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Time Limit on Builder Liability?

edited 31 January at 10:10PM in In my home (includes DIY) MoneySaving
7 replies 171 views
DavidJonasDavidJonas Forumite
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The ballcock in our header tank is leaking. This would not be a huge problem, were it not for the fact the overflow pipe apparently ends under the insulation in the new bit of the loft we had added during our side extension. I mean, it just ends right there between the new joists.

After digging out the insulation to find the cause, roping up the ballcock and prepping to call a plumber tomorrow, I am left wondering where we stand. The extension was done 5 years ago. One company did all of it.

The water down the walls will dry out. But the overflow pipe can't just end there. They can't have not seen it. Clearly this should have been addressed when they did all the other plumbing. It needs to turn 90 degrees and go out the roof. Or something (?).

Is there a time limit on this sort of thing? They are still in business.

Replies

  • Mickey666Mickey666 Forumite
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    Definitely worth a try if they're still in business but I wouldn't hold out much hope.

    At least it doesn't sounds expensive to fix.  A new ballcock is pennies to buy and usually just screws on to the arm that actuates the valve.  Even a whole new valve assembly is cheap and easy to replace because it only requires the water to be turned off and nothing needs to be drained down.  An easy DIY job if you're that way inclined.

    Similarly, the overflow pipe and fittings will be cheap as chips - most probably 21mm pipe - and widely available.  Finding a route out of the attic will likely be the trickiest part of the job.

    I can't see a good plumber spending much more than half a day on both jobs, unless perhaps access is particularly tricky.
  • George_MichaelGeorge_Michael Forumite
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    When the extension was added, was the tank and ballcock fitted then?
    If it's an old one then the builder wouldn't be liable for that but it does sound like the overflow pipe was their screw up.
    Providing that there is reasonable access and the old pipework and unions are in fair conditions, then once the water has been turned off, fitting a new once should be a very straightforward job that a decent plumber should be able to do very quickly.

    How far away from the eves does the pipe end? 
    Either fitting a new pipe from the tank or extending the one that is already there shouldn't pose any problem for a plumber.

    If the tank is quite old, it might be worth draining it down and cleaning it out once the water has been turned off.
    I has my cold water tank replaced in my loft last year and the amount of muck in the old one was surprising. It had a cover on it but there was still a good 1/2" of silt, grit and bits of insects and insulation in the bottom.
  • EctophileEctophile Forumite
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    In England, Wales and NI, the Limitation Act kicks in after 6 years.  It's 5 in Scotland.  So up to that time, you can make a claim.  That's the time within which an action has to be brought to a court.  But there's a whole lot of discussion and a Letter Before Action that should be done before making the court claim.
    If it sticks, force it.
    If it breaks, well it wasn't working right anyway.
  • Jeepers_CreepersJeepers_Creepers Forumite
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    Was the company decent at the time - good job, no hassles, good relations? If so, and if you are fairly confident it was their ballcockup, then absolutely call them up about it. What is it you'd like them to do? Obviously run the overflow pipe all the way out. But  also replace the ballvalve (tho' I doubt that's still under warranty)? What about the repaint?

    I'll lay odds that they'll respond well, having effectively dodged a bullet by you being there to stop the leak; the damage could have been significant.

    I think I'd approach them with a friendly but assertive/expectant attitude of "Phew - I thankfully noticed the leak before it caused significant damage, and I'm happy to make good the walls once they've dried up, but could you come out and sort the actual missing overflow pipe, please? If I get a new ballcock, could you fit that whilst you're there...?" I'd hope that they'd respond in a good positive way, and be grateful it wasn't a worse problem for them - the lack of overflow pipe was their fault. If they make noise that they'll only extend the pipe FOC, it's up to you if you wish to drive the situation home more firmly; "Hmm, if I hadn't been in at the time to shut off the water, you could well have been looking at having to make good a wall and ceiling..."

    Yes, you'd be calling on your house insurance if they weren't willing to sort it, but your insurance would be interested to know what the cause was - and quite possibly who was responsible.
  • edited 1 February at 12:10PM
    SandtreeSandtree Forumite
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    edited 1 February at 12:10PM
    After digging out the insulation to find the cause, roping up the ballcock and prepping to call a plumber tomorrow, I am left wondering where we stand. The extension was done 5 years ago. One company did all of it.

    The water down the walls will dry out. But the overflow pipe can't just end there. They can't have not seen it. Clearly this should have been addressed when they did all the other plumbing. It needs to turn 90 degrees and go out the roof. Or something (?).

    Is there a time limit on this sort of thing? They are still in business.
    What is "doing it all"? Did they install the tank and ballcock? Has the overflow been rerouted at all?

    What are you wanting to claim for? Just the finishing the routing of the overflow? Replacement of the ballcock? Damage caused by the escaped water?

    As others have said, law of limitation generally give you 6 years in England & Wales to take it to court after which it becomes statute barred. That doesnt mean the debt doesnt exist etc if you go over the time limit its just you can do nothing to enforce it once it becomes barred.

    Depending on who did what and what you are claiming for you may find a claim of contributory negligence is made if you havent serviced the system inline with the requirements etc or if the system was much older than the job as had the ballcock not failed then no water would have leaked. (similar to people not wearing a seatbelt and getting badly injured when their car is rear ended)
  • DavidJonasDavidJonas Forumite
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    I'm not blaming them for the ballcock. But they did build and plumb a two storey house extension literally around this overflow pipe. It is exactly where it used to be, except instead of going through the wall (eaves?) it now just points into the loft. They can't not have seen it and frankly must have gone to some effort to preserve it. I guess they just forgot about it. There was a ton of plumbing done, but they didn't change the header tank.

    I appreciate all the advice on here. Got a plumber coming tomorrow to sort it out and hopefully quote for the overflow. A bit more relaxed than I was yesterday and I guess these things happen. 

    I can see where you are coming from Sandtree but frankly this is more like the car manufacturer not fitting a seat belt at all and then blaming you for crashing. Or a tyre place not tightening your wheel nuts after changing your tyre because you didn't specifically ask them to. That's the way it seems to me anyhow. If I had known they were the sort of people to look at an obvious issue like that and shrug their shoulders I wouldn't have hired them, and won't again.

    Thanks again!
  • Jeepers_CreepersJeepers_Creepers Forumite
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    Lol - funny analogies, DJ!

    This is a simple mistake, that's all - we've all done them. If you are getting a different plumber out to sort it, that's fine - I'm pretty sure it won't be costly.

    I think it's a shame you didn't give the original guys a chance first - it would have been interesting to see how they'd respond as well - but it really doesn't matter either way. It's a small job. I hope.

    If the plumber says - "hmmm, access is difficult - it'll take at least a couple of hours with 2 of us - £350+..." what will you do?
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