As professional negligence solicitors we act for clients nationwide in claims for both surveyor negligence and valuer negligence, as well as in claims against other professionals.
Resolving claims for surveyor negligence
From the outset, we focus not on making professional negligence claims on behalf of our clients, but on resolving them. In this way, we ensure that ours is a broader perspective and a more tailored approach.
Moreover, and by harnessing:
- Our wealth of experience acting in claims against a wide-range of professionals
- Our unique insight into the defence of claims for surveyor negligence
- Our commitment to providing a client-centric service as part of our core values
- Our innovative and highly efficient service provision
we ensure that our clients achieve better results for substantial claims, time and again.
The surveying profession
The work undertaken by surveyors is largely concerned with the property, land and construction sectors of the economy. While many home owners have experience of instructing property surveyors and valuation surveyors, there are a multitude of other roles within this diverse profession. These include quantity surveyors, planning surveyors, infrastructure surveyors, building surveyors, geomatics surveyors, rural surveyors, land surveyors and environmental surveyors.
Many of the professionals practising in these disciplines are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which has approximately 140,000 members operating in 146 countries. This means that not only are they permitted to use the restricted designation ‘Chartered Surveyor’, but that they are also subject to significant regulatory oversight, including a requirement to carry insurance to cover any claims made against them for professional negligence.
Common mistakes by surveyors & valuers
Many of the claims for surveyor negligence relate to the inspection and valuation of residential property and land. These commonly arise from mistakes made when preparing Mortgage Valuation Reports, as well as RICS HomeBuyers Reports and RICS Building Survey Reports (now known as RICS Home Survey Reports – Level 1, RICS Home Survey Report – Level 2 and RICS Home Survey Report – Level 3).
In a commercial context, negligence claims can arise when property surveys and valuations are undertaken to support development schemes, insurance programmes, re-financing arrangements, capital investments, company mergers and acquisitions and share disposals.
While it is often said that property valuations are an art not a science, and while there is certainly some truth to this, surveyors and valuers must still act with reasonable skill and care and in accordance with the practices and competencies of their fellow professionals. If they do not, and financial loss results, they can expect to be held liable to compensate their clients for negligence.
In our experience, some common mistakes that can give rise to claims for surveyor negligence and valuer negligence are:
- Failing to inspect all accessible parts of a property or development site when carrying out a RICS HomeBuyers or Home Survey report
- Failing to identify or take account of readily available comparables when assessing the market value of a property
- Failing to warn of identifiable features and defects affecting the usage or value of a property or development site
- Failing to take account of restrictions over a property or land as part of a valuation
- Failing to survey or value the correct property or segment of land
- Failing to take proper account of each constituent element of a valuation, particularly in the context of more complex commercial valuations
- Failing to utilise the most appropriate methodology when undertaking a property or land valuation
Even where a mistake is made by a negligent surveyor or valuer instructed by someone else, if financial loss is suffered as a consequence, a claim for compensation can still be made in appropriate circumstances. This is explained in more detail in our article: Third party claims for professional negligence
Assessing the merits of a claim for surveyor negligence
It is not in every case where financial loss arises that a property surveyor will be found negligent and before embarking on any claim for surveyor negligence or valuer negligence, a careful assessment will need to be undertaken of a number of important issues. These include:
- The scope of the legal duties owed by the surveyor or valuer
- Any actions taken by the surveyor or valuer to comply with those duties
- The nature and extent of the loss caused by any breaches of those duties
This can be a complicated process and the merits of each claim will often depend on the specific background events that give rise to it. For example, and in the context of residential property, much can depend on whether the RICS Home Survey undertaken was a Level 1 survey, Level 2 survey or Level 3 survey, each of which imposes different professional obligations on the surveyor. For this reason, caution should always be exercised when relying on the reported outcome of one claim, to assess the merits of another.
In both assessing and pursuing surveyor negligence and valuer negligence claims, it is often necessary to obtain expert evidence. Such evidence can frequently be required in order to confirm that the mistakes made by the surveyor are actionable, or to confirm the nature and amount of compensation that can be recovered for them. In some cases, quantifying a surveyor negligence claim can be a complicated exercise and require evidence from experts in more than one professional discipline.
How to make a claim for surveyor negligence
Most surveyor negligence and valuer negligence claims are commenced by correspondence and by following the procedures set out in the Pre-Action Protocol for Professional Negligence. While in some cases it may also be necessary to institute court proceedings, a considerable number of cases are resolved without the need to do so.
The aim of the Protocol is to make the process of resolving professional negligence claims more open and more efficient and, by doing so, to reduce the number of claims that require judicial intervention. Happily, and since the introduction of the Protocol in July 2001, the vast majority of professional negligence claims are now resolved at the Protocol stage and without the need to initiate and pursue costly and time-consuming court proceedings.
However, it is as well to appreciate that as helpful as the Protocol is, it provides only a generic framework for resolving professional negligence claims. It does not identify or assess what facts, issues or evidence is relevant and irrelevant in any particular case, nor does it contain legal advice.
Where the negligent surveyor or valuer is employed by a company or partnership, any claim will usually be directed towards the employer. However, in certain circumstances, it may also be possible to pursue a claim against an employee personally. This is discussed in more detail in our article: Personal liability of employees: An emerging issue
The advantages of instructing a solicitor
You are not obliged to instruct a solicitor to advise and represent you in a claim for surveyor negligence, but it is usually sensible to do so. Professional negligence claims against surveyors are often complicated and time consuming and a successful outcome can very much depend on the way in which a claim is prepared and pursued.
To help you decide between instructing a solicitor and pursuing a claim as a litigant in person, we identify and comment on some of the key factors to consider in our guide: Professional negligence claims – Do I need a solicitor?
If you do decide to instruct a solicitor, you would do well to instruct one who genuinely specialises in professional negligence claims. While an ever-increasing number of solicitors claim to undertake work in this niche area, in reality there are very few solicitors who are true specialists. To assist you in identifying the best solicitor to act in relation to your claim, we have highlighted seven key features to consider as part of your search in our guide: How to find the Best Professional Negligence Solicitors
Compensation for professional negligence
Where a surveyor or valuer is found to be negligent financial compensation, usually in the form of ‘damages’, can be awarded for a wide range of losses. Using case examples, we identify and explain many of the different types of compensation awards available in our guide: Compensation for professional negligence: What can I recover?
As in other areas of litigation, the true value of any compensatory award is often dependent on the prospect of being able to successfully recover it. Fortunately, in claims for surveyor negligence, the defending party usually carries professional indemnity insurance to meet all or part of any judgment or award made against it. This represents a significant benefit to claimants, as we explain further in our guide: Professional Indemnity Insurance – A Claimant’s Guide
Even if the firm or practice at fault is no longer trading or has been dissolved, it may still be possible to make a claim and recover compensation. The support available to claimants in these circumstances is explained in our article: Claims against closed professional firms and practices
Mitigating loss in claims for surveyor negligence
As part of any professional negligence claim against surveyors or valuers, it is important to consider what action, if any, might be taken to reduce the financial effect of any negligence. This is because all claimants who have suffered a loss are subject to a duty to take all reasonable steps to mitigate that loss and take no unreasonable steps which would exacerbate it. Where this duty is breached, the court is likely to prevent a claimant party from recovering compensation for that loss which it considers was unreasonably incurred.
The duty to mitigate can lead to much confusion and uncertainty, particularly at the outset of a claim, and further guidance on it is available in our article: The duty to mitigate in professional negligence claims
Time limits for claims against surveyors & valuers
There are a number of important reasons for acting promptly when a mistake has been made or discovered. One of these are the time limits that apply to all professional negligence claims.
These time limits can be found in the Limitation Act 1980. In short, they require legal proceedings to be commenced within:
- 6 years of the date upon which damage or financial loss occurs – section 2
- 6 years of the date upon which the mistake occurred – section 5
- 3 years of the earliest date upon which the claimant has both the knowledge required for bringing a claim and the right to bring a claim – section 14A
- 15 years of the date on which the mistake occurred, even if the time limit prescribed by section 14A has not expired – section 14B
Therefore, where there are grounds for pursuing a claim for surveyor negligence, a claimant will generally have 6 years from the date of wrongdoing or loss, but may have 3 years from the date of discovery, if later, in which to bring any claim, subject to a long stop of 15 years.
However, while these time limits may appear straightforward in summary form, applying them in practice can be much more challenging. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of cases in which they have been misapplied, not only by lay clients acting as litigants in person but also by solicitors and other lawyers who have themselves fallen into error.
Although limitation is a complicated area of law with a large body of case law relating to it, further information about it can be found in our introductory guide: Time limits for professional negligence claims – FAQs
Funding claims for surveyor negligence
Before embarking on any surveyor negligence or valuer negligence claim, it is imperative to consider how it will be funded. In comparison to other more routine forms of litigation, professional negligence claims can be more complicated, more time-consuming and more costly to resolve.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to fund litigation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and can be more or less suitable, depending on individual circumstances. Further information about these different funding options can be found in our related guide: Fund a claim
Fee disputes and service complaints
Where disputes between surveyors and clients arise solely as a result of the poor standard of service delivery, rather than as a result of a mistake that has caused a financial loss or liability, making a complaint to the firm in question or to The Property Ombudsman may be more appropriate than pursing a professional negligence claim. The same is true in relation to disputes about fees.
Misconduct by surveyors & valuers
While it is not uncommon for issues of misconduct to arise in the context of professional negligence claims, this is less common in claims for surveyor negligence than it is in claims against certain other professions. While in some instances misconduct can also amount to negligence, this will not be so in every case.
Misconduct is often defined by a breach of the professional codes of practice that govern the professional, such as the Rules of Conduct for RICS members. Where serious, the breach should be reported to the official body that regulates the professional concerned, who may then commence disciplinary proceedings. Although such proceedings can then result in penalties and sanctions being imposed upon the professional, they do not often result in compensation. Accordingly, they are rarely a substitute for, or an alternative to, pursuing a claim for surveyor negligence where financial loss or damage is sought to be recovered.
Specialist legal advice
If you are contemplating making, or even currently pursuing, a claim for surveyor negligence or valuer negligence and would like to arrange an initial consultation with us, free of charge or commitment, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 195 4983 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.