Claims against Surveyor Negligence
Surveyors are construction industry professionals who train for many years to ensure that their skill and knowledge base is second to none. There are a number of different types of surveyors and they specialise in different areas.
Surveyors are regulated by a professional institution (RICS). RICS will provide minimum standards of professional conduct and client care. All professionals including surveyors owe their clients a duty of care. If you have been let down by a surveyor in the performance of their duties and you consider that a surveyor has been negligent you may have a claim for damages if you have suffered financial loss.
Most claims arising from surveyors negligence is based on the principle that the standard of care performed by the surveyor in the execution of his duties was below the standard of a reasonably competent surveyor, this constitutes negligence.
If you have ‘been let down’ by a surveyor and you consider that you have suffered a financial loss relating to the surveyors negligent act or omission you may be able to claim for damages.
The most common surveyor negligent errors are:
Incorrect Valuations (Overvaluations)
A common course of action against a negligent surveyor is that they have provided an incorrect over valuation on property at the time of purchase. This can be financially devastating resulting in you over paying for a property which in real terms is worth less than the purchase price. What can add to this frustration is that you may not even know the surveyor who was instructed to provide the valuation report.
Over-valuations are common place these days, with pressures put on surveyors by lenders to complete the transaction as quickly as possible. Furthermore the surveyors workload may be demanding. This can lead to negligent mistakes.
Generally there will be no contract between you and the surveyor, as the lender (bank/mortgage provider) would have appointed the surveyor on your behalf. However this should not deter you from pursuing a claim in negligence. The courts have ruled that a third party who places reliance on a statement made in the course of a transaction is owed a duty of care by the professional making the statement. Therefore the surveyor who has been negligent could not argue that there is no contractual relationship between you and them as a defence to a professional negligence claim.
Has your property been overvalued?
This can be difficult to prove. The housing market is extremely unpredictable at times. There are good times and bad times and these obviously effect the general value of the housing market. We are currently experiencing another housing boom, with properties in some areas seeing a 15% increase in value year on year. Generally the housing market in England and Wales is on the up and there’s no sign of it cooling in the foreseeable future.
When we assess whether you have a professional negligence claim against a surveyor for overvaluing your property whether it being a buy to let or personal purchase, we will consider the following:
- The purchase price of the property and the general value of similar homes in the area
- If the purchase price was more than the average or similar homes in the area is there a good reason for it?
- Taking into account previous sale evidence in the area, did that evidence demonstrate that the surveyors valuation report was totally inaccurate?
If you ask yourself those questions and conclude that the surveyor has been negligent in their valuation report and you relied upon that report you may have a claim for damages.
Failure to Identify or report on Subsidence
If you have instructed a surveyor to prepare a survey report on a property, they will as a matter of course, check to see whether the property is on firm ground to rule out the possibility of subsidence.
Subsidence can be a major problem to any home owner, it will most definitely diminish the equity and the value in the property. Many factors can cause subsidence to occur, the main one appears to foundations being laid on soft clay soils.
You must be able to prove that a reasonable competent surveyor would have or ought to have known about the subsidence and that you placed reliance upon the survey report when purchasing the property.
In other words if you would have had the knowledge that the property was subject to subsidence then you would not have purchased the property.
Failure to inspect a property properly
This is a very common complaint made against surveyors, the complaints are generally more specific such as failure to inspect a certain areas of a property such as the roof to ensure that the joists are of sound construction. Other complaints may be that the surveyor has failed to uncover or open up parts of the property to discover defects, such has inspecting under carpets/floorboards etc. Finally failure to observe areas of the property to discover matters of significance such has dry rot, woodworm, defects in the structural walls and roof.
Liability and duty upon the surveyor is these circumstances will very much depend on the type of survey they are instructed to undertake. In most cases a limited survey would have been requested, although in this circumstance the surveyor may argue that his duties were limited to his/her instructions and this will form the basis of a defence to any claim. Even though this may b the case the surveyor may not escape liability has the court will take into consideration the facts of the case.
Insufficient knowledge or experience
If you have instructed a surveyor you are entitled to expect that the surveyor is sufficiently knowledgeable and experienced to undertake the task which he/she was instructed to perform. If the surveyor goes beyond his/her expertise then you may have a claim for negligence against the surveyor.
We must be clear that we are not able to assist you if the service which you have been provided is simply poor unless you have suffered a financial loss. If this is the case you may be able to submit a formal complaint, please refer to our ‘Negligence or just a compliant’ page for further information.