Q I bought a house two-and-a-half years ago, which I have now discovered – though an independent surveyors report – has rising damp. A builder has estimated that a new damp proof course together with associated building work will cost about £10,000 to put right. According to the papers that came with the property a damp proof course was installed about four years ago, and I have a copy of the associated 15-year damp proof guarantee. Unfortunately, the damp proof guarantee stipulates that it needs to be conveyed to the owner of the house every time the property is sold.
This did not occur with me and the original damp proof contractors are refusing to honour the guarantee. I contacted the solicitors who looked after the conveyance, who were helpful but did seem to think they had any liability. Could you tell me if either my solicitor or the damp proof contractors are liable for the cost, and what should my next steps be to resolve the issue? I would prefer not to have to engage other solicitors to act for me as money is quite tight, although I will if it is necessary.
Jayne M. Maidstone
A Unfortunately you’re predicament is an especially common one. The timber and damp industry is fraught with a great many so-called ‘experts and specialists’. Although there is no shortage of fly-by-night builders and handymen who operate as damp proofing operatives, it’s ironic that the most well known nationwide damp companies are usually the biggest scam artists. We routinely come across the innocent victims of these merciless scum-bags, usually when their half-hearted damp proofing efforts fail after a few weeks.
In answer to your question: Yes, the contractors are liable. However, if they are refusing to comply, then barring protracted and expensive legal action they will invariably refuse to rectify the issue or provide any form of recompense. And in all honesty I think it highly unlikely these particular contractors will respond to your calls and emails in the first place. They were paid for job that they completed unsatisfactorily, they won’t be the sort of people who will take responsibility for their actions.
And no, the solicitor is not liable and only acts as a representative when instructed and ensures the legalities of the process are adhered to. The solicitors awareness of liability will be foremost when his services are employed. Both the solicitor and surveyor will ensure they avoid liability throughout the process. This is achieved through careful wording in all documentation and correspondence.
In regard to the £10,000 quotation you’ve been given, I can assure you this is complete nonsense. Rochester Building and Damp can rectify the damp issue in your property, including all the associated building work for around £3000 in total. As with all our completed works, a transferrable 20 year guarantee certificate will be provided.
Martin Sykes PDA® Surveyor and Co-owner of Rochester Building & Damp