House-buyers `get a raw deal over defective surveys'
Writing in Consumer Policy Review, published by the association, Mr Richards says the profession, which is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers, has lagged behind others in adopting schemes for dealing with grievances.
Consumers with allegations of negligence soon hit a "complaints brick wall". In other businesses, these walls have crumbled. "The surveying industry is one of the few areas left unchanged by the move towards more positive and fairer complaints handling systems."
The type and extent of defects which go unnoticed by surveyors is "astonishing" - dry rot, substantial damp and woodworm, subsidence and many other structural faults, according to Mr Richards.
Standard surveyors' reports are also "models of litigation avoidance, peppered with attempts to take away the customers' right to claim if they happen to miss anything during their inspection". These include terms such as "couldn't inspect", "can't comment on", and "recommend you get a specialist report on". Such phrases "infest the forms like an attack of dry rot in an old house. Fortunately many terms are thrown out by the courts as unreasonable".
However, the Court of Appeal and "commercially minded" judges are interpreting the law on negligence claims in a way that benefits surveyors and "adds insult to the injury" already suffered by consumers.
The proper way to treat cases where negligence against a surveyor has been proved would be to award the householder the cost of the repairs needed to bring a house to the condition claimed for it in the initial report.
Instead, the Court of Appeal has awarded complainants the difference between the amount the buyers paid for the house and what the market value would have been if the defects had been correctly diagnosed - usually a much smaller sum.
In one landmark decision a couple paid £177,500 for a house which the surveyor's report said was sound, stable, and in good condition. When they asked for a quotation from a builder for minor defects mentioned in the report, more serious faults were discovered: the roof had to be renewed, chimneys and main walls repointed and areas extensively treated for woodworm.
The repairs cost £33,691, but the court reduced this to £15,000. The complainants' costs were also reduced from £8,000 to £1,500.
A spokesman for the RICS said the vast majority of people who commissioned surveys were "highly satisfied".
He denied that reports were designed to avoid litigation, adding: "Surveyors cannot see behind walls and without the current owner's permission they cannot lift fitted carpets or shift wardrobes. The wording is designed to make clear what has been lookedat."
- 1 Autism 'caused by genetics', study suggests
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Why you should never make assumptions about people with autism
- 4 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
How Homer Simpson discovered the Higgs boson over a decade before scientists
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Harrison Ford plane crash: Star Wars actor 'seriously injured' after light aircraft crash lands
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunit...
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has now arisen for a Sale...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...
£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...