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Lots of damp


RagmusII

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I am just wondering if any of you fellow motorhomers may be able to give some advice to a comparative newcomer to Motorhoming.

 

In late 2010 my wife and I purchased a 52 Reg Swift Sundance 630L. We took delivery in early 2011 and used the Motorhome regularly during last year.

Just under a year from the time we took delivery the motorhome had its annual Habitation Inspection. Unfortunately for us it failed rather miserably and requires about £ 2000 worth of work to be done to rectify the damp problem.

 

At the time of purchase we also purchased a 3 year warranty that was recommended by the dealer.

 

When we then made a claim on this warranty for the rectification of the damp problem it was declined on the basis that the damage was due to wear and tear of replaceable seals.

 

The damp is substantially around two windows and the skirts at the bottom edge of the side and end panels. When I challenged the company about the fact that the sealing around the bottom edges of the panels were not replaceable they maintain that they are so will not review the claim.

 

The dealer claims to have carried out a full habitation inspection before the vehicle was purchased. Is it possible for so much damage due to damp to occur within a year?

 

I will be pursuing this as far as I can with the dealer and the warranty company but in the mean time the damage will only get worse and therefore ultimately more expensive to fix.

 

Any ideas would be welcome together with the name and contact details of a reliable, competent repairer somewhere in Surrey or surrounding counties who operates with integrity.

 

Any recommendations or advice would be much appreciated.

 

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RagmusII - 2012-02-06 9:52 PM

 

When we then made a claim on this warranty for the rectification of the damp problem it was declined on the basis that the damage was due to wear and tear of replaceable seals.

 

 

I've yet to see a Motorhome handbook or service schedule that requires window and other seals to be replaced at regular service interval.

 

If the internal wall boards are damp & rotten it must have been leaking for a considerable time. Water ingress via a faulty seal will capillary down through the wall and the leak may not be evident for months sometimes years but should show up when checked with a professional damp meter by a confident person.

 

If it has as you say considerable damp the dealer must have known about it at the time of sale, as for expecting you to reseal around windows is a load of b*****ks.

 

If the dealer won't play ball under the warranty you could try threatening to sue him under "goods not fit for purpose". It would be worth having a word with your local CAB about taking out a small clams court action, often your house contents insurance will cover the cost of this.

 

Motorhome Coachcraft in Luton have been recommended by other forum members.

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Sorry to hear of your difficulties, I to cannot believe whatyou have been told.

 

I checked my own warranty and water ingress is covered, including failing seals. The warranty company cannot wash their hands of this one, and being an insurance company is subject to review by the insurance Ombudsman.

 

Your warranty documents should explain an appeal process for grievances of this sort. Don't accept this from either dealer or insurance company. Provided you have not been neglectful, and maintained your service and habitation record, AND providing your vehicle is not too old(usually about 7 years) water ingress is normally covered. Best of luck for a favourable resolution. BTB

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Look on the swiftleisure.co.uk site. Damp around the skirts has been raised there and Swift seem to have been helpful. This may not cover your model but may be some help though your dealer and insurance company are primarily responsible.
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Thank you to all those who have responded. I will be pursuing this as I do believe the insurance company hopes I will just accept what they say and go away. Which I wont without challenging them. The dealer is another matter and I think they know that there was damp there when the motorhome was sold to us.

 

Will keep you posted of developments.

 

Regards,

Ian

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Questions, questions, I'm afraid! :-) You bought in late 2010, and received the van early 2011. It was a used van, roughly 8 years old. You say the dealer "claims to have carried out a full habitation inspection before the vehicle was purchased". Purchased by him, or by you?

 

More to the point, did he carry out this service during the period between you buying the van, and taking delivery? If so, was that at your expense? Do you have any paperwork or other evidence of that service having been carried out? Does he claim that a damp check was carried out as part of that habitation service?

 

Do you know what "history" the dealer had with this van? It would be very neat if he sold it originally, and has been maintaining it and servicing it ever since. Improbable, but it would help.

 

I assume you have the record of the results of the damp check carried out as part of "your" habitation service? Is that record a "customer copy", implying the dealer retains a copy for his records. If so, and he carried out a similar inspection late 2010/early 2011, he should have retained his copy showing what he found. Might be useful, if he will admit to having it.

 

You don't describe the damage from the damp, so it is almost impossible to say if it could have arisen over the course of a single year. However, being very kind to the dealer, if it began leaking as soon as you got it, and if the damage is only cosmetic - for example, damaged and discoloured wallboard, possibly damaged soft furnishings, carpet, or swelling and discolouration of furniture where it meets wall or floor, I would think it is possible the van was dry up to the point at which you bought it. However, if the damage is more serious, and extends to rotting, or rotten, wall frames and/or other items (possibly difficult to detect before repairs begin), then I would think the damp was well established at the time you bought.

 

Does the insurance actually cover items such a damage from water ingress? I ask, because leakage in older vans is not that uncommon, and insurance companies usually exclude items they consider likely to result in claims.

 

What next? In the first instance, as everyone is blaming the person standing next to them, it seems it may take a while to sort out, and it is winter. If the van is not under cover, or protected to prevent further damage, you should take steps to do this. Now you know it is leaking, you must take steps to minimise further damage, because failure to do this may weaken your case if you have to take legal action to gain redress.

 

However, what we seem to me to have is a dealer who sells an eight year old van. At the time of sale, he recommends a 3 year insurance backed warranty (scope unknown). After one year it is found the van is leaking badly enough to have caused an estimated £2,000 of damage. An insurance claim is rejected on grounds that the leaking seals should have been replaced (presumably as part of normal maintenance).

 

My question now, is where, in all this, is the dealer? He sold you the van, and he is legally responsible to have sold you a van that, albeit 8 years old, is fit for purpose. He also sold you the insurance. He must be regarded as more knowledgeable than you, both as to the scope and suitability of the insurance, and as to the need to replace seals on motorhomes. Looked at from this point of view, as he recommended the insurance, he would seem to be obligated to either explain to the insurer that they are wrong, and there is no requirement to renew motorhome seals unless they show signs of failure, or that he was wrong not to have informed you of the need to replace the seals after his pre-sale habitation service, or that, knowing they would need replacing as required by his chosen insurer, he should have replaced them himself before selling the van.

 

Swift could be approached to enquire if, in view of the statement by the insurer, they have ever stipulated the periodic re-sealing of their motorhomes as part of an extended maintenance schedule, or whether they consider this to be a normal maintenance requirement that should be undertaken by responsible dealers, in conjunction with habitation services.

 

In respect of the insurer, I think they should bow to the superior knowledge of the dealer and the manufacturer regarding any need to replace seals preventively, which is what they seem to be advocating. If they reject the dealer's and manufacturer's opinions (that I am anticipating :-)) you may be able to argue that they are in breach of contract in refusing to sanction the repairs as they have.

 

In respect of the dealer, I think he is primarily liable for the defect, and I think his sale to you of an insurance that fails to satisfy, makes him doubly so. So, there is some persuading to do, and you say you have this in hand. I assume you have by now written to all parties stating your case, and have their written responses rejecting your case. I think it may be worth contacting Consumer Direct, through whom you will be put in touch with your Trading Standards department, and try to get a meeting with TS to, if possible show them the damage, and the various documents you have concerning sale, insurance, habitation service, claims and rejections.

 

This will not commit you to legal action, but it would be a good idea to progress this while you try to negotiate a settlement because a) delay plays to the advantage of dealer and insurer, and b) TS may have valuable advice that they can add in support of your case. At £2,000 the cost is well within the small claims track limits, and you would almost certainly be pushed into alternative dispute resolution (ADR) via adjudication or arbitration. The main problem is that ADR is not particularly quick, and depends on a series of steps being followed in the correct sequence, failure to observe which weakens your case. Even if it works in your favour, as I think it should, you still become responsible for enforcing payment, and may have to apply again to the court to send bailiffs to recover. If you do, you incur the cost, but are entitled to add that to the amount to be recovered!

 

Overall, therefore, negotiating a settlement between the dealer and the insurer may prove much quicker and easier.

 

The only place in Surrey I am aware of who may be able to repair is STJ Motors, in Albert Drive, Woking. They are a Hobby dealer, but have a body repair workshop, and also undertake accident damage repair work for the Surrey Ambulance Service. I only use them for warranty checks on our van, and have no experience of their workshop competence, but assume Surrey Ambulance Service must be satisfied, so perhaps worth a call. I would caution against getting any repairs carried out at your own expense until after you have spoken to TS. There is a legal obligation to allow the dealer to carry out the repairs himself, even if he is reluctant, and failing to have given him the opportunity to do this would weaken any subsequent claim you might wish to pursue against either dealer, or possibly insurer.

 

Good luck.

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Hi Brian,

 

Thanks for all the useful info. I have just written a second letter to the dealer who did not reply to the first one. I have requested full details of the Hab Insp that was carried out before I took delivery of the Motorhome. I have also asked for a meeting to discuss the whole issue. If this fails I will lodge a formal complaint to the company. I am also about to write to the insurance company requesting a formal statement of why they will not accept the claim. Everything has been by phone call so far but now I want everything in writing.

 

I will contact Consumer Direct and Trading Standards to see what they suggest also.

 

The dealer states in their Customer Charter that 'All vehicles are fully prepared and undergo a comprehensive habitation inspection'. This years habitation inspection was carried out less than a year from the date we took delivery. In the paperwork available from the previous owner the last hab insp was carried out in August 2009.

 

Moisture readings around the kitchen area window are between 50 &70, N/S rear skirt 30-70, rear skirt 25-50 and O/S skirt area up to 50. The expensive part of the repair is the 27 hours of labour .

 

The quote I have been given by the dealer says the following:-

 

To remove, NSF & NSR windows/hinge bars and rubbers, kitchen blind, part OSR bed box, OSR safety lock and OSF side skirt & OSR sideskirt. Remove damp wallboards and timbers to kitchen window and OSR wall in bed box. Remove damp floor ply to OSF corner under van. Dry out van. Cut to size and bond into place wallboards, ply and timbers as required and spray with sealing compound.. All up together with labour and parts required comes to £ 2,011.

 

This might give you an idea of the extent of the damage.

 

The insurance policy does state that water ingress and de-lamination are covered in the first year of the warranty. The exclusions listed are for normal wear and tear and normal deterioration. The company is claiming that the damaged caused by window seals that supposedly let the moisture in are not covered because they have deteriorated through wear and tear.

 

Anyway it will be interesting to see if the dealer responds to my second letter and agrees to a meeting. The company does have a complaints dept so the next letter will be to them if the Branch Manager does not respond.

 

Will keep you posted of developments as hopefully other people new to motor homing will get caught in the same was as we have.

 

Thanks again for you help,

 

Regards,

Ian

 

 

 

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RagmusII - 2012-02-08 9:49 PM.............................Moisture readings around the kitchen area window are between 50 &70, N/S rear skirt 30-70, rear skirt 25-50 and O/S skirt area up to 50. The expensive part of the repair is the 27 hours of labour .

 

The quote I have been given by the dealer says the following:-

 

To remove, NSF & NSR windows/hinge bars and rubbers, kitchen blind, part OSR bed box, OSR safety lock and OSF side skirt & OSR sideskirt. Remove damp wallboards and timbers to kitchen window and OSR wall in bed box. Remove damp floor ply to OSF corner under van. Dry out van. Cut to size and bond into place wallboards, ply and timbers as required and spray with sealing compound.. All up together with labour and parts required comes to £ 2,011.

 

This might give you an idea of the extent of the damage...............................................Regards, Ian

What I don't see is any mention of rectifying the cause of the ingress. It is implied, insofar as it would be silly to re-fit the windows and skirts without "thoroughly cleaning off all existing sealant, priming as necessary, and applying new sealant" but they don't say this.

 

The existing sealants have failed and water has entered, causing damage. I would assume that all the windows, and all of the side skirts, are sealed in the same way with sealants of the same age. So, if one lot has failed due to age, all others must be equally suspect, and can be regarded as future leaks waiting to happen. All windows, and all skirts, need to come off and the whole lot cleaned up and re-fitted with new sealants. Otherwise the damage will just move around as the seals fail one after another in the not too distant future.

 

I don't know if these people could help establish what needs doing: I have no experience of them, but their area of work seems about right. http://tinyurl.com/78rf5fv

 

The actual damage, as described, sounds generally to be superficial. I note there is no mention of rot. The wallboard is stated to be "damp", is presumably discoloured, and may be softened, although this is not stated. There is no justification given for its removal, so I wonder if they are expecting to find rotten timber beneath it. If so, the cost of repairing that will be greater than the sum quoted, and is not covered in the quote. Similarly, the cutting out of "damp" flooring ply: if merely damp, why remove? Why not first eliminate all sources of ingress, then dry out, and finally assess whether the wallboard and/or flooring ply is irreparably damaged, and must be replaced, and then replace as necessary. I am unfamiliar with the wallboards used, but the ply used as a motorhome floor should (logically! :-)) at least be WBP grade, and should not be unduly affected by mere dampness. It is constructed to resist damp. Even modern non WBP ply should not suffer terminally from short term damp - though it may if it has been damp for a long time.

 

The quote just makes me feel uneasy, and somewhat suggests two things. First, that they anticipate the damage being greater than their quote implies, but are reluctant to admit this. Second, that they equally suspect the damp has been there for a long time, and was almost certainly there when they sold you the van - and definitely don't want to admit that! :-) If either is true, it raises uncomfortable questions over the sale of the insurance, and whether that was in good faith, either to you, or to the insurance company.

 

I think I would be inclined first and foremost to get the van protected from the weather so that no more water gets in. I think I would then empty it of all soft furnishings, curtains, cushions, mattresses, carpet, etc, and leave all cupboard doors and locker lids open. I would then fully close all windows and external doors, hatches, etc, and put a small dehumidifier into it and run this continually to draw out the accumulated damp, emptying the condense tray as, and when, necessary. Next, I think I would advise the dealer, in writing, that I have taken these measures pending repair, while you take further advice. I would then look for specialist motorhome surveyors. The one I linked to above may be OK, but folk on here may well know of others, and be able to suggest who else to contact. You need a well reputed firm to carry out a non-destructive inspection, and report back to you in writing on their findings. I think your next practical step then has to await what they say.

 

Continue your contacts with TS, because that should give you the ammunition you may need to resolve whatever the surveyor finds is, actually, wrong. At one level, that may be no more than thoroughly drying everything out, removing and replacing defective seals, some minor, cosmetic, internal repairs, or at the other end of the scale, the discovery of extensive rot that had begun due to ingress long before you bought the van, that would cost far more than the present estimate to repair, with the dealer's current assessment lying somewhere in the middle. What concerns me about the quote is that it has some of the characteristics of a "hook". Once the wallboard and ply has been cut out, the van has been rendered worthless until repaired. If, at that stage, advanced rot is found, your van remains worthless until that is repaired, and the whole reinstated. That, potentially, is the hook and, if you accept the quote, you could find yourselves on it.

 

By now you will be convinced that I am the Devil incarnate, determined only to drive you to distraction with my images of doom! Not so: but based on present knowledge, and on the experience of others where damp was discovered in this way, on vans of this age, what I am outlining are possibilities that should be considered before going too far in. It is a case of planning for the worst and hoping for the best, rather than the opposite. At one extreme little is wrong and the cost of repair moderate. At the other, hopefully unlikely, extreme you may have a severely compromised van, and your only hope of remedy may be to sue the dealer for its full value, less, probably (but as advised by TS/lawyers) the assessed value of your one year's use of it. If the cost of repair proves very high, and the insurer eventually accepts liability, you would have the further option of a newly repaired and re-sealed van that could provide years of pleasurable use yet. It is mostly that spread of uncertainty that concerns me. Let us know how you get on.

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Hi ian

 

I would suggest that you contact the last private owners of the MH and see if they were aware of any damp issues, and whether the dealer had been aware of this too. Any dealer worth their salt will do a damp check on a motorhome before they buy it or PX it, so I'd be very surprised if the previous owner and dealer weren't aware if there was damp present at that time.

 

This could proved to be a very 'interesting' conversation with the previous owner and may be sufficient to prove your case of damp being there originally. :-S

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