How to Avoid Being Scammed When You Need a Boiler Repair

May 14, 2021

The Plumbing and Heating industry has a problem, we can’t hide from it, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s there and unfortunately for far too many people, it’s all too real.

Every year thousands of homeowners get scammed by dishonest tradespeople or companies claiming that either perfectly good parts need to be replaced to complete a boiler repair, or worse still the boiler is beyond repair and must be replaced.

At Heatsy we’ve seen it far too many times, either by attending jobs after these cowboys or in our past, working with them.

Before we start the article, I want to share with you a short experience that will explain why this topic is so personal for me.

It was when I was buying my first family car, my wife had just given birth to our first child, our beautiful daughter Maia. Our old car was in bad condition, and we often got a strong smell of exhaust fumes in the back seats.

Not wanting to bring my new family home in the old car I found a suitable family replacement online and made an appointment to view it, the day before we were set to go home.

I followed all the checks recommended by Which? got a VOSA report, checked for outstanding finance and write offs and all seemed good. While the car was being prepared, I showed the dealer a picture of my wife and our daughter and explained the reason for the new purchase, he assured me with what now seems like a smirk in place of a smile that we would all be safe in the car – half way down the motorway warning lights started to flash up and the car broke down.

After getting a roadside repair I managed to get my wife and bring our daughter home.

A few days later I took the car to a local mechanic who produced a long list of MOT failures and faults, the embarrassment I felt telling my wife I’d wasted our savings on a car that wasn’t fit for purpose followed by the rage I felt when I remembered the dealer’s smirk as he handed me the keys and took my money was/is, indescribable.

Then the anger I felt when the dealer didn’t want to know and blocked my number, still burns me up all these years later.

I’m sharing this with you because I know how it feels to feel vulnerable when you’re trying to make a purchase of something you know very little about, I also sadly understand the feeling of embarrassment and anger when you fall prey to these cowboys.

I promise that when you place your trust in us and invite us into your home to repair or replace your boiler, we will never leave you feeling this way, if we do, we’ll come back and put it right.

Below we’ll run through a few things you can look out for to avoid being scammed when you need your boiler repaired.

Making the choice

We understand, the boiler has broken down and you need it repaired fast. The temptation can be to just call the first company you come across hoping to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible, but this is almost always a bad decision.

There are a few things to check before you decide who to invite to repair your boiler.

  1. Check their website

    A reputable company will always have a decent, professional-looking website that will probably have a few pictures of their team in their uniform rather than generic photos. Also, have a look at what they do, repairing a boiler and installing a boiler are two very different skills and a company that does both should have separate pages dedicated to each service they offer, they should also have a clear and easy to find pricing menu with T&Cs that you can check before calling them.

  2. Check online reviews

    All companies are online now, and we all have our own digital space, any company that has a habit of overcharging or scamming customers will have negative reviews somewhere.

    Check Google for Company name reviews, i.e., Heatsy reviews, and anything written about them should be easy to find. You could also try checking with trading standards or for any endorsements the company might have.

  3. Check Gas Safe

    Lastly, before calling make sure the company you’re thinking of working with is on the gas safe register and competent to work on gas boilers, CCN1 and CENWAT are an absolute minimum requirement to repair a gas boiler.

Making the call

Now you have one or two companies who look good and seem legitimate, it’s time to make the first introduction and dig a little bit deeper.

  1. Ask about the pricing

    When you call double check, you understand the pricing structure fully. Ask them to explain any minimum charges, charges for collecting materials and if they add a mark up to materials. There’s nothing wrong with a markup being added, we add a 20% mark up to all our materials to cover the time we have spent building a relationship with honest suppliers and the time we will spend defending you if any of the parts fail with in the warranty period but if a company seem reluctant to discuss these things it’s a sign, they could be untrustworthy.

  2. Ask about insurance

    If someone is going to come into your home and repair your boiler, they should have Public Liability Insurance to protect your home against any damages that can occur.

    Things go wrong and mistakes happen to the best of us, that’s what insurance is for. If a company doesn’t have any insurance or refuses to let you see an insurance certificate it’s a sign, they’re amateurish and should be avoided.

  3. Ask about guarantees

    Any company offering a boiler repair service should back it up with a 12-month workmanship guarantee. It’s unreal the number of times we’ve visited customers the day after another company has repaired the boiler, taken huge sums of money, and refused to come back when the boiler has broken down again within a few hours of them leaving. Check what is and isn’t covered by the guarantee, we do not cover low water pressure on our boiler repairs unless we do a major trace and repair otherwise, we can end up going back for free every 6 months to top the pressure up again. It’s OK if some things are covered while others aren’t but again, it’s the company’s willingness to share this with you so you can make the right decision for you that we’re looking for.

The job

You’ve done your online research, asked the questions, and feel confident with your decision but, just like me and my car, you could still end up with a lemon.

When the tradesperson arrives, there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for and spot the cowboys.

  1. Asking to be left alone.

    It’s no secret that as tradespeople we like to be left alone to work, it can be quite distracting and sometimes leads to mistakes if a customer is hanging over your shoulder and constantly asking questions while you’re trying to repair the boiler. But it is your home and if you want to sit in the room and keep an eye on the engineer it’s absolutely your prerogative to do so.
    If an engineer makes an issue of you being present or asks you to leave the room while they work, politely decline, or invite them to leave.

  2. Telling you the boiler cannot be repaired

    Sometimes a boiler repair can be uneconomical, and you could be advised it makes more sense to install a new one rather than repair your current one, however, this is again your choice, and if an engineer insists you need a new boiler because the old boiler cannot be repaired always seek a second opinion and never pay any deposit or sign an agreement until you have.

    You might be better off replacing the boiler rather than repairing it, the point is it’s your choice and all boiler parts can be sourced eventually so you should always be given the option of a repair.

  3. Taking the old part with them to collect the new part.

    If the engineer diagnoses that a replacement part is needed, and they take the old part out of the boiler to bring with them they may well be going to get the part repaired or exchange it for a refurbished part. There is nothing wrong with using refurbished boiler parts for boiler repairs, in fact, we often advise our customers to but the savings in doing so must be passed to you and you should always be given the choice.

So that’s it, follow the above advice, do your research, ask a few questions and be vigilant when the boiler is being repaired and you’ll make it hard for them cowboys to get ya’.

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Please remember, we’re heating experts so if you need your boiler repaired, a new heating installation or if you’re struggling with anything we’ve discussed here feel free to get in touch with us now so we can see how our solutions might help you.

Thank you for reading.