I was in two minds whether to blog about my first experience with ‘cowboys’ as a homeowner, but 48 hours after the turn of events that has made me reconsider the power of prior research, it’s still on my mind so I clearly need closure.
On Wednesday I worked from home. It had been in the diary for months after I scheduled a survey to be done on the house by a company who specialise in cavity wall insulation. Ours is a cold house – built in 1934 or so, semi-detached and having been unloved for a number of years, there are a fair few structural issues we need to resolve to try and make it more energy efficient before winter comes again and so that my poor OH doesn’t throttle me for moaning that I’m cold every 5 seconds. (as a disclaimer to this, I do suffer from unnaturally poor circulation which means I’m constantly cold unless it’s 30 degrees everywhere. It sounds mildly amusing but it’s no less debilitating than someone who suffers from insomnia for example. I’ll blog about it more at a later date).
So on receiving yet another flyer through the door shortly after we moved in offering free cavity wall insulation if the building qualifies I thought it was something worth doing. Needless to say, I DID check out the whole free thing and it is legitimate in an effort to reduce energy consumption on older houses which most likely haven’t been insulated when they were built (modern houses generally are). Unfortunately I must have been feeling flippant that day and didn’t bother doing any research on the company, just called them up and booked them in.
Perhaps alarm bells already should have been ringing when they told me the next available appointment was 3 months away (seriously, WHAT was I thinking?) but on Tuesday I got a text message telling me that my surveyor would be with me between 8am and noon to carry out the survey. Wednesday was a shitty, rainy day. I don’t blame the surveyor and his accomplice for turning up 10 minutes before the end of the expected time slot. I wasn’t best pleased though with their opening line being:
“So you are aware, some of the funding has been cut and you may need to make a small contribution.”
“How small?”, I replied.
“Well, we won’t know until we do the survey.”
They proceeded to carry out the ‘survey’ at lightening speed, the main subject being whether or not they could get it done before the rain came again (really? Had they been sitting in all morning waiting for a break in the rain and come straight over?) and as it turns out asked me none of the questions they should have done and certainly didn’t perform all of the checks they should have done. Instead they told me I would need a vent inserted into my living room wall to cater for the fact we have an open fireplace, which would cost £35, and after taking measurements that we would need to contribute £176 to the work being carried out.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not a penny pincher by any means and would rather pay over the odds for the perfect job so it wasn’t really down to the £176 at all. It simply came down to the fact that they were so unprofessional in their approach that would I really want this company pumping insulation into the structure of my house which could ultimately cause serious long-term damage?
To add insult to injury, the main surveyor who asked to use the toilet (again, I’m not precious, no problem with that) then positively sneered when he realised there was no downstairs toilet which meant he had to haul his cumbersome weight upstairs, proceeded to PEE WITH THE DOOR OPEN. Seriously? Is this what you do in a strangers house? Goodness knows what our poor electrician thought who was doing some work in the room opposite him. He may never come back, traumatised for life.
So, blessed with the courage of my convictions I played the “I’m a poor little woman who needs to check with her husband first” card and refused to sign any paperwork and got them out of the house as quickly as I could without being rude.
You hear horror stories of cowboy tradesmen leaving people’s lives in disrepair so I know we got away lightly but we’ve been very lucky with everyone else who has done work on the house so far that I was caught a bit off guard.
My words of wisdom from this small life lesson: 1) Do your research and 2) Stay away from Energy Care UK Limited based in Haynes, Bedfordshire!
Can you recommend ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home? Or have you experience any cowboy tradesmen?