Posted by Caroline Preist, Partner
Buyer Beware – what type of survey do you require?
This blogs looks at a case study where the type of survey a buyer had carried out on her home had serious consequences when considering a claim for negligence against her surveyors.
When buying a house, you should carefully consider the type of survey you want carried out. Often, the minimum your lender will require is a mortgage valuation, which is less detailed than a Building Survey or full structural survey. There is a temptation to go for the low cost option, but in Hubbard v Bank of Scotland the buyer did this and suffered for the decision.
The surveyor spotted some cracks but advised they were old and there was no evidence of further movement. However the house was built on a disused quarry, with half the foundations positioned on solid rock, and the other half on soft infill material. Further movement occurred and Ms Hubbard had to spend money on underpinning.
Ms Hubbard claimed that the surveyor should have advised there was ongoing subsidence, should have recommended a full structural survey, and should have advised the value of the property was reduced, or that he could not confirm the value at all because of the cracking.
The court decision
The Court of Appeal disagreed. As the report was ‘only’ a mortgage valuation, the surveyor was not expected to investigate the geography or history of the site to the same extent as s/he would when carrying out a building or full structural survey. A mortgage valuation focusses on items which are likely to affect the value. Whilst there is a link between a defect such as a crack and the value, if the surveyor’s view was that the cracks were historic and did not evidence ongoing problems, he did not need to make further enquiries or advise his client to do so.
This was a lucky escape for the surveyor, and the outcome would have been different had the surveyor been instructed to do a full structural survey. However each case will depend on its own particular circumstances, so if you have lost out because of unidentified or misdiagnosed defects when buying a property, the surveyor could still be liable and it is worth investigating further, no matter what type of survey you obtained.
If you think you have suffered a loss as a result of any of the issues highlighted in this blog then contact the Professional Negligence Team for independent specialist advice.