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Deciding to take action against a professional who has let you down is never an easy choice. When that negligent professional is a surveyor, the consequences of their oversight or negligence could prove very costly.
If a surveyor is negligent, you may have little alternative but to seek compensation. Surveyors' advice is crucial to those buying property or undertaking building projects. It is reasonable to assume that they will provide advice with the appropriate degree of skill and care expected of them and that you can rely on that advice.
A surveyor who fails to meet those standards may be negligent and those making decisions based on his advice may suffer far reaching practical and financial consequences.
If your surveyor is a member or affiliated with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) you may be able to resolve any dispute through mediation without recourse to the law. RICS operates a Dispute Resolution Service which has been in existence for over 30 years. Alternative Dispute Resolution of this kind is often quicker and cheaper than taking a case to court.
You may wish to seek legal advice to establish what claims you have and the value of those claims before going to mediation or trying to resolve the dispute yourself, as calculating the value of a claim is not always straightforward. You may also wish to have legal representation at any mediation to ensure that you maximise any compensation you receive, as a mediation agreement is legally binding.
Ultimately however, you may need to take legal action. It is therefore advisable to speak to a solicitor about your potential claim and what options are available to you as soon as possible.
How do I make a claim against a surveyor
To prove a claim for professional negligence it is necessary to show that the surveyor had a duty of care towards you and that their actions in carrying out the survey fell below a reasonable standard you could expect from a competent professional. You must also be able to demonstrate that this negligence lead directly to you suffering some form of financial loss.
You will have to gather evidence in support of your claim and it is likely that you will have to obtain an expert report from an independent surveyor setting out what a reasonably competent surveyor should have advised upon or included in their report.
You will then have to follow the pre-action protocol for professional negligence claims, and settlement discussions and/or mediation may follow. If your issue still is not resolved, you may then have to go on to start a court action. Access Legal can guide you through all stages of this process.
How long will my legal dispute against a surveyor take
It is impossible to say how long a claim for professional negligence will take. It must be made to the court within six years of the negligent act and will take several months at least.
You are expected to follow the pre-action protocol for professional negligence claims before starting court proceedings, and the courts also expect you to take reasonable steps to try and resolve a dispute before going to court, such as settlement negotiations or mediation.
You may also wish to first use your surveyor's own complaints procedure, escalating to his/her professional governing body or ultimately ombudsman services before you take legal action.
It is advisable to seek legal advice as to whether there has been negligence and the likely value of any claim that you may have before making a direct complaint or going to any ombudsman. You do not want to inadvertently prevent yourself from suing your surveyor by pursuing a complaint without first considering all options available to you and the likely value of your claim.
If I have a case against a surveyor
Negligence claims against surveyors about valuation reports are unlikely to succeed if the valuation is within the correct 'ballpark' figure. Similarly, disputes about estimates for repair or refurbishment work can also be tricky to prove.
If a homebuyer's report fails to highlight a serious problem with the property, success depends on how obvious the flaw was and whether a reasonably competent surveyor should have noticed it and suggested further investigation.
A full structural survey requires the surveyor to go over the structure and surface of the house in detail to advise of any problems such as dry rot, insufficient support, poorly built extensions or subsidence. If you had a full structural survey which missed major and obvious problems like subsidence or extensive dry rot for example, a claim for compensation is more likely to succeed.
It should be noted that a surveyor cannot always be expected to find every fault in a building and whether they are negligent will depend on the facts of the case.
Remember also that the courts may only award the difference in value between a property in fair condition and the defective property rather than the actual cost of rectifying the defects.
More about claiming against a surveyorWhen considering a potential negligence claim against a surveyor following a property purchase, the type of survey carried out will help to determine whether there has been any negligence:
My work involves disputes such as challenges to the validity of a will, claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, claims for proprietary estoppel, disputes with executors and professional negligence claims.View full profile
I am National Head of the Personal Injury team in Access Legal Solicitors, I have been a personal injury lawyer for over 26 years and I act for individuals who have sustained injuries that have had a significant impact on their quality of life and a lasting impact on their families.View full profile
'You need to have a legal team who are caring, who you absolutely trust and who will tell you the truth. Certainly from our point of view Denise Stephens from Access Legal has been absolutely amazing.'