Why an article on thatching material purchases and the law?
The decision to write about thatching material purchase issues and the law came about after two recent enquiries on this topic. In both cases, reed quality was being questioned as a cause of an underperforming roof. The issue of who bought those materials was then, quite naturally, brought into the discussions.
Being able to identify good and bad material is a skill gained over many years. Ability to do this therefore varies enormously depending on experience. In addition, material may look fine at the point of delivery or application, but then may fail in the future. Many people look for blame when thatching materials fail, which is when the party responsible for purchasing them can become an issue.
In this article we will therefore discuss:-
- Who purchases thatching materials?
- The information recently brought to us regarding recent thatching material disputes where the issue of who purchased those materials was being used as part of the argument.
- Response from Mr David Goldsmith of DGR Law Solicitors to this information
- Our recommendations and advice based on this response.
Who are the purchasers of thatching materials?
There are different thatching businesses around the country and a myriad of thatchers with varying knowledge, expertise, experience and understanding, especially when it comes to thatching material purchase and the law.
We know of a few long standing thatching material dealers in the country who have been supporting the thatching trade for many years. This is coupled with many farmers especially growing and selling thatching straw. Thousands of bundles of Longstraw, combed wheat straw and water reed are sold, bought, borrowed and used on hundreds of thatched properties every year.
So, looking at who buys these main materials (not including, spars, crooks, screws and wires, rod and liggers etc.), they can, in our opinion be grouped:-
- Thatchers who grow and harvest their own materials for their own use – mainly straw but some water reed and sedge is also harvested and used.
- Thatchers who buy from the few thatching material dealers in the country.
- Thatchers who buy direct from farmers/producers.
- Homeowners, often as a way for thatchers to keep below the VAT threshold. But also if thatcher does not have the best credit or cash flow, a homeowner may make the thatching materials purchase for their own property.
Recent thatching material issues brought to our attention
“If a ‘Master Thatcher’ gets the homeowner to pay for the thatching materials – direct from a choice of reed dealers for instance – and then the roof doesn’t perform well. Does the homeowner have any come back on the thatcher if the problem is material related? One query straw, one water reed.”
Response from DGR Law Solicitors
We were pleased to receive this excellent clarification from David Goldsmith.
“Based on the information provided:-
In law, the homeowner has a contract with the reed supplier based on the consideration paid for materials.
The Master Thatcher has a contract with the homeowner, to replace the thatch and carry out the work to the appropriate standard pursuant to a written agreement. In reality, this is normally the estimate plus some notes.
It should be an express or implied term of the contract that the Master Thatcher inspect/assess the reed purchased by the homeowners as being suitable and of the right quality prior to installation.
If the homeowners are unhappy with the new thatch and allege that the roof does not perform well, they need to say why and obtain evidence in support, preferably from an expert, such as Keith Quantrill.
It is unclear, if they are alleging that poor workmanship during the installation of the thatch, is responsible; or reed which, was not fit for purpose; or both or something else.
If the matter develops, the suppliers of the reed will no doubt become involved.
Finally, it is preferable to resolve these matters by negotiation/mediation and conclude with a settlement agreement rather than Court action.”
Our recommendations and advice based on this response.
- If you are a thatcher, be aware that even if your client purchases their own material you have to assess it as suitable prior to installation.
- If you are a homeowner who has bought the reed, you cannot just put emphasis on the thatcher should there be a problem with the roof, you need evidence in support of any claim.
In conclusion, it is advisable to strive for good thatching materials, applied well to the roof. Then, if there are any problems related to the thatching material purchase, it makes sense for the homeowner and thatcher to resolve things without going to Court.
The Thatch Advice Centre are not the “Thatch Police” but we have an extensive and in depth understanding of the trade and often help people by discussing issues or pointing them in the direction of additional assistance and resolution. Happy to help.