  • Insurance and responsibilities for loss/damage
  • Liabilities
  • How unexpected work will be dealt with
  • Health and Safety
  • Termination/cancellation rights
  • Sub-contracting
  • Dispute resolution

For more information see How to ensure a stress-free building project which includes a case study and court action which set a precedent you need to know if you are considering legal action!

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo

 

For more help, advice, tips, information and templates buy  How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

 

 

man in hard hat

There are some problems in the ADR/Ombudsman sector

There are many issues regarding ADR and Ombudsmen providers. These are mainly to do with the oversight by their approval bodies and are highlighted in my articles Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes and Landing in Court with Ryanair. These articles include links to the reports Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles.

This is why we recommend an Ombudsman. (See More Ombudsman Omnishambles for details on how Ombudsman standards are higher than other ADR providers).

Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words…
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ADR Ombudsman Business Latest News Press releases

Ryanair tops CAA refund complaints

Press release

Low-cost airline is highest in regulator’s complaints figures

Ryanair is the most complained about airline by far, according to figures recently released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

A Freedom of Information Request reveals that more than half of all the 1280 complaints received by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding refunds due to COVID-19 related cancellations were about Ryanair. The CAA received 642 complaints about Ryanair. The second most complained about airline, Air Transat, was not even close, with a total of only 120 complaints. [1]

The CAA has collated the information on 74 airlines. recording how many passengers have complained about cancellation refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic period.

In its FOI response the CAA said that “Should any airline fall short of the commitments they have made, we will not hesitate to take any further action where required.” However, in its review into airline refund practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryanair was one of the airlines identified by the CAA as not processing refund requests sufficiently quickly. The CAA found that the airline had a sizeable backlog of refund requests and that refunds were taking 10 weeks or longer.

Ryanair aeroplane in sky

Ryanair’s broken promise

On 3 July, Ryanair published a set of commitments on its website about timescales for processing cash refunds. Ryanair confirmed that 90% of its backlog would be cleared by the end of July with all refund claims made in April to be processed by 15 July and most of the claims made in May by the end of July. Their website now states that more than 90% were processed by the end of July but there is no update nearly 3 months on and customers are still waiting for refunds today:

 

So, what action is the CAA taking against Ryanair, a company that is flagrantly breaking the law on refunds of cancelled flights?  It is not doing anything…

Passengers take matters further

Passengers who fail to get their refunds are bypassing the tortuously long delays that Ryanair appears to to be imposing on them. Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, says “Ryanair customers who email the CEO are having success in getting their refunds processed, but some have had to threaten legal action before getting a positive result.”

Clearly Ryanair knows it is breaking the law by not making these refunds in a timely manner and makes the refund when threatened with legal action by its customers. Ironically, by threatening legal action, Ryanair’s own customers are achieving far more than the CAA is doing in trying to get the company to respect the law!

Ryanair was asked to comment but refused to do so.

CAA fails again

This is the latest in a series of failures by the CAA. Less than two weeks ago Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow a consumer champion – exposed the CAA for launching a consultation on Alternative Dispute Resolution without telling stakeholders, covering it on social media or any press release. The exposé prompted the regulator to reopen the consultation for a further 6 weeks.[2]

If a consumer is unable to resolve their complaint with their airline, they can escalate it to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body or, if their airline is not a member of an ADR scheme, through the CAA. Ryanair is no longer a member of an ADR scheme. However, the CAA has done little to address the problems regarding ADR[3]  or Ryanair’s illegal behaviour.

In December 2018 the CAA stated that it was taking enforcement action against Ryanair for the company’s failure to pay compensation to passengers when the airline staff took strike action. Nearly two years on there has been no update about what action the CAA will take.

New CAA Chairman but passengers still losing out

A new Chairman started at the CAA on 1 August 2020.[4] But unfortunately the new chair, Sir Stephen Hillier, has been ineffective in tackling airlines that are continuing to break the law on consumer refunds.

Dewdney says that she is not surprised by the latest findings:

“The Competition and Markets Authority has taken enforcement action against companies that are breaking the law, such as holiday companies. It continues to keep the public informed with guidance and has used its regulatory powers to tale enforcement action.

In contrast, the CAA has similar powers but has shown itself to be not fit for purpose. Over and over again, it is finding in favour of airlines and letting them behave illegally. The CAA needs to use its enforcement powers to revoke airline operating licenses where airlines do not comply with the law.”

Notes to Editors

[1] FOI airline complaints response and spreadsheet to Helen Dewdney’s request available on request

[2] CAA launches consultation and tells no-one… https://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/caa-launches-consultation-and-tells-no-one/

[3] See Ombudsman Omnishambles and the More Ombudsman Omnishambles reports which looked at approval and monitoring of ADR schemes.

[4] See details of the appointment   https://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/civil-aviation-authority-caa-gets-new-chairman/