Sunday 28 December 2014

Fixing a boiler 101

I have always had a positive view of this country. Compared to where I come from, some things make you feel like you are living in dreamland. 

There is a train network. Put aside the ongoing issues with Kings Cross station and Network Rail. 

The electricity and gas is almost nailed on 24/7. Yes I am aware some people are suffering from power outages because of the weather at the minute but generally the utilities infrastructure is very good. 

Despite this feeling of living in something of a society where everything works, I have suffered from a horrible situation in the last 3 months.  Incompetence, deliberate fraud and dishonesty have combined to deny me heating and hot water. 

Initially it was a good thing as I didn’t need to turn the heating on early, however as the cold spell descended I have experienced different type of feelings - body numbingly cold for one. Anger, hope, despair, self doubt and at times resignation. I have wondered if the colour of my skin has anything to do with it or the part of town where I live. Perhaps the latter, perhaps none of them. 

It all started when my landlord took out a boiler care / home care cover with a firm of independent providers. I would love to name and shame them but inclined to leave this to another day. I consider myself very simple (sometimes) and in my typical simple fashion, I tend to go with the bigger providers when I need to sign up to some insurance or the other. I recognise the fact that they can mess things up just like everybody, however the resources behind them means that they have the ability to quickly rectify things in a satisfactory way after a cock up. 

Unfortunately it was my land lord that took out this policy. I had no say in the decision. Later I found out he had taken the same policy for his own private residence, so this wasn’t him not caring about a tenant. 

I couldn’t believe my first encounter with this independent company. The drain was blocked and needed to be fixed. So I called them several times and they promised to call me back several times. Never happened. I have rarely experienced such shocking service in the country. I refrained myself from blowing a fuse as I didn't want to play to a stereotype. 

I narrated my ordeal to the landlord who suggested I call again. I did and after going through the same motion, we finally agreed a date and time for them to fix the blocked drains. I cancelled all my appointments and stayed at home. Nothing happened. Nobody turned up. I was so frustrated and left the matter. I couldn't go to the garden as it had turned into a mini sewer. 

About a month later, it got worse and I took a picture and emailed to my landlord. He was so disgusted that he called them himself and voila someone came to fix the drain. I started to think it was something to do with racism. 

3 months later, the company they contracted to fix the drains called me asking for payment as the insurance company was yet to pay them. I was so upset with this demand and told the caller where to go in very colourful language. His contract was with the insurance company. Why is he chasing me for a debt. I called the landlord to let him know that not only was the insurance company unprofessional in dealing with client calls and appointments, they appear to be dishonest with their suppliers as well. I am not sure how that was resolved. 

Then the temperature started to fall and my heating and hot water packed up. The same merry go round started with this company. Telephone calls not returned, appointments unfulfilled. 

After a lot of to ing and fro ing, they eventually sent someone who said there was no problem with the boiler. 30 minutes after he left, same  problem, no heat, no hot water. Then I started to think it was a competence problem. 

I called the landlord again and he kindly asked an independent engineer to fix the problem. Fantastic individual this bloke.  He called me back as promised, visited me on the day he promised. Boiler fixed he said. I left for work, came back home, No heat, no hot water. 

I started to sense a conspiracy.  Was my landlord trying to get me to leave the property? Had I inadvertently done something wrong? Didn’t think so but hey, here I am with no heating or hot water. I was no getting desperate as the temperatures plummeted. 

I dared to call the insurance company again, lost my rag completely, got the landlord involved again and they finally agreed to send another engineer. I was promised that the engineer will attend in the morning as I was planing to go to work the same day. The engineer finally walked into my door at about 7pm. Apparently he was coming from North London. Didn’t realise some gas engineers use donkeys as their form of transport. 

Unfortunately, I missed work that day. I had to apologise to clients for late cancellation of appointments. The engineer was impressive and was initially going to recommend that the boiler be replaced but changed his mind to say changing some parts should sort the problem. 

He promised to brief the insurance company and get back to me. That was the last I heard of him. That was 4 weeks ago. I learnt about the same time that they had done a similar thing to my landlord. I then realised that the insurance company were scammers and incompetent ones at that. In my opinion, their plan was to sign up loads of clients and hope not enough people required their service and if they did, to fob them off as much as they can without providing this service. 

My landlord then suggested we go back to the independent guy ('Fantastic Individual Bloke the Engineer'). He called and promised me a visit but then called again 24 hours before the visit to cancel. Despair time. 

My landlord approached another independent engineer who turned up as promised. Very impressive. Checked the boiler and advised that it needed one of four different parts. He will get pick up all four parts and try them one by one he said. He will be back on Christmas Eve he promised. I haven't seen him as I write. He used to return my call or text messages. He has stopped. When a friend called on my behalf on Boxing day, he promised to be at mine first thing on Saturday. I am still waiting for him. I had to decamp to my sister’s place to ensure I didn’t die of hypothermia. Must be something I did wrong to Plumbing Engineers in a previous life. 

I then decided i had a had enough and to try one of the big boys. Called British Gas. Simple solution. But without my landlord say so, no deal. Managed to get my landlord involved. Same day British Gas Engineer turned up. Problem fixed. You can boil water off my radiator now. WOW. A Lesson in fixing a boiler 101.

House temperature at glorious 21 degree. Hot water gushing non stop from the tap. Bliss. House temperature so hot, it is setting off the fire alarm. 

The British Gas engineer confirmed to me that in their line of work, they see the handwork of the independents. He was 
generous and didn’t agree with my assessment of them as cowboys. But he agreed they were incompetent. And gave me a few examples where the independents had scammed their clients. 

Shame really. How many people have similar experienced. Scammed and then having to resort to another provider to make things good. Big shame. I'm sure aggrieved clients can approach the Trading Standards Agency or any other suitable statutory body. However people just want to get warm and in typical UK consumer fashion might be reluctant to complain. 

Not me. If my landlord allows, I will devote my time pursuing these scammers through the small claims court if need be. 

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