FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What rights do you have if surveyors miss something important or make a mistake? Can you claim compensation?
Asked by: Pete
Good question Pete,
All Chartered Surveyors carrying out property surveys must have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). This is a strict legal condition of membership of the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). This means that, in the rare event of surveyors failing to advise a client appropriately it should be possible to claim compensation.
To be fair, there’s less chance of mistakes with experienced independent local surveyors who aren’t under time pressure to rush the job, like some corporate survey firms.
With all home surveys, at the outset clients are asked to read and accept standard ‘conditions of engagement’. These point out practical limitations, e.g. things like drains and electrics are not tested although they are inspected visually where accessible.
Of course surveyors don’t have X-ray vision, so defects are sometimes hidden under carpets and furniture. But one of the skills that comes with experience is knowing how to check for clues – known as ‘following the trail’ – that indicate there may well be a problem. For example, dampness is the walls combined with timber floors and blocked sub-floor ventilation is likely to indicate a high risk of timber decay problems developing over time. Conversely, an experienced surveyor will also know when not to over-react by condemning everything in sight!
Depending on the chosen type of survey, there may be some very minor defects which are not considered significant or urgent and are therefore not mentioned specifically as they fall beyond the scope of the report. That said, a more extensive Building survey will go into more detail than a HomeBuyer report.
The worst case scenario would be where a client suffers a loss due to something urgent or significant not being reported, or being given a clean bill of health. For example if you had to pay out for substantial repairs to a defective roof within the first few years of moving in, you should be entitled to make a claim if it had been described as satisfactory. In this instance you would contact the surveyor or firm who carried out the survey directly. They would then pass the claim to their insurers who would then arrange an independent assessment of your loss before processing the claim.
Rightsurvey work in partnership with a well established and highly professional organisation called ‘local surveyors direct’ who manage member surveyors throughout the UK. It is a matter of professional pride for our members to carry out high quality work. All members are closely monitored and provided with customer feedback from all surveys undertaken. Should any member fail to meet strict ongoing quality standards their membership can be immediately withdrawn.
This is a far superior system to large corporate surveying firms who employ many less experienced surveyors, even trainees, who are encouraged to use ‘surveytext’ standard phrases in reports.