Many property owners only find out that they appointed the incorrect contractors to work on their property when their insurance provider outright rejects their claim for damages. The work undertaken on the property was found to be wanting and, therefore, could not prevent or even directly caused or contributed towards the damage. As a result, the property owner cannot claim from the insurance and is, therefore, saddled with the exorbitant cost of remedying the damage and correcting the faulty work on the property. Unfortunately, it is a bitter lesson that many property owners have had to endure at one time or another.
In many instances, they unsuspectingly dealt with an incompetent contractor. This usually occurs when the services are very specialised and technical in nature and, thus, impossible for laypersons to know whether they have been executed correctly. Certainly, there are also incidences where property owners deliberately decide to skimp on quality to save money, although always a very short-sighted approach that is fraught with serious risk.
Some construction trades are riddled with unscrupulous operators or contractors that do not have the necessary skills and experience to provide a professional service. A case in point is the roof repair and waterproofing industry. There has been an influx of new operators to the industry and many of them do not have the skills and knowledge to work in the field. This is considering the very low barriers to entry to this industry, despite the importance of the work performed by competent “roofers”.
It was only until very recently that a formal qualification in roof repairs and waterproofing was introduced to the industry by a forward-thinking training provider in partnership with a leading roofing materials supplier.
The Professional Roof Repair and Waterproofing Association (PRAWA) also played a part in developing the curriculum for this course. PRAWA is also still in its tentative years, although it has already made significant strides in rooting out poor practice in the industry. This is by providing professional advice to property owners and referring them to its growing membership, comprising competent “roofers” when roof repairs and waterproofing needs to be done. To become a member of PRAWA, companies and individuals are vetted for skills and experience. They are also bound by a code of professional conduct and held accountable to these high standards by PRAWA. These companies will also soon be expected to submit Certificates of Compliance for the work that they have performed in the same way that qualified plumbers and electricians do. This, together with the development of a national database of approved waterproofing and roof repair products, is just one of a
number of initiatives that PRAWA will be launching in the foreseeable future to safeguard the property owner.
“PRAWA members are committed to delivering a quality service. This includes repairing and waterproofing a roof so that it is able to withstand the harsh elements and, therefore, adequately protect the structure and the contents therein. According to the insurance industry, up to 60% of roofing repairs are currently having to be redone because the work is of such an inferior quality. It is not only the property owner that bears the brunt of substandard workmanship. The reputation of the entire industry is being brought into disrepute, despite the stellar efforts of many industry participants – both large and small,” Jeanine de Meyer, Chief Operations Officer of PRAWA, says.
Other than defective workmanship and the use of substandard roofing and waterproofing materials, there are more factors that can also lead to an insurance claim being rejected.
These relate to wear and tear of roofing materials and the need to maintain a roof at regular intervals. A roof is the most exposed part of the house to harsh elements, including strong winds and heavy rainfall and hailstorms. This is not to mention the damage that is caused by the intense South African sun with its very high UV value. Insurance policies expect property owners to ensure that they maintain their roofs regularly. When they do so, property owners also need to make sure that they use the services of competent roofers that are able to execute the work correctly.
For example, insurance companies will not cover water damage after a storm because waterproofing on the roof has reached or exceeded its lifespan. It is only in extenuating circumstances that they will cover the costs of the water damage. However, in these instances, the property owner will still have to bear the cost of replacing the defunct waterproofing. The interruption caused by the damage and the tedious process involved in repairing it could otherwise have been avoided had the property owner kept pace with maintenance requirements in the first place.
De Meyer concurs that an honest contractor will be able to correctly advise property owners about their roof maintenance requirements. Roof repair and waterproofing is an extremely specialised field that is not always easily understood by the layperson. Because damage, as well as wear and tear are out of sight, it can also easily be neglected. There are very few property owners that are willing to climb onto their roofs to inspect them for wear and tear. They usually only discover that something is amiss during the wet season, by which time it is often too late.
“In 2020, the primary cause of claim disputes between property owners and their insurance providers that ended up at the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance involved damage caused by defective design, construction or workmanship, wear and tear and lack of building maintenance. That year, about 70% of internal property claim disputes involving at least one large insurer was related to damages caused by wear and tear. We, therefore, urge property owners to remain vigilant. PRAWA and our members will help them to make an informed decision when it comes to their roof repair and waterproofing needs,” De Meyer concludes.