A Lewis couple claim that an ex-footballer’s botched insulation job in their home has made them feel like “complete idiots” and left them with a repair bill of more than £2,000.
Julie Child and her wife Rachel live in North Shawbost on Lewis where they also run a small café. In early 2019, they decided to have insulation work carried out in their home following a cold call by Mark Crilly.
Mrs Child told the Free Press that Mr Crilly, a former footballer who played for the likes of Ayr United, St Mirren, and Raith Rovers, came to their bungalow in July 2018 and offered to carry out various jobs as part of a grant scheme. Underfloor and internal wall insulation and a staircase to allow insulation to their loft room – then only accessible by a loft ladder – was part of the package.
The work began in February 2019 after confirmation that Julie and Rachel were eligible for the insulation scheme grant as they were in receipt of working tax credits. Mrs Child claims that after initially stating that he was working under one of the warm home schemes, prior to the work being carried Mr Crilly said he now had his own company – the Central Heating Team.
In her timeline listing the alleged events, which she shared with the Free Press, Mrs Child states that the fitters arrived on 18th February 2019 to begin the work and fitted the staircase.
Mrs Child claims that Mr Crilly, who she said was not present during the work, informed her by text message on 20th February that the remaining materials would be delivered on 21st February and that the fitters would then finish the staircase.
However, Mrs Child says that the next communication between the two parties was on 25th February in which she outlined work outstanding and issues related to the work carried out along with photographic evidence of it. She also told him that she would leave a key for the workmen to access her house as she had to go to Inverness for surgery.
She told the Free Press: “They were very happy with their job, but I went in to have a look and the staircase was dangerously on a forward tilt. There was no headroom – you actually had to duck to get in the attic space. So I brought this all to Mark’s attention (at the time) and he said ‘yes, I’ll get them to do something about it’ – but what they did was wedge in an extra bit of wood underneath the staircase to try and put the tilt backward. It’s not fixed to the floor, there’s no banister, there’s no handrail at the top. I started looking at building regulations and there isn’t two metres clearance.”
She added: “The underfloor heating was fine, no problems – but I think that is really all they are capable of doing because they weren’t joiners.”
After multiple messages asking Mr Crilly what would be done to rectify the damage Julie conducted a search through Companies House to find details of the Central Heating Team. She discovered that it was a limited company but that it did not mention Mark Crilly at all.
She spoke to one of the company’s directors, David Masterton who told her that Mr Crilly was merely one of their lead generators and that it was through them the underfloor insulation had been carried out. She added that she was told Mr Crilly did not have the correct certification in place to undertake the internal wall insulation.
Mrs Child said that Mark Crilly emailed her in April 2019 to say that Mr Masterton would arrange for a joiner to sort the staircase as soon as possible. In June 2019, Julie managed to track down the joiner in question.
He told her that Mr Crilly had casually mentioned that there might be work for him but nothing more. Mrs Child claims that the joiner inspected the work at her home and said he was shocked at the poor workmanship and was not interested in trying to put it right.
In September 2019, Julie employed the services of the Stornoway-based firm Alex Murray Construction.
She said: “I went to Alex Murray Construction and they said ‘they have cut through ceiling joists, which they haven’t reinforced, it’s dangerous – you shouldn’t be using the stairs – that all needs to come out or be strengthened.’
“They sent us a quote for about £2,500 to put it back to what it was before. They suggested that we speak to the building inspectors.”
In November 2019 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar conducted a building inspection of her home.
Mrs Child said: “They said ‘your home insurance is invalid. There are major structural ceiling joists that have been chopped through without any reinforcements – if you have a problem and have an assessor come in, the first thing they are going to do is come up to the attic and your insurance will be void’.”
Following the building inspection, Mrs Child contacted Mr Crilly to determine who was liable, to which she claims he said he was.
After sending him the quote and building report, and with her house no longer insured and vulnerable to the winter weather, she sent a letter at the start of December. This explained that the couple would give Mr Crilly fourteen days to pay the quote in full otherwise they would take legal action.
She said: “He did email us and offer the deposit and money on completion but as we had already told him, the construction company would not accept that. They needed the money paid up front. He never got a valid quote for the work with them nor took it any further. All he has done is stall at every opportunity.
“He has made us feel very foolish and like complete idiots. We came over here for the quiet life and we’ve no mortgage – so that we can make a few changes with our little business. There is no money in the bank to repair what he has done.”
The Free Press contacted Mr Crilly for comment, but we have not received a response.
Have you experienced similar problems with work undertaken in your home by a tradesperson? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we will get in touch.
Article by Adam Gordon