Handyman liability? (long, with boredom potential)

Page 1 of 3  
Hi folks,
To avoid boredom you can jump to the question at the end. It's marked 'question'.
Talking about becoming a handyman type of bloke in another thread reminded me of this scenario from last week:
In the summer we bought another place and I set about bringing it up to standards for letting. A sparky came in and told me what needed to be done to get up to 16th edition regs and fire regs which I did, and that passed the inspection with only a couple of minor points (sockets on skirting boards aren't allowed now etc).
I also moved the kitchen radiator and added 3 more in upstairs bedrooms. No leaks when the system was refilled and still no leaks when the pump was switched on for the first time. To pass the gas safety cert the heating was on long enough for some of the rads to heat up (the one in question is furthest away from the boiler, typically).......but still no leaks....water must've been circulating round the whole system, yes?
However, the NEXT time the heating was put on a few weeks ago one of the SpeedFit joints literally popped, but because it was under a bedroom floor and said floor was over the garage nobody in the house really spotted it, despite the fact it was almost pissing into the garage!
I had to drain the system to replace the elbow in question and it turned out the rubber seal had a manufacturing defect that meant about 10mm of it is missing - there's nice straight edge on one side of the gap in the seal so it's not a case of bad fitting.
37k JPG at
http://vorbis.demon.co.uk/noseal.jpg
The puzzling thing is, when I found the leak water was pouring out with no help from the pump, so if said seal had been in this state when the system was refilled it would've leaked from the word go, and DEFINITELY would've leaked with the pump on, so what happened to the missing bit?
Question: Now if this had happened over any of the other rooms the potential for damage is huge, so who would ultimately pick up the tab for the damage and repair? Me for not being around when the heating was used in anger for the first time, B&Q for selling dodgy fittings or the manufacturers of SpeedFit?
This is the sort of thing that worries me!
cheers
witchy/binarydinosaurs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 16 Oct 2003 10:36:52 +0100, Witchy wrote:
<snip>

I'd say B&Q would have to be the first line of attack, they're selling something that is not fit for the purpose. The Sale of Goods Regulations or whatever they're called seems to be quite specific about this, but IANAL!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I would expect that B&Q would be liable for a replacement part - but that's all. If you bought a car from a garage, and it broke down and you lost business because you couldn't get to a client, the garage would not be liable.
I suspect this is where Public/Professional Liability Insurance or something kicks in. You'd need some sort of insurance like this to cover these sorts of problems - even when you probably couldn't do much to help it.
D
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

thing. Whether those conditions would stand if you took them to court, is another question.
--
Tim Mitchell

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

IANAL either. From what I think I know, law and practice is heavily on the side of the end consumer. If you do work as a "handyman", it's *you* who's liable to your customers (assuming they're private householders rather than other businesses), as you are presumed to be doing this stuff day in, day out, have called yourself skilled or knowledgeable enough to do work for others, so it's reasonable to hold you accountable for all but the most unforeseeable cockups. Even if it's a clear fault on the part of the manufacturer of something you've installed, the consumer (roughly speaking) still looks to *you* for redress; you then get to try and stick the costs of making good which you've had to bear back to the immediate-supplier/distributor/manufacturer: and you'd have to demonstrate in any such dispute between you and Speedfit that you were basically competent, had done a string of other installs without problem, that no normal handyman/jobbing-plumber would have spotted the dodginess of the relevant fitting, etc.
Sorry if you don't like the answer, but that's [my possibly totally flawed understanding of] consumer protection for you. The underlying principle is, in my opinion, reasonable - someone who's trading, offering either goods or services, is presumed to know (a lot) more about them than the ordinary private individual buying those goods or services. Business-to-business transactions are treated differently, with both parties being generally expected to be grown-up big boys - in particular when buying for trade use, the buyer is expected to satisfy themselves as to fitness for specific purpose. Of course, if a supplier either wilfully or grossly-negligently misdescribes something they sell, the trade buyer has a reasonable cause of action; even there, though, they'll have to work hard to get consequential losses taken into account. (Meaning, in this case, you might get money back on the little Speedfit elbow from B&Q (cos they do refunds at the drop of a, with (AFAIK) no discrimination between trade & retail customers), but you'd have naff-all chance claiming for costs of repairing the flooded building, or for your own loss of reputation as a handyman, either from B&Q or Speedfit.
Hence, for businesses, the existence of liability insurance: if you claim on that you still have to demonstrate to your own insurance company (or their loss adjustor) that you didn't do anything daft, exercised reasonable care, etc.; but you have a much more specific contractual relationship with them than you do with either B&Q or Speedfit when you've bought material for use in the course of your business. The other insurers who'd come into play in a situation like this are the householder's: the householder might well claim for the accidental damage from the self-destruct plumbing on their home buildings policy [if they have one and it includes accidental damage cover!]; said insurer pays up, and then has the option of coming after *you* to reclaim their payout (plus costs, of course!), at which point you can try to redirect their legal attack dogs at the immediate or ultimate supplier of the dodgy fitting, with or without the help of your own liability insurance providers. Ah, networks of lawyers - you gotta love em!
Stefek
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 16 Oct 2003 11:37:20 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

<reads post>
<reads post again>
<snip for reply purposes>
Eep! Makes me wonder why people go into business at all if there's a possibility of a pack of lawyer attack dogs biting yer arse off when something that isn't your fault happens!
I remember summat on the news a while back that liability insurance had rocketed this year and driven a lot of smaller businesses out of work or risking it without insurance.
What about the electrical work then? That's been passed as safe for occupation by a qualified inspector so if something breaks is liability with him or me?
That hasn't happened of course but the question was the first thing that landed in my head!
Same with the smoke and heat alarms. I had to install mains-fed detectors in approved positions in the kitchen, downstairs hall and upstairs hall and it was recommended I use a spare way on the CU explicitly marked as the smoke detector circuit, which I did. I asked the inspector what happens if the occupants turn the circuit off and the house burns down. He said that was their liability because we had provided the required detection systems and the occupants had disabled them so we were in the clear.
cheers
witchy/binarydinosaurs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Witchy" wrote | What about the electrical work then? That's been passed as safe for | occupation by a qualified inspector so if something breaks is | liability with him or me?
You.
The inspector certified it as safe on the date of inspection. You would have to show that he issued a certificate in error.
But if Something Bad Happens you will have to show that you were not negligent. Did you conduct a visual inspection of the installation before letting to the current tenant? (In case the outgoing tenant altered the installation or bashed a socket with the hoover etc) Did you check the RCD operation at the start of the tenancy? (etc)
| Same with the smoke and heat alarms. ... I asked | the inspector what happens if the occupants turn the circuit off and | the house burns down. He said that was their liability because we had | provided the required detection systems and the occupants had disabled | them so we were in the clear.
Well... I was reading Being A Landlord for Dummies today; they have a sample Smoke Detector Agreement which becomes part of the Tenancy Agreeement. Basically both you and the tenant sign that all the smokes are working when the tenant enters the property, that the tenant will not disable them, the tenant will test them monthly, and the tenant will inform you immediately if one fails the test.
I disagree with the inspector on this point: I say it is also your responsibility to *maintain* and keep operational the fire detection system, so you should not rely on the tenants doing so on their own initiative, but test (and record, and have the tenant's signature that you did so) the detectors on your periodic inspection of the property during the tenancy.
Owain
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 16 Oct 2003 18:36:32 +0100, "Owain"

We always do so the tenants can't bite us about it afterwards.....signatures can be wonderful things sometimes :)

Good point on the recording of the test. What periods did the dummies book say - monthly, half-yearly? -- cheers,
witchy/binarydinosaurs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Witchy" wrote | "Owain" wrote: | >I disagree with the inspector on this point: I say it is also your | >responsibility to *maintain* and keep operational the fire detection | >system, so you should not rely on the tenants doing so on their own | >initiative, but test (and record, and have the tenant's signature | >that you did so) the detectors on your periodic inspection of the | >property during the tenancy. | Good point on the recording of the test. What periods did the dummies | book say - monthly, half-yearly?
I only read the book in the shop - I didn't buy it!
My own smoke alarm instructions say (in block capitals) test the alarm weekly to ensure proper operation. But this is for a battery alarm.
If you have an agreement that the tenants will perform the weekly or monthly test, then I think a landlord's test two-monthly or quarterly would be adequate for a single family dwelling. However, if Something Bad Happens you may be answering to a sheriff or coroner. For student-type HMOs, bedrooms above the first floor, or elderly/disabled tenants, the risks are greater, and I would suggest a landlord's monthly check.
One of the major impetuses for HMO legislation in Scotland was after several students died in fire in a basement flat which had no smoke detector and barred windows.
Owain
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 17 Oct 2003 14:11:53 +0100, "Owain"

This particular place has 4 older studenty types in it who seem pretty responsible and is a standard 30s semi so we should be ok with making 'em test it every month or summat. -- cheers,
witchy/binarydinosaurs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

What was wrong with battery smoke alarms?
--
--

Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.524 / Virus Database: 321 - Release Date: 07/10/2003
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

People took the batteries out when the alarms went off for the Nth time when making toast, or simply didn't bother to replace the batteries.
.andy
To email, substitute .nospam with .gl
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Does that mean in rented property only mains version can be installed?
--
--

Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.524 / Virus Database: 321 - Release Date: 06/10/2003
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Yes.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Battery Smoke and Heat detectors are not allowed in commercial premises or in homes with loft conversions anymore. Many fire brigade inspections around the country, found that people had removed batteries or had allowed them to run down and had not replaced them, so the regs' were changed to make it compulsory to have mains supplied with battery back up in these situations.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 23 Oct 2003 00:56:15 GMT, "BigWallop"

Yep, wot he said ^^^^^^^. Best thing with the mains ones is they're interlinked so if eg. the heat detector in the kitchen is triggered they all go off and wake up the whole house.
Same goes for nuisance triggers I suppose, but the instructions are clear as to where you should and shouldn't site the detectors.
-- cheers,
witchy/binarydinosaurs
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 23 Oct 2003 00:56:15 GMT, "BigWallop"

So now people remove the batteries and flip the switch on the battery alarm circuit.
Jim.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I thought they ran off the lighting circuit...
D
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
eSpammer.Org.Uk> writes

Is it OK therefore to have them supplied off a ceiling lamp in a room or not. I thought that they *had* to be linked together to comply with the regulations?..
--
Tony Sayer


Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

They should be on their own separate supply, but the lighting circuit is as good anything if that's all that's available. The interconnection is a must so that they all sound together and make as much noise as possible to wake the house and alert neighbours. The mains supply must be constant, so taking it from a switched light fitting is a no, no.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.