Since 2000, an increasing number of house-builders have starting using home insulation material made from sheep’s wool. This is an attractive option for both builders and homeowners as it is effective, environmentally sustainable, and has better fire-resistant properties than some of the alternatives.
Unfortunately, if it’s not treated properly, the wool can become a breeding-ground for insects, which feed off and live in the organic material. Some homeowners have found that the wool-fibre insulation in their houses has become infested with moths, which go on to cause major damage to their clothes and soft furnishings. If this happens, the only real solution is to strip out all the insulation and replace it, which results in major disruption and is very expensive.
The problems with insects in wool-fibre insulation have been known about for almost as long as it has been in use. Manufacturers have tried different types of insecticide to try to stop them appearing, but some of these are now known to be ineffective.
If you have had wool-fibre insulation fitted in your home in the last six years, and you have a problem with moths living in the insulation, you could make a claim to help cover the costs of dealing with them.
Who Can I Claim Against?
It can be difficult to identify the person or company you can make a claim against. It will depend partly on the terms of contract you had with the people building your house or installing your insulation.
Builders generally won’t give a contractual guarantee on new-build properties if they can avoid it, but they often still have to comply with a national building guarantee scheme like that of NHBC.
On conversions and renovations, for example, the NHBC specifically requires that builders take steps to identify existing infestations of pests and prevent them from happening in future. If they don’t do this, and pests, like moths, come to live in the property, they may be liable.
When a house is designed by an architect they will often issue a certificate signing off the quality of the work. The buyers of the new house rely on this certificate to reassure them that it has been built to a proper standard. An architect who has designed wool-fibre insulation into a building without ensuring it is insect-proof may have been negligent. If they have issued a certificate which you rely on, you may have a claim against them.
If you have bought the product directly from an insulation supplier, you might be able to claim against them directly. By now, the potential problems are well-known and they should have insect-proofed their product properly. Check your contract to see whether they have offered any guarantee about the quality of their product.
Even if, for some reason, you don’t have a contract with any of them, you might be able to rely on the Defective Premises Act of 1972.
The Defective Premises Act requires properties to be built to a certain standard, with proper materials, and to be fit for human habitation when complete. The courts tend to take a fairly practical view of what conditions people should be expected to tolerate, and a property swarming with moths is not likely to be considered fit to live in.
What Can I Claim For?
To make a claim you would firstly need to show that the presence of moths is because of the type of insulation. Where the moths are living and breeding in the insulation, this should be straightforward.
Your next step would be to ask an expert what work needs to be done to remove the moths and stop them coming back. If the whole house has wool-fibre insulation, this could mean stripping out all the insulation and replacing it with properly-treated wool insulation or mineral-based alternative. You might need to move out of your house while this work is done.
If the builders or installers are liable, you can claim for all the costs involved in rectifying the problem. This will include the costs of removing and replacing the insulation, the cost of temporary accommodation while you can’t stay at home, and possibly a small payment to compensate you for the inconvenience.
Sharing a house with a large colony of moths is something no homeowner should have to put up with. If this is something which affects you, it is worth considering whether you can get your builders to pay for the cost of putting it right.
If your home is infested by moths because of sheep's wool insulation and you want to talk to someone about making a claim, call Simon Price on 0117 926 4121 or make a free enquiry on our website.