Replacing or repairing a roof can be one of the more expensive tasks associated with homeownership. It’s also one of the hardest to check thoroughly before paying for the work. It is, however, essential that you keep your roof, chimney stacks and guttering in good order as neglecting it can cause damp, leaks and other issues that could quickly lead to more extensive structural damage.
What happens, though, if the roofing contractor you choose to carry out this essential work does a less than satisfactory job? The chances are you won’t realise until some time after the work has been completed that issues remain, so it can be difficult to get the contractor to accept responsibility. So, how do you claim for shoddy work?
How to choose a reliable roofer
Firstly, let’s look at a few ways to avoid this issue altogether by finding a roofer who has the skills, experience, and reputation that suggests they’ll do a good job. While outcomes can never be guaranteed, there are a few simple steps you can take to stack the odds in your favour here.
For example, don’t just search online and choose the first name that pops up. Instead, ask people you know in the local area for recommendations and check online reviews. Next, invite a few roofers around to quote on the job. Not only will this give you the chance to compare prices, but it will also provide an opportunity to ask questions and request references. Find out if they are members of recognised trade associations such as the NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) or the CORC (Confederation of Roofing Contractors). As well as showing that your contractor has been vetted and has the correct insurances, these associations also offer dispute resolution services should issues arise, which could prove invaluable. With a home visit, you’ll also be able to get a feel for how the contractor works. If they don’t inspect the site thoroughly, or they attempt to dazzle you with complex questions, or if they mention a whole host of additional problems that haven’t previously come up, take these as warning signs.
Also, consider having a roof survey to know exactly what state the roof is in and what work needs to be carried out. By having this information to hand, it’ll be much easier to proceed with confidence.
Finally, always make sure you get a written quote and don’t automatically go for the cheapest option, especially if it’s way below the others. This can be a sign that they’re not fixing the entirety of the problem.
Claiming for poor work
If despite all these precautions, you still end up unhappy with the work, there are things you can do to give yourself the best chance of either having the work rectified or being compensated for the poor job.
Contact your contractor
The first step will always be to get back in touch with the company that did the job and explain the situation. Often this will be enough to get someone out to rectify the work. If they’re reticent, remember you have rights as a consumer that entitle you to receive work and materials of satisfactory quality. Keep a record of any communication you have and try to get the roofer to agree on a timescale for resolving the situation to avoid it dragging on.
Make a formal complaint
If the roofer fails to meet the agreed timescale or is being evasive, see if the company has an official complaints procedure that will escalate the situation. As this is unlikely to be in place for many sole traders and smaller companies, check again which trade associations they are a member of and if they have any schemes that could help. CORC, for example, has an online complaints form and offers a free mediation service. If you have serious concerns about the company you’ve used, you could also report them to Trading Standards, providing conciliation services.
At this point, it may be worth inviting other companies around to look at the roof as it stands and to quote on putting the work right so you know how much you’d be looking to claim from the original contractor. Sharing this information may even encourage them to fix the problem. Again, an impartial roof survey can be valuable here as it will highlight exactly what needs to be rectified.
Try to recover what you’ve paid
If things progress this far, your thoughts will likely turn to try to recover your costs so far. Depending on how you’ve paid, there are several options available. For example, if you paid some or all of the amount by credit card, providing it was over £100, you may be able to claim the money back from your credit card provider under Section 75. Similarly, if you paid by debit card, you may be able to request a chargeback, basically a reversal of the transaction. There must be clear evidence of breach of contract to do this, and the contractor may dispute it, so success is by no means guaranteed.
Prepare your claim
If you still haven’t been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion, the next step is to consider legal action. To give yourself the best chance of success, collate all the evidence you’ve got so far. This may include correspondence you’ve had with the roofer, pictures of the work or the damage caused and any quotes you’ve received to rectify the work.
Calling in an independent expert such as a roof surveyor like ourselves would strengthen your argument here. Look for someone who has specific experience in roofing and who will both assess the issue and advise on the steps needed to put it right. You can also ask them to produce an Expert Witness report that can be used as evidence in any subsequent court proceedings. If you then choose to use another contractor to put the work right, you know exactly what needs to be done, and you can raise a claim for the additional money spent.
Take it to the Small Claims Court
If despite all of this, the original trader still doesn’t fix the problem or offer a refund, your final option will be to start court proceedings. If your claim is worth less than £10,000, it can be handled by the Small Claims Court; if your case is worth more than this, you will need to seek legal advice. You can start the Small Claims process online, but you must pay a fee depending on the value of the claim, although you may be able to claim this back if you win. After you’ve submitted the claim, the roofer will be given a date by which they must respond. If they don’t, you can ask the court to order the defendant to pay. If the claim is disputed, you may have to go to a court hearing, ahead of which you will probably be offered access to a mediation service. If the hearing proceeds, you’ll get a decision on the day and if you win your case, the court will order the money to be paid to you. There are ways the court can collect your payment if the trader ignores the court order, freezing bank accounts or collecting money from the sale of their land or property.
Of course, the hope is that any issues can be rectified well before things get this far. The key to this is being prepared at the start of the project, being clear on the work needed and the outcome, and working with a reputable roofing company.