To avoid boredom you can jump to the question at the end. It's marked
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
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
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
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!
On Thu, 16 Oct 2003 10:36:52 +0100, Witchy wrote:
<snip> > Question:
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
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
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.
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!
On 16 Oct 2003 11:37:20 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
<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.
| 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?
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" 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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