Beware of firms offering free surveys

The Resident has received warnings about a company operating in the Algarve that offers damp proofing and fire protection surveys.

Two of the names which the firm uses are Nationwide Property Protection and Britannia Home Improvements. Companies with these names are currently being investigated in the UK by Trading Standards after offering residents free damp proofing surveys and fire protection surveys.

The West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service released a statement last month regarding this company and a number of UK newspapers published a warning.

Ben Holt from Halifax Today newspaper told The Resident that a number of people had contacted him to inform him that they had been mislead by the company.

The newspapers, which published articles regarding the company, all mentioned that the staff members use hard-sell tactics to persuade householders into paying large sums of money for unnecessary work.

A former employee in the Algarve, who asked to remain anonymous, revealed exclusively to The Resident details about this company. The employee named members of staff and gave details of the company’s operations in Spain.

The Resident spoke to the Costa Blanca News in Spain, that also published a warning about a company called Safeguard, which they believed was connected to Nationwide Property Protection and Britannia Home Improvements.

According to Tom Cain of the Costa Blanca News, who wrote the original article, he and his editor interviewed a man called Mark White, who worked for the company. They questioned him on many details of the company following a number of complaints from residents in the area. Residents told the newspaper that they had received a call from a company, which said that a law had been passed in the UK and Spain that made it compulsory for homeowners to possess a fire safety certificate.

Residents who said that they had never heard of this law were told that they must be the only ones not to know and were advised that the company could help.

They were told that inspectors were in the area and could be at the home on the same day.  Those who agreed opened their homes to the inspectors who, after going round the home, told the residents that in order for a certificate to be issued, some work was necessary to make the property safe.

According to the Costa Blanca News, one resident was so taken in by the company that she parted with more than 1,800 pounds sterling. Tom Cain told The Resident that they questioned Mark White about the head office address in Mayfair, London, which they believed to be false, as well as the fact that the UK phone number was being re-rooted  to a location in Portugal.

They asked him many questions and he had the answers for very few. Following the interview, they believed that Mark White himself was the one “behind the scam”. They believe that Safeguard, Britannia Home Improvements and Nationwide Property Protection were one company disguised by three names.

According to the employee who contacted The Resident, she was urged to contact residents in the UK, who were likely to be living alone and over the age of 50. People over this age and living alone are more likely to be taken in by the tactics the company is known to use to convince residents to part with their money.

Many companies are genuine in their efforts to help the local community. However, please be cautious when companies offer free surveys as they may claim that unnecessary work needs to be completed on your home. Always get a second opinion to confirm that your home needs work done to it. If you have been contacted by such a company in the Algarve or they have installed fire protection or damp proofing, please e-mail [email protected]