In my previous blogs, I’ve mentioned about the problems I’ve had with my heating system and the company which we had a home care plan with, namely YourRepair. This is quite a long post and I apologise now for it. However, I’m sure that many of you can relate to ‘putting pen to paper’ can help with closure.
Way back In 2008, we had a new boiler installed by British Gas and because my partner worked away a lot of the time, we took out a home care plan with them. Within two months or so, we needed to call out the engineer because the pilot light kept going out. Over the years, we had several components including the motherboard replaced and I joked that they may have well installed a new boiler. At one point, our issues were being discussed at regional meetings. In October 2019, we received a renewal letter from British Gas informing us the cost of our plan was over £700 whereas new customers were being charged approximately £300. I contacted customer services to ask if it could be reduced and they refused having little regard for customer loyalty. Therefore, I cancelled the plan and searched on the Internet for a new company. After reading several ‘good’ reviews, I decided to take out a two-year plan with YourRepair. Now, you need to remember that I had been unfairly dismissed on 19 November 2019 and was dealing with ACAS.
In December 2019, we needed to call out an engineer for a leaking radiator valve. They attempted to repair it with tape and said if it continued to leak to call them again. It did, so we contacted them again and they installed a ‘new’ valve. The warning signs were all there but I decided to give them the benefit of a doubt. At the beginning of July 2020, we had our boiler ‘serviced.’ The engineer asked if we had had any problems and I replied the only issue we seemed to have was that the pump had become very noisy. He told me he had tweaked the system and turned down the pump. As last summer’s temperatures had been high, we didn’t need the heating on until the end of August when we found out there wasn’t any heat in the bathroom radiator due to a broken valve. (Possibly from when the engineer serviced the boiler!). We put in a request for an engineer and was informed they would contact us. We waited and waited until I decided to text him the details the following day which was Saturday. We still didn’t hear anything so I called him. He was in McDonalds and told me to call him tomorrow morning. I duly called him and he eventually arrived looking like he was suffering from a hangover or something similar. He didn’t bring a new valve with him and asked my partner to go and buy him one because YourRepair didn’t pay him travel time. I didn’t want to be left on my own in the house with him, so I went and sourced a new valve from a neighbour which the engineer then fitted. However, we now discovered that we didn’t have any heating whatsoever and the engineer thought we needed to replace the pump but would have to return another day.
On Monday morning, I reported the incident to YourRepair stressing I did not want the person who had previously visited us and a member of staff reassured me they would send another engineer. However, on returning home from walking my dog, the original engineer had left a business card saying that he had come to fit a new pump but had missed me! Anyway, another engineer arrived and unfortunately, he reported that the system had sludge in it which in effect null and voided our home plan unless we had a chemical flush. He said we could do it ourselves which we did but according to YourRepair they had recommended a company when my partner had spoken to them – which was absolute blatant lies. A new pump and three-way valve were also fitted by a different company but unfortunately, this did not rectify the problem. The home care plan was mutually cancelled in October.
The fun came when trying to find a company to install a new boiler. We contacted British Gas on 24 November who said they could install a new one on 21st. By this time, the house was so cold but the fact that we had a date was great news. We had contacted independent plumbers but they were all too busy and couldn’t fit us in before Christmas. I received an email the following day informing us the installation date was 21 January 2021! The salesperson had promised us he would put us on the priority list, however, when we called the Regional Office, they told us we weren’t vulnerable and being vulnerable didn’t include autistic individuals. Fortunately, a friend’s husband took pity on us and contacted a plumber he had worked with. This wonderful person rescheduled their work so that they could install a new boiler during the first week of December. We then found out whilst they were connecting the new boiler to the existing pipes that British Gas had incorrectly installed the old boiler which is why we’d had so many problems with it.
Although I’d contracted COVID in February and gone through an employment tribunal which ended in July, the fiasco surrounding my central heating system caused me more anguish and meltdowns than either of these two events put together. The fact that the house was so cold and there was just no one available to come and install a new boiler had a massive impact on my mental health. Events relating to this though did not stop here. Due to the house being so cold, we kept all the internal doors closed to try and heat up individual rooms. The door into the lounge was quite hard to push open due to it catching on the carpet and our poor rescue dog came bounding up to it and caught his muzzle on the side of the door. The next morning, his cheek had swollen but we decided to wait and see whether it went down. Luckily, it did but then a day or so later, it swelled up again. We ended up at the emergency vet on Boxing Day evening and on the following Wednesday, he had to have a tooth removed because he had got an infection. So, all in all, it had been an expensive Christmas and I had still not found a new job to start the new year with.
In January, I decided to take YourRepair to the small claims court due to their poor service and lack of regard for their customers. I had written and complained to them and all they could do was thank me for taking the time to WRITE to them. I had a feeling we wouldn’t win but it was the principle of the matter. The hearing was last Friday and as predicted, we didn’t win. The CEO smugly sat on his sofa with his legal team of three but the worst was yet to come. I had submitted to the court that I was going to be represented by my partner. However, one of their legal team commented that I should have represented myself because the care plan contract was in my name. My partner stated that I was autistic and I had notified the court that he would be representing me. However, the legal team continued to argue this fact over and over until the judge had to step in and request that they accept I was autistic and would not be able to represent myself. It was absolutely shameful.
I look back and I don’t know how I managed to get through the last few months of 2020. However, being neurodiverse has made me strong and determined because of having to deal with a world that I don’t always fit into. Who knows what the future holds? But I’m just taking each day as it comes and as they say ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’