A Step By Step Guide
If you are one of the millions of homes that have had cavity wall insulation installed as part of the government drive to reduce carbon emissions and have subsequently suffered from damp, mould, mildew and cold spots as well as, in some cases, wet and dry rot, then you could well be a victim of faulty cavity wall insulation
Homes in the UK have been fitted with CWI under an incentive driven by the government and funded by the energy companies in the last 5 years or so. It is now becoming clear that this has had a negative effect on millions of properties.
It is now becoming clear that there is a major issue with a huge number of these installations and many homeowners are still totally unaware that their damp and mould problems have been caused by the CWI.
It is a total mess at the minute and some liken it to the wild West as some companies that have spent the last few years filling people’s homes are now canvassing and offering to take it out, at a price, of course!
There are a lot of reasons why you might need to remove the CWI from your home some of them are:
- The cavities were not properly filled, leaving gaps which then create cold spots and condensation.
- The property was unsuitable for CWI in the first place due to the cavities being too small or hard to fill.
- The property was unsuitable for CWI as it is in an area that is subjected to wind-driven rain.
- The wrong insulation material was used or not installed properly.
- The cavities were not cleared of existing debris before being filled with insulation.
- Air bricks and vents have been blocked.
- The properties are steel or timber framed.
If you believe that the problems you are experiencing are due to incorrectly fitted or faulty CWI then you need to take action. This is an extremely serious problem that, If left untreated, could do severe damage to your property and, in extreme cases, could even become uninhabitable and require major structural work to rectify it.
The governing bodies have done their best to sweep this under the carpet but, as the problem is getting more and more media attention which in turn raises awareness, leading to more people realising that they too have been affected and their combined voices are getting louder and much more difficult to ignore.
The situation has now been brought up in Parliament and although, as we all know, the wheels of Westminster turn very slowly indeed, especially when they are going to be adversely affected by the outcome.
What Should You Do In The Meantime?
You need to take action as soon as possible and there are a number of things that you need to do and that you need to be aware of.
What Information Do You Have?
- Do you know the name of the company that installed the insulation?
- Are they still trading?
- Had they signed up to a Nationally recognised code of conduct?
- Are they a member of a professional body Like NIA and CIGA?
It is worth giving them a call in the first instance and ask them to come and inspect your property.
A Word of Warning
Do NOT let the installation company that fitted the insulation remove it until you have taken proper advice and had your property independently inspected as it could affect any claim you might have to recover the costs or make a claim for compensation in the future.
We will go over the different options that you have to deal with your issues a bit further on, but the first thing is to make sure that you are fully aware of exactly what the problems are.
Bear in mind that not all CWI is bad and that your damp and other problems might be caused by other issues.
What Exactly Are The Problems That You Have?
Start by making a list of all the problems you are having that you believe are caused by the faulty cavity wall insulation.
The more information that you have, at hand, the easier and faster you can determine whether it is the insulation in the cavities that is causing the problems.
Go around your home room by room making notes of the issues that you have like Damp, mould, mildew, cold spots, condensation, wood rot and even the smell of damp.
Make as many additional notes as possible answer questions like:
- Were these problems here before I had CWI installed?
- Has it got worse over this time?
- Have my heating bills gone up instead of down?
Take Photos and Video of the Issues
Take plenty of photos and video. You should first take a wide angle shot to show the perspective of the area and then if needed, take a closer shot. Try to keep them organised and in order.
Use a screwdriver to check if the skirting boards are rotting or the plaster is coming away from the walls. You need to check all external walls upstairs and downstairs for signs of damage. Don’t forget to check behind cupboards and under the stairs for mould and damp patches.
Next, look around the outside of your property and carry out the following inspections, again taking photos and making notes where needed.
- Check to see if the air bricks or air vents are clear and free from debris.
- Look to ensure that the damp proof level is visible and there is nothing bridging it that could cause damp.
- Inspect the outside walls to see if there are cracks that have appeared, or if the cement in between is loose or crumbling.
- If the walls are rendered, check to see if it has come away from the brickwork in places.
- Are there holes in the brickwork or cement. Maybe left over from when the cavities were filled, where moisture can penetrate.
- Are your gutters and downpipes in good order
Note: You can download a free app called “Inventory Clerk App”. It is available for android and Apple IOS devices. The app can be downloaded from the apple or play store. It will make the surveying process very much faster and easier, creating a pdf report autmatically for you.
How To Strengthen Your Case
The companies carrying out the installation of CWI should have adhered to strict guidelines set out by the manufacturers and the trade bodies like CIGA.
They should also have carried out a thorough inspection to check if a property is suitable for cavity wall insulation.
The property should have had a pre-installation survey to check for existing damage and the suitability This would have included checking external brickwork and render, inspecting the damp proof course and the size of the cavity gap as well as an internal inspection of the cavities to look for debris buildup.
On completion, a post-installation survey should be done to check a number of things like ensuring that perma-vents were fitted, if needed, and any existing vents were left clear to allow airflow to circulate through the property.
Copies of these reports should have been given to you with the other paperwork after the completion of the work.
Unfortunately, very often the surveys were carried out by unqualified people or worse still, they were not done at all and the installer just ticked the relevant boxes on the forms without carrying out the actual checks.
Once you have completed your survey form
The next thing is to gather all the paperwork that the installer gave to you.
- The following is what you might have.
- First contact letter or appointment card.
- Initial suitability Assessment Document.
- The Contract or Agreement signed by the homeowner.
- Receipts for any monies paid to the installer by the homeowner.
- The CIGA Guarantee Certificate – (Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency).
The more documentation you have the easier it will be to assess and pursue your claim.
However, don’t worry if you don’t have all of the papers listed above. Even if you don’t know the name of the installer or, as is now quite often the case, the installer has gone out of business or disappeared, you can find their details on your CIGA guarantee.
Note: If you do not have your CIGA certificate then you can request a copy by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 01525 853300 or you can make a request in writing from CIGA, Vimy Court, Vimy Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedford LU7 1FG.
Are the Issues Caused By Cavity Wall Insulation?
Armed with the information you have collected, it will be a fairly easy to establish whether your property has been affected by the installation of cavity wall insulation or whether there are other issues causing the problem.
We Highly Recommend That You Get an Independent Survey Carried Out
Whatever steps you take, it is highly recommended that you call in a RICS surveyor or contact a reputable claims company to carry out an initial inspection of your property. Their independent report will give you confidence in the knowledge that the issues are as a direct result of the Cavity Wall Insulation and will also provide a lot of weight when dealing with the installers or CIGA to get your situation resolved.
What To Do Next?
Once you have established that the issues in your property have been caused by the cavity wall insulation then you have several options.
Deal With It Yourself
The next stage is to decide how to go about dealing with your situation. If you have the time and inclination then you can deal with the issues yourself. Contact the installer and request that they do a home visit to survey the property. You can also call on COGA the guarantee company.
However, in our experience, this is not the most favoured option. To start with the installer usually find it difficult to admit liability and blame everything from lifestyle, (not opening windows and drying clothes on the radiator) to problems with the external walls that have appeared since the insulation was installed.
CIGA have also proven to be ineffective when a claim is made. Offering to top up the insulation (totally against the manufacturer’s recommendations) to offering £250 compensation! They also offer arbitration which, in the experience of many that have tried is has been totally one sided, far from impartial and a total waste of time.
CIGA have also refused to honour the guarantee because homeowners have had work carried out on the property or double glazing installed.
Seek Legal Representation
The cost of repairing your property could be extremely expensive and it is important that you get it right. Employing the services of a good solicitor to help you will be money well spent. And, like the surveyor, could well be worth their weight in gold
Use your own solicitor
You can use your own solicitor to fight your case for you help ensure that you get a good deal and that you don’t sign anything that could affect your rights to have the remedial work done and also, the installers and CIGA are more likely to pay attention if they know there is legal representation.
The downside is that very few solicitors have experience in this area and you have to pay up front for them to cary out any work on your behalf.
You can also find a specialist law firm who has experience with cavity wall claims. This is the best route if you have the funds available to pay for their services.
Use a No-Win – No-Fee law firm
The alternative and the route most people take is to go with an experienced solicitor that will work on a No-Win – No-Fee basis.
These companies will work on your behalf and will wave their costs if you lose the claim. These law firms work hard to get the best deal as they will look to take a percentage of any payments that you are awarded by way of a success fee and this can be up to 25%.
Here are the CIGA guidelines
If you choose to go direct to CIGA here are their guidelines:-
The CIGA Guarantee covers defects in materials or workmanship and any concerns will be investigated and defects rectified free of charge.
- Any claim under the Guarantee must be notified to CIGA within 25 years of the installation date.
- All problems relating to the installation must be reported to the installer as soon as practicable and CIGA must be informed if the matter is not resolved satisfactorily within 2 months.
- The guarantee is not valid if the insulation has been altered or disturbed.
- The guarantee remains valid for subsequent owners or occupiers of the property.
- The maximum value of rectification work is currently £20,000.
Contact the Installer
In the first instance, if the company that installed the insulation is still trading, CIGA will ask you to contact them. They are obligated to send a representative to check your property and provide a report within 2 months.
Full Inspection is Required
You want to make sure that they do a full borescope checks of the property not just a visual inspection. You also want to receive a copy of the report including video and photo images.
At the same time as you contact the installation company, also write to CIGA, explaining the problems and including a copy of the correspondence that you have sent to the installer.
Keep CIGA Informed At Every Step
Keep CIGA informed of the date that the installation company are due to inspect your property and let them know when they have been and the date that you receive the written report.
If the installation company fail to turn up or have gone out of business then CIGA should arrange for someone to call and survey your property.
They Agree That The CWI Is Causing The Issues
If the installation company agrees to rectify the problem then you need to understand what it is they are going to do and what level of compensation you are going to receive.
These are some of the costs that you should be entitled to recover:
- Extraction of the faulty CWI and clearing of the cavities.
- Repairs to the exterior walls where needed.
- Repairs to the interior walls including re-plastering and redecoration.
- Replacing wall voids in brickwork and other external damage.
- Replacing wall ties if required.
- Re-filling the cavities (if this is something that you want to do).
- New EPC certificate
- Independent survey
You could also seek compensation and damages for:
- Health issues.
- Lost energy savings.
- Carpets and Furniture.
- Out of pocket expenses
- Compensation for Inconvenience and stress
Whilst CIGA set a limit at £20,000 a Court could well award you considerably more against the installation company should it be proven that the cost of repairing your property and relevant compensation justifies the amount.
We would like to stress after hearing the numerous horror stories from many homeowners, we would not recommend going to CIGA or the Installation company without first having legal representation and an independent survey carried out on your property to establish the cause of the problems that you are having. You can either pay for a RICS surveyor (around £850) or alternatively, get a free, no obligation property inspection from one of the reputable claims companies. (You are under no obligation to make a claim and there is no cost for the property inspection)
Where can you find more information
As always, let us know if you have any questions. We will do our best to help.