/ Home & Energy

Legal advice: finding a roofing resolution

Remedial works can sometimes lead to disputes, but the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is there to protect you. Here’s how we helped advise a member to recoup their loss.

During the spring of 2020, Which? member Dave instructed a local trader to carry out partial re-roofing works to his property.

Shortly after these works were completed, Dave noticed the gutters had started to overflow. The company returned to carry out remedial works, but this didn’t rectify the problem.

On inspecting the guttering, Dave suggested there might be an issue with its alignment following the re-roofing works. The trader dismissed his request to perform further remedial work and instead only offered to resolve the problem by installing a completely new guttering system at further cost.

Dave did not feel he should have to pay for any remedial works or unnecessary improvements, and he contacted Which? Legal for advice on how to move forward with the issue.

Reasonable care and skill

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill, the trader is given one opportunity to put things right.

This legal remedy of ‘repeat performance’ is to be carried out within a reasonable timeframe and with the trader bearing all necessary costs. Dave had already allowed the trader to resolve the issue to no avail. This meant Dave could now instruct another company to carry out the remedial work and look to recover the costs from the trader.

We advised Dave to set out his legal position to the trader, requesting payment of the additional costs he was due to incur in having another company carry out the remedial works.

When the trader failed to respond, Dave commenced a court claim using the government’s Money Claim Online system (moneyclaims.service.gov.uk) in order to recoup his loss. Two days after initiating the claim, the trader contacted Dave and agreed to pay his claim in full, including his court fees and interest.

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If the gutter was overflowing it sounds like the downpipe had become blocked, most likely by debris from the roof work falling into the guttering and then being washed into the downpipe when the rain started. And it would most likely be blocked at the point where the downpipe goes through it’s bends from the overhang to the wall. I know that happens as I have a friend with a really big house with loads of guttering and I’ve sorted out problems with it loads of times. It usually only requires the bends to be removed and cleaned out and then refitted. Either that or the new tiles or slates had been fitted so that they were overhanging the gutter too far. Either way it shouldn’t need new guttering to be fitted.

Moss, leaves and weeds are the most likely causes of blocked gutters. Annual cleaning is necessary where such material is prevalent. Moss usually breaks down and flushes away with heavy rainfall, leaves can be more difficult as some [like holly and pine needles] take much longer than others to decompose or disintegrate. Weeds will become established if any moss or weeds remain in the trough and then they start to prevent the water and debris flowing towards the downpipe leading to a build-up of sediment that harbours more weed seeds.

I no longer feel safe getting up on a long ladder to deal with the gutters and should be interested to know how the franchised companies that specialise in gutter cleansing from ground level perform. I have employed various trades people in the past with mixed degrees of satisfaction but have become increasingly worried about their lack of safe methods of work.

A wire balloon gutter guard will prevent roof repair debris from blocking a downspout. Wire gutter guards cost very little and it is the responsibility of the owner occupier to install one, irrespective of whether roofing work is carried out or not. Most roofers are familiar with these guards, which could have prevented debris blocking Dave’s downspout. If no gutter guard was in place, should Dave bear some responsibility for failing to install one, if, in fact, that was the case?

I have not seen many roofs with gutter guards although they are a widely-promoted solution for gutters prone to getting blocked. But do they not allow a build-up [between the edge of the roof and the gutter guard] of material that is prevented from entering the gutter? This could become a nuisance in its own right and lead to water ingress into the property causing damp, decay and mould growth.

Getting the right amount of overhang of the bottom row of tiles or slates, ensuring that any roofing felt or sarking exposed beneath the roof covering is trimmed correctly, making sure the guttering is aligned correctly with a slight fall towards the downpipe, and ensuring there is sufficient capacity in the troughs and downpipes, are the key to a trouble-free roof. Plus regular maintenance, of course.

At a previous house, a pair of wood pigeons would build their nest in the angle of the swan-neck connecting the gutter to the downpipe so we had to be careful not to disturb them while nesting and raising chicks.

The balloon gutter guard I referred to will not be seen as it’s clipped into the downspout.

Watch: youtube.com – How to prevent rainwater downpipes from becoming blocked.

Thanks, Beryl. That video led me to look at other ways of preventing gutter blockages shown on YouTube. The balloon guard does stop stuff going down the drainpipe but the demonstrator pointed out that it still requires regular maintenance. Some of the other gutter fittings didn’t seem to be much use and, in fact, caused more problems than they solved, so periodic cleaning and removal of debris is necessary. I think using a specialist firm, with long reach apparatus, is probably the best answer. Some firms do a ‘before & after’ video so that the customer can see the results. I shall now make some enquiries and get quotations.

I have recently had all mine done by a local family specialist cleaner, who used a ladder with his son firmly supporting it on the ground, i wouldn’t recommend long reach apparatus as this can damage a UPVC guttering and may not completely clear the gutter of debris. A specialist cleaner should be able to inspect the gutters at close contact, and be close enough to inspect the condition of the downspout for blockages and also clean the balloon guard at the same time.

Balloon guards are an inexpensive essential piece of kit to prevent the build up of debris entering the downspout pipe on the bend lower down or underground which, if blocked, can prove very expensive to repair. A balloon guard will collect moss and leaves and will be a good indicator to tell you it is time for your gutters to be cleaned as this will be evident from the ground.

As so often happens with legal cases reported here we have not been given sufficient detail to understand the problem. Perhaps the problem was more serious than blocked gutters.

Lauren has explained that since the trader had tried and failed to rectify the problem and declined further help, Dave employed another company to fix the problem and to recover this cost from the first contractor using the Money Claim Online system. I cannot immediately find anything about this on the Which? website but here is information from Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/legal-system/small-claims/making-a-small-claim/

I have a friend with a large house with miles of guttering, especially since his various extensions were built, and he’s had problems for years with moss building up on the roof and falling down into the gutters and seriously blocking up the bends in the down pipes. And luckily he has some long ladders and I used to go over there every autumn to clean out his gutters and eventually he got some long brush type stuff which has vastly improved the situation as it fits quite tightly into the guttering and it stops leaves as well as moss from clogging it up, and I fitted some plastic gutter syphons in the outlets too which have also helped stop them blocking. But the long brush stuff has a twisted wire core which is difficult to cut if it needs cutting as the wire is made from very hard steel and it needs cutting with a good quality hacksaw or even a grinder, so it’s not something just anyone can do, or bolt cutters might do it but I haven’t tried them but once that stuffs fitted it seems to solve the problem. And the cut ends will be sharp so that’s something to be aware of too. But beware of the plastic mesh system which is sometimes advertised as a solution. I’ve found it impossible to fit as the gutters are in my experience always fitted too high up under the overhanging tiles or slates so you can’t get the clips to fit over the inner edge of the gutters which is essential to hold the mesh in place. I can never get my fingers inside the space to fit the clips, whereas the brush system is much easier to fit.