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Plumbfounded

Council liability for plumbing repairs?

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Hi there

 

I am a plumber and a couple of months ago I was called to the home of an elderly council tenant who was experiencing problems. She was finding that her washing machine was filling up with dirty water after use. She suspected the plumbing of her flat was at fault but the council believed otherwise. Council contractors visited her flat, the first of which made a hole in the pipework causing the kitchen floor to become saturated and his subsequent efforts to stop the leak were futile. The puddling on the floor continued for a couple of weeks - the tenant having to use several of her own towels to absorb the water - before another contractor attended and replaced this section of pipe. This stopped the leak but the washing machine still continued to fill with dirty water. The council maintained that the problem was with the washing machine and it was the responsibility of the tenant to pay for any repair work required.

 

When I visited I drained the water from the washing machine and disconnected the waste hose from the wastepipe of the flat and ran a cycle with the machine empty. The waste water was collected in several buckets. The cycle ran perfectly well eliminating the washing machine as being the cause of the problem. I noticed that the pipework was incorrectly positioned to allow for proper drainage so I ended up replacing this section. Following this I ran the washing machine which worked fine and all the wastewater drained away as it should.

 

As the council contractors have never properly identified the cause of the problem and it has been left to the tenant to resolve the issue, I feel the council should meet the costs of this work and reimburse the tenant for my charges. This, manifestly, has not happened, and following a considerable amount of written correspondence, including a comprehensive description of the work that I carried out, the council is denying any responsibility for costs incurred - £100. They state that, “before any repairs are carried out by the plumber the information should have been forwarded to us so that we can look into this matter and arrange for the necessary repair”. Of course this gives rise to the question why could the contractors not establish what the problem was in the first instance and carry out the correct repairs accordingly? Despite this the council remain resolute in their position and deny that the tenant should be recompensed.

 

I am prepared to help the tenant as much as I possibly can as she is in pretty poor health and I get infuriated when I see people like this being treated so shabbily. But what should we do at this stage? Should we make a formal complaint to the council? Or would it be better to visit one of her local councillors or, indeed, her MP? As the tenant is pretty much house bound I could do this quite easily on her behalf.

 

Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for any advice offered. ;)

Edited by Plumbfounded
Amending title

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Hi (and welcome!),

 

I'm no housing expert but I do work for a Local Authority and I'd say do all of the above. Ward councillors, MP the works. Get onto the Council's website where you should be able to get contact details for most people and find out who the ward councillors are (they'll probably come round and see the lady). There should also be details of the complaints procedure. I would also write to the big boss of "Housing" (or as appropriate). He might be called an Executive Head, Director, Assistant Director or similar... If you can't find him on the website ring and ask for his name so you can address a letter personally. Failing that write to the Chief Executive - the way to make things happen is generally to get the big boys involved! Good luck - keep us posted!

 

Px

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Was this a syphoning back problem with the drain?

 

And don't forget to mention local papers.

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pink1: I have checked out who the ward councillors are and I think it might be better if I pay them a visit as the tenant might be a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of such attention. Likewise the MP. We will respond in writing to those you mentioned as well as with a formal complaint (the form can be downloaded from the council website).

 

Coniff: There was no “siphoning” taking place, though this can occasionally happen with a washing machine if connected incorrectly. Feel free to jump to the next paragraph if you get bored easily. :) The kitchen wastepipe had become misplaced and so the wastewater was trying to run uphill to the stack (the vertical pipe). This meant that residual wastewater had accumulated in this (about 2 metres) section of pipe. Any water draining from the kitchen sink will not be able to drain away as normal because a column of air is trapped by the accumulated water at the other end of the pipe. The water from the sink will try to find the path of minimum resistance which will be out of the trap via the spigot to the washing machine hose, hence the washing machine filling.

 

I fully understand you recommending approaching the papers, but I would be reluctant to pursue this path as I know the tenant would prefer to be as discreet as possible. This need not compromise our efforts otherwise.

 

I will certainly keep you informed of events as they unfold. Thanks for the advice. It is very much appreciated. ;)

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Just one thing I forgot to ask. Is it better for the complaint to be made in the tenants name, as it is the tenant for whom the services have failed? In some ways it would be easier, and more expedient, if I were to make the complaint, as I could do this on-line. On the other hand there might be more impact if the complaint is made, in name, by the affected party. Thanks again.

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I don't see any reason why you shouldn't make the complaint on the tenants behalf - if you explain why (elderly, housebound etc) it might even serve to reinforce your point...

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