Q: Despite asking for our house purchase to be rushed through to take advantage of the COVID stamp duty holiday, we took the time to get a full structural survey done as we were cash buyers with no lender’s survey being done. Now we are in the property and a builder engaged to do some alterations has found several defects the surveyor should have picked up. Among these is a manhole that has been concreted over, severe damp in two ground floor rooms, rot to a couple of roof joists and a ‘missing’ soil vent pipe. How should we go about trying to get some compensation from the surveyor, who we were told was RICS qualified?
A: The surveyor appears to have been negligent in the duty of care he had to you. If the surveyor was employed by a firm, you should in the first instance ask for a copy of their complaints procedure and make a formal complaint in line with what is laid out. If the surveyor was freelance, you can go through the RICS arbitration scheme, but be aware that this is effectively a ‘self-regulating’ system. Before making any moves at all, ask your builder for a written report of his findings and photographs to back up the defects that the surveyor failed to include in his report. Evidence of negligence is vital to your success in gaining compensation.
You should however take heart from the fact that most claims against surveyors are settled by their insurers before any case gets to court, because of the cost of litigation. The amount of compensation you might expect is the difference between what you paid for the property and its value had the defects been known about. Further, the individual surveyor or firm of surveyors will probably be keen to preserve their reputation, so a letter from a solicitor, accompanied by evidence, may be sufficient to gain you recompense.
Article March 2021
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