A surveyor has been found not negligent at a court of Appeal for not advising a full engineers report. The defendant said he had no reason to suspect that there might be ongoing structural defects when carrying out a visual inspection only of a residential property.
A valuation report carried out by the surveyor had made reference to a degree of wear and tear, including “some cracking and a distortion of a window frame” at the rear of the property. The report also stated that the surveyor saw no evidence to suggest that “movement”, which had previously affected the property, was ongoing, and concluded that the property was in sufficient condition for mortgage purposes.
After moving in to the property, the buyer claimant discovered evidence of cracking damage. At the initial court hearing, the surveyor was accused of professional negligence for failing to advise that subsidence was or might be ongoing. It was further alleged that the surveyor failed to suggest that specialist advice should be obtained or to offer a substantial reduction in the valuation fee.
Option to request a more detailed report.
The defendant argued that the report was based on a basic visual inspection of the property only, which did not, for example, involve lifting carpets or examining roof spaces. The guidance notes to the report clearly pointed out the limited scope of the survey but also highlighted the option to request a more detailed report. The initial court hearing found the surveyor had not been negligent, to which the claimant appealed.
The Appeal court agreed with the initial verdict. The court heard that the claimant had been made aware that the valuation report had not been a full structural survey. The judge pointed out that the surveyor had reminded the claimant of the option to obtain a more detailed report despite not being obliged to advise the claimant to obtain a more extensive inspection survey.