Consumer programme You and Yours once again hold CIGA to account. This time over a retrospective maintenance condition 3 of 8. 30 minutes in
You and Yours, Radio 4, Thursday 16th March 2017
Changes to CIGA’s 25 Year Guarantee for Cavity Wall Insulation
On Thursday 16th March 2017, Beatrice Pickup, on Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme, explored the impact of recent changes to the 25 year guarantee for Cavity Wall Insulation (CWI), issued by CIGA (Cavity Wall Guarantee Association).
She confirmed that more people could be refused repair work as a result of the change to the guarantee and that the guarantee is an important part of the way CWI is sold. CWI is meant to make a home warmer and more energy efficient, but can cause damp if not properly installed or if the house is unsuitable for CWI or if there is a lot of driving rain in the area.
She touched on some of the serious pitfalls associated with the recent change to the guarantee that aggrieved consumers, such as Maria Battenbau in Swansea, have experienced when seeking adequate compensation from CIGA for damp related problems associated with CWI.
Contrary to CIGA’s recent repeated claims of the overall effectiveness of retrofit CWI, Maria Battenbau revealed startling details of her experience when she tried to claim from CIGA.
A single parent with three children and a well maintained home in Swansea, as confirmed by a survey on her new 1970’s home and the acceptance of a mortgage in 2006, Maria was concerned when areas of damp became apparent, some 5/6 years after the installation of CWI.
She contacted CIGA and requested a copy of her guarantee to replace the one that she had lost. She was confident that her claim met the conditions of the guarantee, having checked her father’s guarantee, issued within two weeks of her own, to cover CWI at his home. CIGA sent Maria a brand new copy of the guarantee but this one, surprisingly, included an additional condition that was not included in the original one; the same one that her father had been given.
Radio 4 found that there are serious implications associated with the inclusion of this additional “maintenance” clause, which states that the property must be maintained and in a good state of repair.
CIGA is currently checking the legality of inserting this condition and applying it to properties prior to 2014 due to CIVALLI’s tireless campaign for fairness and transparency. The inclusion of this condition has serious ramifications for many householders and it is hoped that, in time, it will be removed because some fear that its retrospective nature could potentially be unlawful.
The new clause was inserted in 2014, retrospectively, after many installations had already been completed before this date. CIVALLI was described as fearing that the new clause would be used by CIGA as an excuse and as justification for not paying for repairs.
There are many who would never have agreed to have CWI installed pre 2014 if the maintenance condition had been included then because, just like Maria, they would not have been able to meet the financial demands of such a stringent and comprehensive upkeep.
There has never been a pre installation assessment of the condition of any of the properties that have had CWI installed and, therefore, there is no historical evidence available for people like Maria, should anything go wrong later on. When a claim is made, CIGA’s technical experts acquire photographic evidence of the condition of the property at that point in time. There is no correlation between the condition before installation and at that point because there is no supporting evidence. This can have tragic consequences if the property is unsuitable for CWI but the installation goes ahead. The onus is on the layperson, the consumer, to prove their case, which is usually impossible to do.
The extra clause permits CIGA to reject a claim if it is found that a house has not been adequately maintained. Maintenance covers a multifarious array of jobs, which the majority of householders would never dream of addressing regularly.
Maria’s argument is that if she had known this at the point of installation she would not have agreed to the job. CWI is often carried out in areas where people cannot afford to adequately maintain their homes. If they accept the work on the basis that the guarantee does not require them to maintain their home and then have a clause introduced later, this affects their security, their interpretation of CIGA’s reliability, the health of their home and its inhabitants, their pockets and, ultimately, their emotional wellbeing.
Maria made the point that CIGA has increased the value of remedial work from £10,000 pre 2014 to £20,000 post 2014 and, initially, this seems to be a generous addition to the terms. However, she sees the increase as irrelevant when CIGA refused her any redress at all due to their appraisal of the pointing being inadequately maintained. As she said, CIGA could put a ceiling of £50,000 on claims but it does not matter if they refuse to pay out anyway.
A Chartered Building Surveyor and lecturer at the University of Wales, Trinity St David, in Swansea, Trevor Francis, provided some valuable insight into further complications with CWI. He discussed the significance of the potential damage associated with metal wall ties in relation to incorrect installations. He stated that all installers circa 2006 should have been aware of the risk to the properties of corrosion of these wall ties. Cavity wall insulation would not have been suitable for houses that had metal wall ties.
The industry began to change to stainless steel wall ties in the 1970s when it acknowledged the damage that was being caused. Trevor Francis states that contractors would have been able to spot if the walls were cracking or would shortly be cracking, particularly when walls are very severely exposed to driving wind and rain. He also says that anyone considering having CWI should seek out independent advice before having it done.
This begs the questions, were some of these installations completed by unscrupulous contractors who knew they were inappropriate or were they merely ignorant and not sufficiently qualified to do the work.