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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71031
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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do I have recourse to a builder 18 mths after work was completed?

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do I have recourse to a builder 18 mths after work was completed? Builder renovated bathroom and whilst he was working bricks came down the chimney into the fireplace. Used the gas fire for the 1st time at Christmas 2012 and smelt fumes outside the bathroom that was renovated. Engineer attended and switched off the gas fire after conducting a smoke test and seeing smoke appear from behind the w/c in the renovated bathroom. That was the 1st time we had used the fire since we had the work completed and that was the 1st time we had the fire services since we had the work down. Previously we had the fire serviced up till 2008 and had no problems with it. That is all the building work we have had done. Engineer says that the only way bricks come down into a fireplace is if the flue has been breached or broken. Builder says = "we do not accept responsibility for what has happened with your flue and after the length of time that has elapsed since we did work in your home proving otherwise would be difficult we have no idea what has happened in your home since the work was completed". Currently the gas has been disconnected from the fire and we have been told we will need to have the flue lined which will involve scaffolding being built rough cost £2,200. All I asked was a contribution from the builder and you can see their answer.

If he has caused damage to your fire then he is certainly liable for your losses.

However, you cannot hide from the problems that the delay will cause you in this case. I'm really sorry but it would be irresponsible of me not to warn you about this.

Come what may, you will have to prove not only that his actions caused this but that you did nothing to add to it over an 18 month period which is going to be hard I'm afraid.

The engineer's comments are helpful but the plain fact is that you have to prove that it was the actions of the builder which caused the break which is easier to do when the complaint is fresh rather than 18 months old I'm afraid.

Thats not to say that it cannot be done and, in fact, the builder may prefer to negotiate than have his manpower wasted in court. However, if you went to court and he contested the matter those are the problems you would face.

I'm very sorry but I have to give you truthful information.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Ok, thank you. I know that we have not had any further done to our house since we had this work done andI clearly remember the bricks coming down the flue; the engineer found a broken brick still on the shoulder inside the fireplace on the fire brick. As you say it will be a rather labourious case to pursue and will be our word against theirs. They are recommended by Potter Perrin a company that sells bathroom and tiles in south London. Am I allowed to go back to PP and complain and bad mouth the builder, Four Corners Builders?

Yes, and you may win. Some cases do come down to one person's word against another. I suppose though he doesn't deny an incident with a break which is helpful.

You can complain truthfully as publicly as you like to anyway you like.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

thank you,


last question; these are the last two emails - their reply is above my email

- do you think sending a solicitors letter will have any effect?

From: Tomi Tyrala <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: Question........

Date: 12 February 2013 13:51:07 GMT

To: Timothy Mugford <[email protected]>

Reply-To: Tomi Tyrala <[email protected]>

Hi Tim,

Our address is the same as it was when we did the work for you. As I said we do not accept responsibility for what has happened with your flue and after the length of time that has elapsed since we did work in your home proving otherwise would be difficult we have no idea what has happened in your home since the work was completed.

With kind regards


From: Timothy Mugford <[email protected]>
To: Tomi Tyrala <[email protected]>
Cc: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, 12 February 2013, 9:59
Subject: Re: Question........

Hello Penny,

Please let me assure you that I am not attempting to take advantage in this situation as both matters that I have raised with you are based upon fact.

Firstly with regard to the bathroom floor tiles, I emailed you in June last year, which was just less than a year following their installation, informing you that a few of the floor tiles were beginning to lift. However I believe that you were either away on holiday or working in another country and you could not confirm a time when you would be back in the UK.

I appreciate that in common with the majority of quality tradespeople you are not going to provide a timeless guarantee but as only a year had elapsed when I first raised this matter, it seemed a reasonable request. The reason that I have mentioned it again is because I needed to contact you regarding the damage to the chimmney flue.

Moving onto the matter of the flue, Tomi was fully aware of the situation regarding the fall of bricks in the chimmney as it happened whilst he was working in the bathroom and adjacent to the flue. At the time he said it was common for debris to fall down a chimney if working nearby, especially in old houses. The engineer said the same thing but he also said it was uncommon for bricks to fall into a fireplace unless the flue had been broke or breached. He has serviced our gas fire since 2002 and this was the first time it has failed. This was the first time that we have had the fire serviced since you carried out the bathroom renovation in June 2011. When he carried out the smoke test the smoke came out through the chimney and from behind the w/c in the corner of the bathroom. He also found a broken brick inside the fireplace on the left-hand shoulder which was not there the last time he serviced it.

Whilst it has been nearly 18 months since the damage caused by Tomi to the chimney flue took place, it does not remove the question of responsibility for any damage. However as already mentioned to you, I am not asking you to cover the complete cost of any remedial works to the flue but to make an agreed contribution when I have some idea of the costings.

Unfortunately, the tradesman, who was due to meet with Tomi, was on holiday for the suggested dates but has advised me that he will ensure his availability given reasonable notice. As far as I was aware Tomi did not come back to the UK just to see me but was here to sign documents but kindly made time to visit.

In your email you say you are a good quality company, therefore I assume you have third party insurance. All I am seeking is a reasonable contribution from yourselves towards the repair of the flue and I would like to settle this matter amicably rather than resorting to litigation especially as I believe that you have moved to Spain.

May I have an address where I can forward any correspondence as this may be required by my insurance company.

Best regards,




I'm not sure what you wanted to know about the email? As I've said really, the delay is a hurdle to overcome.

A solicitors letter might intimidate them. It depends on your view of these things really. They are quite expensive to send for what they are and obviously some people just ignore them. Quite frankly, in some instances, its cheap to sue at the small claims court. Equally though, it might prompt them into negotiating.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you very much for your assistance.

No problem.

All the best.