If your surveyor makes a mistake when investigating the condition of your home, or with the valuation they place on your home, you may be left at a financial loss that is not your fault and causes real problems.
Our professional negligence solicitors may be able to help you get compensation for a negligent property valuation or assessment.
Deciding to purchase property, whether a commercial property or residential property, is a huge milestone in all of our lives. As purchasing property is such a large transaction, we will often place great trust in the professionals who guide us through the process. As part of this, most prospective purchases will involve some kind of survey before the purchase actually takes place.
A surveyor’s job is to provide an accurate idea about the condition and value of the property. In doing their work, they should reveal any defects or damages to the property within their report so you are fully aware of what you are undertaking. This will then help individuals to make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with the sale and the price they should pay for it.
If you have become aware of issues with the property after purchasing it, such as structural issues, damp, subsistence, or the presence of Japanese Knotweed, and the surveyor did not include this in their original report or valuation, you may have a professional negligence claim against them.
Not only do surveyors look at residential or commercial properties before they are bought, but they are also needed to assess damage to existing properties, as well as helping individuals decide whether to commence renovations to existing properties. As such, there are many instances where things can, and do, go wrong.
Generally, a surveyor’s report will form the basis of the property transfer, as well as any litigation that may arise in conjunction with it. Whilst surveyors are given some margin for error, because of fluctuating house prices and undetectable issues, when they fail to exercise the necessary competence, this may give rise to a negligence claim. Not only may this negligence render the client at a financial loss, but a serious problem with a property may be very dangerous for those living in it.
An example of a surveyor being negligent in their report would be if they understate a serious issue such as rot or damp as they have incentives, such as being awarded commission on the sale of the house, to do so. If the houses’ valuation falls upon the revelation of the problem, then the homeowner will be in financially burdensome position.
If you are concerned that you have not instructed a surveyor directly (say they have provided a valuation report to a lender to ratify a mortgage and in turn the purchase) that does not necessarily rule out a claim, the Courts have held that where there is reliance on a report in such a situation that can represent sufficient proximity in a relationship to still bring a claim.
Further examples of negligent activity on behalf of a surveyor include:
- Negligent valuations (over or undervaluing a property, which may mean you pay an exaggerated purchase price)
- Insufficient survey, inspection or report
- Failure to recognise structural flaws (such as severe cases of damp or faulty beams)
- Failing to endorse additional investigations
- Failure to identify harmful substances such as asbestos
Making a Claim for Surveyor’s Professional Negligence
The first port of call in making a complaint if you have suffered any loss as a result of your surveyor’s negligence would be to complain via the surveyor’s complaints handling procedure (CHP). Every surveyor should have one of these, as required by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) refers to a body which pursues the promotion and enforcement of good working standards in the valuation, management and development of land and property. Surveyors fall under this category of people, and as such, it would be a good idea to also file your complaint with them.
They have a limited complaints and disputes resolution service, but may be able to offer you some initial advice about your individual circumstances before you make a claim for compensation.
In short, the position is whether in the relevant circumstances the surveyor has made a mistake that no other surveyor in the same circumstances would have made, and the objective is to return you to the position (or as near as possible) that you should have been in had the proper advice been given.
What can I claim?
It is often difficult to assess damages in cases of surveyor’s negligence, due to the fluctuations in the property market meaning that naturally, house prices do alter after you have purchased them. In addition to this, it can be hard to show that a buyer would not have gone forward with the sale of a property had the issue been raised in the surveyor’s report. Generally, an expert would be looked to for input as to what a proper value might have been at the time of a transaction and then losses can more properly be calculated.
As these types of claims can be very complicated, it is advised that you seek legal guidance as soon as possible to determine whether your claim can be acted on.
What time limits are in place?
To make a claim for compensation for surveyor negligence, you must take legal action within 6 years from the date on which the negligence occurred, or within 3 years from the date you first become aware of the negligence.
In some cases, there is a delay between when the negligence happened and when the consequences of the negligence became apparent, for example with structural damage that takes several years to show itself. In these circumstances, you would likely have 3 years from your date of knowledge to bring a claim (or when you should have known).
If you have been let down by your surveyor, and believe you have suffered a financial loss as a result, we would recommend you contact our dedicated professional negligence team who will be able to assess whether your circumstances give rise to a surveyor professional negligence claim.
How is the claim funded?
Our professional negligence lawyers are happy to discuss fee options and advise clients under a wide range of fee structures where appropriate, including working under:
- an existing legal expenses insurance (for instance check your home insurance to see if that covers you for certain legal claims),
- a fixed fee,
- traditional hourly rate retainers, or
- a “No Win, No Fee” basis.