Our surveyor missed a major defect. What can we do?

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When you go to the time and expense of getting a survey carried out before you buy a property it is reasonable to expect that it will highlight any serious defects. However, surveyors are only human and mistakes do occur. Here are some points to consider if you think your surveyor missed a major defect and are thinking about claiming compensation.

What building defects do surveyors miss?

Among the serious building defects that surveyors commonly miss are:

  • subsidence;
  • damp;
  • leaking roof;
  • Japanese knotweed;
  • dry rot;
  • asbestos;
  • woodworm; and
  • cracks.

However, there are a host of other house survey missed problems.

Is the building defect one that the surveyor should have highlighted?

Before a legal claim is contemplated you need to consider whether the building defect was one that a surveyor should have identified. This will often depend on the particular circumstances of the case and how visible the problem was. It will also depend on the type of survey that was carried out.

What type of survey was carried out?

There are three types of survey:

  • Valuation
  • Homebuyers report
  • Structural survey

A valuation is generally needed when buying a property with the aid of a mortgage. It is normally acquired for the benefit of the mortgage company to ensure that the property provides sufficient security for the money they are lending you.

It therefore focuses on what the property is worth and cannot generally be relied on to highlight structural problems.

A Homebuyers Report  is often used for properties that are in reasonably good condition, but where the buyer is looking for reassurance that there is nothing seriously wrong with it. When carrying out a Homebuyers report the surveyor will check for major defects in accessible parts of the property. However they will not generally undertake a thorough or forensic investigation into the deep structures. They won’t for instance pull back the carpets or lift any furniture to get a better view of the structure and issues that are covered up may not be revealed.

A Full Structural Survey by contrast goes into much greater detail. The surveyor should review all structural aspects of the property. However, the surveyor is still unlikely to pull back carpets or lift furniture unless there is an indication that a problem may be lurking that justifies closer investigation.

Can I sue if my surveyor missed a major defect?

Claims involving valuation reports are the most difficult to prove. The courts recognise that valuations of this type are not an exact science and if the valuation is within the correct bracket then the surveyor is unlikely to be liable. It is also difficult to prove that a surveyor should have identified a structural problem in this limited context though if, for instance, the property is in a known area of subsidence then it may be easier to establish that the surveyor had a duty to consider and highlight this.

The surveyor’s duty of care is much wider where a Full Structural Survey has been carried out and it is considerably easier to establish legal liability if a surveyor missed a major defect.

The Homebuyers Report lies somewhere between the two. Was the defect visible and obvious? Should a reasonably competent surveyor have noticed it?

How can I fund a claim?

Funding a legal action is a key issue that needs to be considered at the outset. Where the merits of the claim are strong we are always willing to consider undertaking surveyors claims on a No Win, No Fee basis.

Free legal helpline

Whatever type of survey was carried out it is important that you seek advice from a specialist solicitor if you think your surveyor missed a major defect. We have lawyers who specialise in professional negligence claims and are experienced in dealing with claims against surveyors. They will be happy to consider your claim and provide an initial case assessment, free of charge. Just call our legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]

We operate nationwide, representing clients from all over England and Wales.

We also have a specialist professional negligence website which focuses in more detail on surveyors negligence claims which you may find helpful when considering your options.