It seems never a day goes by without one or more calls to the NACE Technical Help line surrounding conflicting often sub-standard advice and guidance from one unqualified source or another, always on complex subject matters made light by grossly incompetent traders willing to share their naive and dangerous opinions with a gullible public who for some inane reason or another desperately believe every word of gibberish spouted by these self-confessed know-it-all’s!

These regular occurrences appear to be based upon unverified and unsubstantiated recommendation without anyone in receipt of such services asking for a shred of documentary evidence. Of course one could understand this blasé attitude if the work to be carried out was of a level unlikely to result in either structural damage, contravention of Party Wall etiquette, installation non-compliance, administrative and contractual negligence, shoddy and incompetent workmanship, damage to property, third party loss or an injury and/or a fatality! 

Many homeowners crave businesses and individuals simply undertake specialist work on nothing more than a recommendation without first having established and verified via a recognised third party their competence to do so, many assuming that as a member of a competent person scheme a registrant is somehow above questioning on important subject matters such as: Project management expertise, general safety and wellbeing principals, fire risk assessment procedures, domestic electrical safety standards, pre-installation theory documentation, project methods & procedures, consumer Scope of Work’s, consumer guarantees and warranty’s against defective materials & non-compliant workmanship, period building materials knowledge, thermal design feasibility, regulatory and statutory interpretation, contractual recognition and obligation as well as insurance protection certification. 

Appointments of tradespeople appear to be made on almost a whim, no prior scrutiny having taken place with an unwavering investment in persons virtually unknown to the consumer, this often leads to issues later on or in the future when a property is sold or when issues with the work start to appear. 

Sadly, as our case file evidence illustrates, this is clearly an area of gross ignorance as there is, contrary to opinion, a definite and determinable difference between someone carrying out a physical activity requiring little other than the ability to repeat a mechanical function and how such functions are scrutinised, managed and administrated.

Conflicting advice and guidance offered by those with limited industry and cross-industry knowledge represent a real threat to the consumer/homeowner in an unregulated and unaccountable industry whereby few documents are, and continue to be, correctly and competently interpreted. The recipient of poor advice, negligent workmanship and/or work that does not comply or is non-compliant may well find they are left with their home insurances in jeopardy, in breach of local planning and/or in contravention of the Building Regulations, null & voided or denied claim facility (not the tradesperson) whilst left up the ‘proverbial creek’ without a paddle in sight with litigation being the only recourse for achieving financial recompense. 

Attempting therefore to hold a tradesperson liable after the fact is both short sighted and incredibly naïve, ultimately the consumer/homeowner will be found at fault and liable for not having carried out sufficient ‘due diligence’ before appointing the tradesperson when on post assessment and investigation it is found the work and those carrying it out were not either trained nor independently assessed and verified as competent to have carried it out.

NACE would suggest that the general public take heed of the following points before placing misguided trust in their choice of tradesperson:

1/ Advice.
This should be sought from non-revenue driven, independent, peer recognised, unbiased and objective professionals who can demonstrate and confirm broad subject matter expertise, will have, as a duty of care, your best interests in mind not their own and of course fully explain in mechanical terms what, in their professional opinion are the least intrusive, convenient and cost effective options to consider. If this cannot be achieved or there is resistance in providing this level of consumer information we suggest avoiding the source of advice.

2/ Unqualified source material.
Members of unregulated and unrecognised organisations will rush to offer their own brand of biased self-opinion on matters way beyond their knowledge level, this is regularly found to occur without any challenge from the consumer. Often source material is found to be biased, one dimensional and based upon unchallenged assumption not fact nor competence.
Guidance and/or advice offered to a consumer on subject matters that could lead to a ‘life-changing’ event occurring should be fully investigated and the source confirmed before agreeing to the commencement of any work.

3/ Know your project.
Hundreds of consumers agree on a daily basis to the appointment of tradespeople on the basis of either recommendation and/or a ‘price whim’ very rarely researching independent best methods, practices or contractor competency, this is astounding given the risk to both fabric of a building and consumer/neighbour health and wellbeing. 

Homeowners should, in theory, know their property better than any attending tradesperson yet more often than not rather than properly research both service provider/contractor and proposed method/process simply acquiesce to detrimental advice and guidance simply because of price and/or third party unsubstantiated recommendation, neither route likely to end well!

Homeowners are directly liable in the first instance for meeting the relevant elements of the Building Regulations not those in attendance as tradespeople/contractors, therefore prior knowledge of regulatory liability, contractual obligation and a basic understanding of what is likely to be involved in the project is absolutely essential. The same applies if any intended work is likely to require local authority notification as would fireplace alteration, fireplace re-design, building work to or on a controlled service and/or design changes to or on a controlled service or fireplace opening.

Homeowners in instances of evident noncompliance along with the person/s responsible may be held liable leading to third party litigation.

Members of a competent person scheme are only ‘assumed’ to have met the same regulations when issuing a scheme certificate as such work is neither independently monitored or scrutinized therefore scheme certificates are not a guarantee or a warranty that the issuer has met every aspect of the Building Regulation’s or that the work carried out is either safe or compliant, this is merely an ‘assumed’ status.

It is therefore important to know who is liable if it all goes horribly wrong, who is carrying out the work (the contracted party/s) what if any element is notifiable to local authority and if any of the work is sub-contracted to whom it would be.

4/ Audit Trail Evidence
In virtually every instance of workmanship negligence or worker incompetence the consumer was found to have agreed terms on the basis of nothing more than a single email or one A4 sized quotation/estimate, although in law these do constitute a contract of sorts much could be argued in favour of the tradesperson/contractor through a lack of transparency if such documents were relied upon in any intended litigation. 

It is the right of the consumer to expect and a legal responsibility for a tradesperson and/or contractor to provide a lawful contract, this should be supported by way of a Scope of Works and a component based Method Statement, it is essential for the homeowner to have this level of information to hand with which to base a judgement prior to any work commencing.

If any work of a nature likely to impact upon a neighbouring property or on a party wall between properties is likely the homeowner is legally obliged to issue relevant sections of the Party Wall Act to their neighbour before any work commences, if work does commence without a party wall agreement in place the onus of liability shifts from the homeowner to the trades person/contractor in accordance with the CDMR’s. Failure to comply could lead to a dispute and expensive litigation, neither property could, in theory, be sold whilst a civil dispute exists.

5/ Contractual Obligation
Consumers are legally entitled to a Contract, Scope of Works and a Method Statement, consumers are therefore advised never to enter into an agreement without an enforceable contract in place agreed to by all involved parties.

A contract must provide the consumer with insurance protection access, refund policy, variation order notification system, completion time scale, supervision of all sub-contractors and sub-contract insurance indemnity, cancellation and complaints policies, cancellation notification procedure and a guarantees. Scheme registered installers and other trades are bound by their scheme to provide up to six (6) years warranty against work that does not comply with the Building Regulation or is found to be defective.

6/ Notice of Cancellation
It is a legal obligation that a tradesperson entering into an agreement/contract with a consumer must, in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015, provide access to a method for cancelation. This must take the form of a standalone document provided either within the contract or attached to it whereby the consumer is given a fourteen day (14) ‘cooling off’ period thus able to cancel their contractual obligation, this notification must be in writing and posted/delivered to the person/business in question. Monies paid as a deposit must be returned with any materials purchased by the tradesperson/business on behalf of the consumer reimbursed to them.

7/ Consumer Guarantees
Consumers/home owners should not enter into any agreement until they are in receipt of work and material/component related guarantees and warranties, reliance upon third party schemes and private membership businesses to provide this level of consumer protection on behalf of their members/registrants simply does not exist, private businesses and membership organisations waiver all third party registrant workmanship liability therefore it is the responsibility of the consumer/homeowner to verify the tradesperson has suitable and verified insurance protection in place.

Tradespeople must provide both Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance protection by way of ‘bona-fide’ certification, consumers should request copies thereof against any future claim. 

Members of a competent person scheme must, in accordance with their schemes license requirements provide up to six (6) years workmanship guarantee against defective workmanship, furthermore, in instances of non-compliant work or work that does not meet the Building Regulations such schemes must, in accordance with their such license requirements provide access to an insurance backed fund for the consumer to claim against.

NACE General Enquiries:
Tel: 01526 322555
NACE Training & Education:
Tel: 01929 332332
NACE Technical Help Desk:
Tel: 01223 774477
NACE Lecture Workshop Experience:
Tel: 0330 500 1030 

Fire Risk Guidance helpline 020 3030 5999 email: firekills@nace.org.uk
Carbon-Monoxide Guidance helpline 01793 221 999 email: carbonmonoxidekills@nace.org.uk

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