Problems with the survey
Four types of survey report are available and they will give you different amounts of information and detail.
- A Home Condition Report. This gives basic information about the condition of the property, but does not include a valuation or recommendations on repairs.
- A valuation by a mortgage lender, which tells the lender whether it would be able to recover the value of the loan if the property had to be sold. It is not a report on the condition of the property, and as a buyer you should not rely on it to tell you what is wrong with the property.
- A ‘house-buyer’s report’ is more detailed, and provides information on the condition of the property in a standard format. It also includes a valuation and a figure for buildings insurance purposes.
- A building survey is the most thorough type of survey. It can look into your specific concerns and, for example, the potential to alter or adapt the property.
If you are a buyer, you should check carefully what a survey covers and what it doesn’t (for example, whether parts of the property haven’t been checked because the surveyor couldn’t get access to them).
All qualified surveyors should be members of a professional association. Most surveyors who do residential work belong to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – see ‘Further help’ for its details.
If you lose money because of a surveyor’s negligence (for example, the house you have bought has problems that the survey should have shown up), RICS has a complaints procedure and arbitration scheme, which you can use if the surveyor is an RICS member.
Under the scheme, you and the surveyor each provide information about the case. The arbitrator may also arrange for an expert to prepare a technical report on the property. The arbitrator’s decision is legally binding on both sides, so both you and the surveyor must do what it says. You can claim compensation of up to £50,000 if the defect means the market value of the property is less than you paid.
If you can’t or don’t want to use arbitration, you can sue the surveyor for negligence, but this will be more expensive and more complicated.
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