Excellent experience start to finish – always very responsive to any queries and the turnaround on the property I was buying was very quick, even in the busy time leading up to stamp duty deadline. Jenny was always very helpful and went above and beyond to close on a short timescale.
Paul, can you tell us a bit about your work at Davis Blank Furniss?
I am a consultant solicitor specialising in professional negligence cases. My work sees me acting for claimants who have received wrong or bad advice from professional service suppliers such as estate agents, surveyors, solicitors, accountants, architects, barristers and independent financial consultants.
The firm has seen a rise in the number of clients being given bad advice by surveyors. What’s fuelling that trend?
Some firms of surveyors do block work on the panels of mortgage lenders. The fees are fixed which may be a disincentive to thoroughness. Also, sometimes relatively junior and inexperienced staff are sent out to undertake the surveys, and the appointments are conducted too fast – all of which causes inattention to detail and a lack of thorough inspection.
Failure to spot property defects when preparing survey and valuation reports for purchasers are of particular concern. What are the implications for buyers when these types of mistakes are made?
Frequently, the property is worth significantly less, because of the defects, than the buyer has paid for it. Then, the buyer is faced with the cost of remedying the defects. This can be very time consuming and highly stressful for a buyer, particularly one who has purchased what he or she thought was an ideal home for the family.
Errors in the valuation of properties is another issue. How does this happen and how common is it?
This is quite a frequent problem. The error in the valuation of a property can arise because the surveyor has failed to spot significant defects. It can also happen because the surveyor has failed to appreciate that the property is in an area of specific significance, for example; near a historic coal mine, or its proximity to an unpleasant industrial site.
The failure to identify the correct route of drains with the associated rights and duties can scupper sales. Why do they matter?
The correct route of drains determines the extent to which a purchaser can plan to build an extension on a property. If the drains pass from adjoining properties and onto other adjoining properties, the purchaser owes rights and duties to the adjoining owners. Alterations and extensions can only progress with the consent of the adjoining owners in relation to the passage of drains. Agreeing diversions for the drains can be lengthy and expensive.
Aside from house sales and purchases, errors in planning applications are on the rise – especially following the COVID building boom – so what is the most frequent complaint that you have to deal with? And what is the potential consequence for homeowners when applications go wrong?
A purchaser can find that the property they are purchasing has been built contrary to planning permission or without Building Regulation Approval. This can result in enforcement action being taken by the Local Authority so it is vital that all paperwork and permissions are double checked prior to completing on a new property purchase. There may be a risk that the highway is not adopted by the Local Authority.
Finally, what advice would you give people to mitigate the chances of being wrongly advised by surveyors?
The most important thing to do is to pay for the top-grade Home Buyers Survey report. Also, check the report against what you can see at the property and raise any problems or issues with the surveyor. Next – ask for clarification if you do not understand the contents of the surveyor’s report. Finally, only instruct a qualified surveyor who has Professional Indemnity Insurance so you’re protected financially if something goes wrong, and if a problem does arise make sure you consult a solicitor without delay.