PROPERTY / The roof put the lid on it: Bungled work by a roofer claiming that he belonged to an association drove one couple to move house

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The Independent Culture
ELAINE CANTWELL and her boyfriend David Runacres found the experience of restoring their Victorian house in Solihull so traumatic that they have since moved to a modern mock-Victorian house. They hope to have freed themselves from the need to call on the services of cowboy builders for some time to come.

It was the roof that did for them in the old house. New ceilings and walls were already in place when they took estimates from six roofers to mend a leak. They thought they might as well have the main body of the house re-roofed while they were at it. 'We had learnt to get lots of quotes and to be quite careful who we took on.'

They chose a roofer who claimed to be a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors. 'He had this emblem and although his was not the most competitive quote, we gave him the job,' Elaine said.

A string of problems ensued: first, all the valuable Welsh slates were taken away and replaced with reproduction tiles, much to Elaine's horror; second, when the job was finished, water continued to pour in where it had before, ruining the newly installed ceilings; and third, materials containing asbestos were used when Elaine had specifically asked for the roof to be made asbestos-free.

When the job was finished Elaine rang the roofer to ask him to come back and explain why so many things had gone wrong. He said he would visit but he never did. She sent letters by post and by recorded delivery. After receiving no reply she contacted the trading standards office in Solihull.

Trading standards officer Steve Tibbetts then pieced together the history of the contractor and discovered that he had never been a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors. He had applied for membership for his company during 1987 and paid the vetting fees of pounds 48, but never paid the subscription fees of pounds 190. Nevertheless, one year later he was advertising himself as a fully paid-up member, and when his company went into liquidation in 1988 he actually wrote a letter to the federation informing them of the company's demise.

Even after this he continued to trade as an individual, and Tibbetts discovered that in January 1989 and 1990 he was again using the CRC logo. It was during that time that the unfortunate Elaine Cantwell invited him to do her roof. It cost her pounds 1,600.

The trading standards department pressed its case. On 28 February last year, the roofer was prosecuted for two offences under the Trade Descriptions Act; he was fined pounds 500 on each and ordered to pay costs of pounds 400.

Elaine feels justice has now been done. But she found her dealings with various building trades very disconcerting. 'We had such a bad time. We had to take down ceilings we had already replaced once. It was dreadful.'

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