Warranties and guarantees: ensuring they offer adequate protection

Checking the terms

27 March 2015

Warranties and insurance-backed guarantees need careful reading to ensure they offer adequate protection, warns Brian Watson

The UK is recognised globally for delivering some of the most reliable metal buildings in the world. Driven by a focus on sustainability and innovation, high standards mean that when the job is done well the building is safe and most importantly fit for purpose.

However, in the continuous drive to increase sales, there has been a rise in assurances offered, promoted and, in some cases, even fabricated, in a bid to influence customers to place an order.

But for one reason or another, the fine print of these documents often remains unread until a problem arises, when it quickly becomes clear that the protection offered is not as robust as customers might have hoped.

The main types of assurance offered are:

  • performance statement: a document indicating that the product or system should perform for a predetermined period of time. In the event of failure, there is no redress
  • insurance-backed warranty: a paid-for written guarantee issued by the product or system manufacturer, promising to repair or replace if necessary within a specified period of time, normally 10 years
  • guarantee: a legal assurance (typically in writing) that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product or system will be repaired or replaced.

Terms and conditions

It is the terms and conditions of many guarantees and warranties that raise concerns. To avoid claims against them, some companies include onerous clauses such as the demand for rigid annual maintenance and inspection regimes.

It is worth noting that the Health and Safety Executive discourages unnecessary roof access due to the risk posed to life from a potential fall. Another example of unscrupulous practice is the insistence on adherence to a specific, and often unrealistic, temperature range. Such clauses are easily and unwittingly broken, rendering the guarantee or warranty invalid after a year or so.

...non-fragility guarantees must be absolutely reliable when the surveyor steps foot on the roof to undertake a task

Some companies will even go so far as to guarantee an individual component, rather than the job it is designed to do. For example, if a fixing fails causing a roof to lift off in adverse weather, rather than repair the damage, a company might choose to give 500 screws free of charge. Alternatively, the screws themselves may be guaranteed but their connection to the frame may not.

Safety remains the most important concern for any surveyor. Falls through roofs pose a significant risk and as such non-fragility guarantees must be absolutely reliable when the surveyor steps foot on the roof to undertake a task. If this cannot be proven, then access must be withheld. Robust non-fragility guarantees ensure that the system in its entirety, not just the steel profile or an individual rooflight, has been tested.

Annual visual check

While there are always exceptions, in the majority of cases, the only areas of a roof that require annual maintenance and inspection are gutters because these tend to trap silt, debris and plants that need to be removed to prevent blockages. Giving the roof an annual visual check is recommended when carrying out gutter maintenance. Providing there are no problems, most roofs should only need to be professionally inspected every 3 to 5 years, depending on the location.

New laws are due to come into place over the next few years which will simplify terms and conditions. Until that time, developers and building owners must be vigilant when looking at guarantees, paying particular attention to the terms and conditions that can affect a claim.

Brian Watson is Group Development Director at CA Group

Further information

Related competencies include:

  • This feature is taken from the RICS Building Surveying journal (March/April 2015)