Surveyor Negligence

When it comes to buying or selling a property, the role of a building surveyor is crucial in identifying potential issues that may affect the value or safety of a property. Buyers and sellers alike rely on these professionals to provide an accurate assessment of the property’s condition. However, instances of building surveyor negligence can lead to serious consequences for both parties involved. This article delves into the intricacies of building surveyor negligence, covering key legal aspects, potential claims, and how clients can seek compensation.

When buying or selling a house, a comprehensive survey is your vital safeguard against hidden defects and unforeseen expenses. Yet, even the most meticulous buyer can fall victim to a surveyor’s oversight, leaving them saddled with crippling repairs and a shattered dream home. Mistakes made by professionals in the property industry such as surveyors, chartered surveyors and quantity surveyors can lead to serious financial loss. Professional indemnity insurers will often instruct a specialist City of London law firm to defend claims vigorously and therefore it is essential to take legal advice at the outset from our expert professional negligence team.

What is Building Surveyor Negligence?

Building surveyor negligence occurs when a surveyor fails to meet the professional standards expected of them. This can manifest in various ways, such as:

Missing major defects: Failing to identify structural issues, damp, subsidence, or hazardous materials like asbestos.

Misreporting the condition of the property: Downplaying the severity of problems or providing inaccurate information about the property’s age, materials, or renovations.

Omitting crucial advice: Failing to warn the client about potential risks, repair costs, or the need for further investigations.

Breaching professional codes of conduct: This could involve conflicts of interest, inadequate qualifications, or failing to properly communicate with the client.

Over-valuation of a property: If a valuation report transpires to be over-valued and you have purchased the property at above the market rate, then you may have a claim for damages against the surveyor.

Key Elements of Professional Negligence:

Property experts such as surveyors are highly trained and regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The RICS holds itself out as promoting and enforcing the highest international standards across the built and natural environment.

Conveyancers, if they are legally trained, will be regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA).  

In order to bring a complaint against a property expert, then you must prove that the professional fell below the standard of care. To establish a case of building surveyor negligence, certain key elements must be present:

Duty of Care: The surveyor must owe a duty of care to the client, establishing a professional-client relationship.

Breach of Duty: The surveyor must have breached their duty by failing to meet the standard of care expected in the industry.

Causation: There must be a direct link between the surveyor’s breach of duty and the harm suffered by the client.

Damages: The client must have suffered actual damages, such as financial loss or property damage, as a result of the surveyor’s negligence.

Determining the Value of Your Claim

The value of your claim will depend on the severity of the surveyor’s negligence and the extent of your financial loss. This could include:

The cost of rectifying the defects. This could range from minor repairs to major structural work.

The loss in property value. If the surveyor’s negligence significantly reduced the property’s market value, you may be entitled to compensation for the difference.

Any additional expenses incurred. This might include temporary accommodation, legal fees, or financial hardship caused by the surveyor’s negligence.

Recovering Legal Costs

In certain circumstances, you may be able to recover your legal costs from the surveyor or their insurance company. This is known as “recoverable costs” and can significantly reduce the financial burden of pursuing a claim.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: What should I do if I suspect my surveyor has been negligent?

A: Contact a solicitor specialising in professional negligence claims. They will advise you on your legal options and guide you through the process of making a claim.

Q: How long do I have to make a claim?

A: The time limit for making a professional negligence claim in the UK is generally six years from the date of the negligence or three years from the date you became aware of it.

Q: What evidence do I need to support my claim?

A: Your surveyor’s report, building contracts, invoices for repairs, and any other relevant documentation.

Q: Can I afford to sue my surveyor?

A: No-win, no-fee agreements are available for professional negligence claims. This means you only pay your solicitor’s fees if you win the case.

Several landmark cases illustrate the scope of surveyor negligence:

Watts v Morrow (2004): The buyer relied on a surveyor’s report stating no major defects, only to discover extensive subsidence later.  The court held the surveyor negligent, upholding the buyer’s claim for repair costs and diminished property value.

Hart & Hart v Large (2020): The court highlighted the surveyor’s duty to advise on the type of survey appropriate for the property. While a full Building Survey wasn’t deemed necessary in this case, it emphasised the importance of clear communication and tailored advice.

Smith v Bush (2016): In this case, the surveyor was found negligent for overlooking significant structural issues. The court awarded compensation to the client based on the cost of necessary repairs and the diminished value of the property.

Navigating the Claim Process:

If you suspect surveyor negligence, consider these steps:

Gather evidence: Collect the surveyor’s report, building contracts, invoices for repairs, and any communication with the surveyor.

Seek legal advice: A solicitor specialising in professional negligence claims can assess your case, guide you through the legal process, and negotiate with the surveyor or their insurance company.

Understand time limits: Generally, you have six years from the negligence date or three years from discovering it to make a claim.

Consider no-win, no-fee agreements: These can alleviate financial risks involved in pursuing legal action.

Protecting Your Investment:

Buying or selling a property is a significant financial decision. Don’t let surveyor negligence cast a shadow on your investment. Be proactive by:

Choosing reputable surveyors: Check their qualifications, experience, and professional memberships.

Understanding different survey types: Choose a survey suited to your needs, from Homebuyer’s reports to full Building Surveys.

Communicating clearly with your surveyor: Express your concerns and ask questions about potential risks.

Seeking legal advice if you suspect problems: Do not hesitate to consult a solicitor if you have doubts about the survey or discover discrepancies with the property’s actual condition.

Need a specialist negligence lawyer to bring a claim against a professional?

Had bad advice? Suffered financial or personal loss?

We are a specialist leading City of London law firm based in the Middle Temple Inn of Court adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice, High Court and Court of Appeal. We specialise in bringing professional negligence claims and have years of experience in handling, resolving and settling negligence disputes and are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association (PNLA).

Our City of London solicitors and barristers have market-leading experience of providing bespoke legal advice and bringing complex claims to settlement.  As a leading law firm regularly featured in the news and media and with a track record of success, you can be assured that your compensation claim will proceed with precision and care.

Book an Initial Consultation with our Professional Negligence Lawyers

Do you have a claim against a professional? If you want expert legal advice, do not delay in instructing us so we can assess the legal merit of your case.

We can often take on such claims on a no win no fee basis (such as a Conditional Fee Arrangement) once we have discussed the claim with you and then assessed and advised you on the merits of the proposed professional negligence action.

Our expert legal team of leading Professional Negligence Solicitors & Barristers can provide urgent help, advice or representation to you. Just call our Professional Negligence Lawyers on 02071830529 or email us now.

Want legal advice on the merits of your case?

Your legal enquiry goes immediately to our PN litigation team in Middle Temple, London. We can’t take on low value cases or give free legal advice – our minimum fee is £1500 +VAT for a conference with a solicitor and barrister. Call us on +442071830529.

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