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Didn't come up on the survey....should it have?

(18 Posts)
Squashybanana Fri 19-Feb-16 19:15:20

We moved into a Victorian house about 18 months ago. The (homebuyers) survey was excellent - no red or amber issues at all. Full of 'nothing negative to say about..' which surprised me in such an old house, but there was quite extensive rebuilding, re roofing etc in the late 90s.

The day we moved in I noticed the floor in the main bedroom undulates significantly. There are a couple of inches of drop towards the bay window of the living room below, and a large crack had been repaired under the window (covered by a long curtain when we looked around). We have just had an investigation by timber specialists and the main beam supporting the bay window and floor joists is rotten and needs replacing with a steel. We found some plans for restoration of the frontage drawn up by the previous owners' architect that states 'main beam very likely to need replacing with steel' so clearly this issue existed in 2012 when the got the plans drawn up. I have been advised the price will be some thousands and we will likely lose the beautiful original coving in the living room downstairs too sad

We are told we can't claim on insurance as a) it was like that before we moved in, as we saw the problem on the first day, and b) it counts as wear and tear/ failure to maintain.

Could we sue the surveyors though? Even though it was only a homebuyers survey surely they should have noticed a floor that was so significantly undulating?

lalalonglegs Fri 19-Feb-16 19:41:11

I'd say, yes, they should have noticed the bowing floor but couldn't be expected to see the repair behind the curtain. They will no doubt counter that there was a chaise or chest of drawers in front of the bay on the day of the survey completely obscuring their view of that part of the floor and, as stated in their terms and conditions, they cannot move furniture etc. Unless you have photographic evidence to the contrary, you can try but you shouldn't hold your breath sad.

thewookieswife Fri 19-Feb-16 19:53:56

Yes sue them. They will have insurance to cover this sort of thing I expect .

lalalonglegs Fri 19-Feb-16 20:09:26

Surveyors do have insurance, yes, but if it is used more than a certain number of times because of negligence, it becomes very hard to renew so they will fight the OP tooth and nail. If I were her, I would be asking my solicitor if there were any grounds for suing the vendors as they clearly knew that there was a problem with the structure of the house (nb: I said taking advice on the issue, I do not know whether withholding the information would be grounds for suing them or not).

TheFridgePickersKnickers Sat 20-Feb-16 16:10:51

We have recently moved in to a house with big big roof issues. Nothing came up on the survey .

I have been go ogling etc and it seems surveyors have disclaimers for every possible scenario. I think k it's next to impossible to sue them sadly.

A friend who has been a conveyancing solicitor for 30 years says he has never known a successful case.

In theory it seems you have a good case but I suspect there is a disclaimer in the small print rendering legal action difficult at best. Really feel for you. I'm really gutted and angry with our current situation and it's even affecting my sleep. I feel conned and ripped off by the previous owners and our seemingly pointless survey.

LIZS Sat 20-Feb-16 16:22:03

I doubt a homebuyers' report would look much beyond the obvious and cosmetic. Did they even go into the roof space?

wonkylegs Sat 20-Feb-16 16:26:39

My parents 'successfully' sued their surveyor but it broke them and cost them thousands. It was a hard slog and although the judge found in their favour the judgement was contentious (he decided they didn't need to move out whilst the work was done and therefore wouldn't award costs for that despite the fact that the whole of the ground floor was dug out to a depth on several metres and last time I checked my parents can't levitate!,) there were lots of slightly weird conditions like this and it took several years of arguing to get it sorted.
They had no choice their house had no foundations and was slipping down the hill and cost hundreds of thousands to put right, 'luckily' for them the surveyor sent some damning evidence to them by mistake but it still was a harrowing experience.
I would certainly think twice before going down that route again. If the vendors clearly knew there was a problem and didn't tell you they might be a better bet especially as they aren't likely to have the big legal team the surveyors usually have but I would check that the documents weren't part of those disclosed to you as part of the sale and just not pointed out to you.

specialsubject Sat 20-Feb-16 16:53:10

yes, the surveyors close ranks and even for smaller issues than this, it is very hard to get anything back from them.


kirinm Sat 20-Feb-16 17:08:44

You'd need to find a surveyor who would be willing to say that the 'reasonable surveyor' instructed to do (whatever you instructed him to do) would've picked up the issue. For you to successfully claim any money you would need to prove that you wouldn't have bought the place or would've reduced your offer and had it accepted.

Sounds like it would be the latter issue that would be hard to prove. You have to be able to demonstrate a loss. What would you have done IF the issue had been picked up?

I'm a solicitor and deal with some professional indemnity claims although never with a surveyor.

kirinm Sat 20-Feb-16 17:10:14

You'll find surveyors who are used to acting as experts for Court proceedings so I don't agree with the 'closing rank' type suggestion. You just might not get the answer you need.

Gracey79 Sat 20-Feb-16 17:11:34

Ime you can only usually sue as a result of full buildings survey, the basic val and homebuyers have clauses in about not being able to see through walls/lift furniture. A buildings survey has to be done by a chartered surveyor also whereas a homebuyers report or valuation for mortgage doesn't have to be.

kirinm Sat 20-Feb-16 17:14:53

And you can't sue the vendor unless they've deliberately misled you. Principle in English law is that 'buyers beware' hence the need for surveys.

English law is shit and buyers seem to face a great deal of risk.

Squashybanana Sat 20-Feb-16 17:57:32

Ah well. Quote came through today, 4k (just under) so probably not enough to sue for (would cost more to sue). It just annoys me because, well, you pay for a reasonable service. If it had been picked up it would have been a renogitation on price, I daresay we'd have gone for a 5k reduction. This is not a hidden problem, he only needed to walk into the room to feel the dip and it corresponds with repaired cracking to the exterior render. There isn't even a carpet over the bowed floorboards!

Lesson: full structural survey, every time.

specialsubject Sun 21-Feb-16 12:59:32

bloody hell. Still worth a strongly worded letter though, make the lazy sod sweat.

Qwebec Mon 22-Feb-16 00:29:23

Most EA in my area give insurance for legal advice for the buyers. Maybe your have this too? Vendors are supposed to fill a from asking about the state of the house (again don't know if it is like this in the UK?). Not revealing issues like this when the sellers know it is considered misleading, this is how we were able to get money back when issues where found when we baught. Our vendors were willing to settle the issues between us but I know people that got it sorted in court.
You clearly have proof that they knew the issue.

LaurieFairyCake Mon 22-Feb-16 01:02:01

I would never pay for a full structural survey as the one I paid for was not at all accurate. Said that a floor was suspended timber floor - 18 inches of solid concrete. That needed dug up because there was no damp proof.

Said the chimneys had been entirely removed. No, they were unsupported in the loft.

Said our house was attached at the rear and this could cause problems. It was detached.

£15k to put the above right, £1200 wasted on the full structural survey.

Still no point in suing as our solicitor advised there'd be no point or it would be too expensive

AgathaF Mon 22-Feb-16 10:28:46

I agree with Laurie that surveys generally are a load of expensive rubbish. We're in the process of moving at the moment. The place we're (hopefully!) buying is 175 years old. The mortgage lender wanted damp and timber, and roof surveys done. We had no choice in this so went ahead and had them done. The roof surveyor stuck his head in the loft but didn't actually go into it because "there was a large amount of insulation and some boxes obscuring the view". Apparently he wasn't capabe of moving them. He didn't get on the roof, and couldn't have had a good view from any angle since the roof is complicated with many gables. Said the roof is old so probably coming to the end of its useful life. So that was a waste of time and money, and just an excuse in arse covering by both the mortgage lender and the surveyor. The damp/timber surveyor said that the ground floor joists are probably rotten, although there is absolutely no evidence for this, just age of house. He apparently went through the house poking the walls with one of those notoriously unreliable damp readers, said there is damp in places but no idea of cause. Again, more arse covering.

So, I think arse covering is the name of the game with surveys, and you stand absolutely no chance to making any sort of claim against the surveyor.

njptvr Wed 24-Feb-16 15:49:37

I agree with what is being said with home surveyors from several experiences.

The first on with my partners property. The land boundaries on the deeds do not match up with real life. This relates to the previous previous owners purchase of some land from the Highways Agency. The error was not picked up on by my partners surveyor when she bought the place. Now we are selling it her original solicitor is blaming the surveyor who is blaming the solicitor and who are both blaming my partner in a round about fashion!

The place we are purchasing is in a bit of a state so we spoke to several surveyors about getting a structural survey completed. They all said that if they pick up on anything serious they will recommend a structural engineers report.

As far as I can see they are not telling you anything about the place that an hour or two of your own time and common sense won't if you have any DIY type skills. We ended up getting a structural engineers report from a chap we are going to use for the renovations and didn't bother with a survey at all.

All of this just leads back to the saying "Caveat Emptor". It would seem no one is willing to take responsibility for their advice or "professional services" these days so unfortunately the buck stops with you!!!

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