Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Dispute over costs for house extension plans

Question: My TalkTalk broadband connection has kept dropping off since I went over to fibre-optic in June last year.

I have been on the phone to TalkTalk several times this week, for about two hours a time. I am put on a merry-go-round of customer service, technical enquiries and the engineers, who do not speak to me. Each time, the engineers test my line, send me a text saying it is fine and afterwards I still have the same problem. RC

Answer: Following our intervention, the fault was identified and resolved. A representative of TalkTalk said: "We are sorry that [the reader's] fibre-optic router was faulty and he was not offered a replacement when he first contacted us. We have replaced the router and spent a week testing the connection to make sure it was working properly. We're committed to providing good service alongside great value and learning from instances like this when we could have served the customer better."

Question: I wish to build an extension on my house. I was impressed with HET - The Home Extension Team - in Hitchin. They claim to take the hassle out of building and manage the operation from start to finish by doing the design, planning application, handling building regulations and providing a recommended list of builders, who they deal with directly. The HET team undertook an initial visit to do a feasibility study at a cost of £300. But their proposed scheme did not take into account several requests that we had made and the costs were substantial.

We asked them to scale down the project and remove unnecessary costs, including a new boiler and expensive bathroom suite. We were told this would be done and were promised new plans would be in the post, but no drawings arrived despite numerous requests. After five weeks, we received revised drawings that appeared to have been done in a hurry and did not take into account our requests. We rejected these, but had no reply to our complaint.

After another six weeks we were told the person who had drawn up the scheme had left and that HET would come back to me. Another week later and this had not happened, so I requested a refund of the £300 I paid them. This was rejected. I have paid £300 cash for nothing of value. I have had to appoint an architect to design and draw further plans and apply for building permission. CJ

Answer: HET rejects your request for a refund, arguing that it has provided a valuable service. Its director, David Cascarino, said: "Due to staff changes we accept that communication was not as good as it could have been in this instance. Having investigated further, we note that the client sought and obtained a planning consent through another designer for a scheme of an identical footprint as the original feasibility scheme, although our elevations differed to achieve a reasonable headroom in the new first floor bedrooms. In our view, the amendments suggested by the client to save costs were not practical, and I am sorry if this was not clearly explained. We note that the client's new scheme for which planning consent has been granted will still require new stairs, a new boiler and sanitary ware. We disagree that the client has nothing of value as our original concept has formed the basis of their approved planning consent. The feasibility study includes floor-layout plans, a photo impression of the proposed works, planning assessment, work specification, budget cost and financial advice and we believe represents excellent value for money."

HET is a member of the Federation of Master Builders, which has a procedure for considering complaints against members, which may be the most cost-effective way of taking your dispute further. Details on this are at www.fmb.org.uk/ about-fmb/our-members/dispute-resolution.

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