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"County Drains were able to promptly provide us with a CCTV drain survey after a query was raised during our sale. They were prompt and acted with professionalism. They understood the urgency behind the need for the report and were able to get it to us quickly. We cannot recommend them enough.""
CCTV Homebuyer Survey Customer
Autumn and winter is a busy time for drainage clearance firms, with blockages from fallen leaves and frozen pipes leading to more emergency call-outs. But as drains are something we never think about until there’s a problem, how do you know which company to trust?
County Drains director Stewart Osgood has been in the business for 30 years. Here, he lifts the lid on 8 shocking blocked drain scams that cost domestic customers and businesses thousands of pounds each year. Then he shows you how you can avoid being ripped off.
For home-owners, a blocked drain means finding someone to come out as fast as possible. With no time to shop around, many people choose the cheapest price they can find. This can be abused in two ways: engineers may turn up with either the wrong equipment or with under-powered tools. This can lead to you paying for multiple call-outs, and the price you saw advertised for a manual drain clearance suddenly turns into an additional, higher charge for jetting. I’ve seen people who have ended up paying 3-4 times the price they saw advertised. Some companies will even charge you extra for their time stuck in traffic.
A reputable company should have manual and high-power jetting tools on their van at all times, and should clear most blockages in under an hour.
Drain jetting uses just water – nothing else. We’ve seen some companies charge an extra £40 for adding “chemicals” which are just disinfectant or antifreeze. When they jet, it foams up or smells nice and changes colour, but it’s totally unnecessary.
Another nice little earner is when a company charges you per hour, and then spends 30 minutes filling up their water tank from your tap. A reputable company should have a license which allows them to fill up from a fire hydrant, which takes 10 minutes. That way the drainage company pays for the water, not you, and you’re not charged for 30 minutes of down time.
Businesses aren’t immune to rip-off practices either. An area particularly prone to abuse is in the wording of tenders and contracts.
A lot of tenders set price-lists for various services: drain unblocking might be set at £40; repairing a drain to a depth of a metre might be £110. I’ve seen contractors unblock a drain with the wrong end of a plunger, damaging the drain. This then needs to be repaired, so a £40 job suddenly costs £150. And as luck would have it, they have all the repair tools on the van!
I’ve also seen firms undertake drain repairs for damage caused by root intrusion. They then justified the repair with video evidence taken from a completely different site.
Contracts based on hourly rates are open to abuse. Choosing a company that is £20 per hour cheaper seems like good financial management until the bills start arriving. The cheapest firms will send one engineer, and take up to two hours to do most jobs.
A two-person team, which may be £20 per hour more expensive, will complete the job in under an hour. The “cheapest” option could mean you pay £120 per visit, rather than £80.
One supermarket we worked with set a cost cap of £500 per job. A rival contractor I spoke to said they always made sure they bill their call-outs at around £400, regardless of the work that needed doing. They’d get their engineers, once the job was complete, to go and lift a couple of extra lids to make it looks like they were working, just to drag the job out and justify the time.
This one affects home-owners and businesses alike. Some drainage companies pay their engineers a small basic salary and incentivise them with commission per job. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how unscrupulous workers can use this to get as much money out of a customer as possible.
If you need a drainage company and want to avoid the disreputable operators, here are a few tips.
While a firm may have a professional looking website and an attractive Facebook page, nothing beats a personal referral from someone you trust.
Our experience is that the vast majority of our customers are happy to provide a reference. If a company can’t provide many references, or even refuses, walk away.
Search Google, Facebook, Yell.com and Yelp, and look for a healthy ratio of good to bad reviews. Also, look at how the company responds to negative reviews, if possible.
When working with commercial and industrial companies, health and safety is more important to them than saving £20 per hour. Make sure the company you choose has sufficient public liability and professional indemnity insurance, and has ISO 14001 & ISO 9001 accreditations. Look for membership of industry bodies such as the Working Well Together Scheme, Safe Contractor, CHAS, EXOR, Construction Line and others.
It’s not as bad as it used to be. It depends on the ethos of the business, and even then, you get some operatives who are honest and are good at the job, and then others who try to make as much money as they can get away with. But the more people who know about these scams, hopefully the less widespread they’ll become.
County Drains is a family firm who have dealt with drainage issues across Leicestershire and South Derbyshire for over 15 years. They work for domestic customers as well as for local companies such as Walkers Crisps and Leicester City FC. Over the years have built up an enviable reputation based on recommendations, trust and honesty.If you have a blocked drain, contact us using our online enquiry form or simply call on 01530 510571 and let our team of experts help.
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Drain Cleaning, Drain Surveys, Drain CCTV Surveys for Leicester, Hinckley and Coalville.
County Drains Drainage Company based in Coalville near Leicester and Hinckley in Leicestershire, offer complete drain cleaning, drain surveys and drain services for blocked drains, or drains in need of repair. We are a qualified Drain Company and complete all drain services from Drain CCTV Surveys to Root Cutting and Drainage Repair. We have a fleet of vacuum tankers to empty septic tanks, road gullies, petrol interceptors and grease traps. Coverage includes Leicestershire and surrounding areas.