House-buyers `get a raw deal over defective surveys'

House-buyers are getting a raw deal from surveyors, it is claimed today. Too many defects are missed in surveys, avenues of redress are "totally inadequate" and the courts are adopting a blinkered and illogical interpretation of the law "which denies proper compensation to innocent consumers''. Keith Richards, a senior lawyer at the Consumers' Association, says the financial consequences for householders are enormous. The two main professional bodies regulate admission and advertise the merits of using qualified surveyors "but effectively turn their back on consumers who have lost out at the hands of an incompetent professional".

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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried