/ Home & Energy

Structural surveys – what exactly am I paying for?

A structural survey is the most comprehensive survey you can get when buying a home. But is it thorough enough? Mine cost £700 but still left my most important questions unanswered.

Last year, my partner and I found a house we wanted to buy. It was over 100 years old, was in poor cosmetic repair, and bore evidence of roof leakage. So we decided it was essential we get a full structural survey before committing to the purchase.

We found a surveyor in the local area, and paid around £700 for the survey and associated report, which turned out to be really disappointing.

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the report that comes with a structural survey should describe each element of the property (roofs, walls etc) and note anything that gives cause for concern, and may need further investigation.

What do buyers want to know?

I reckon most potential homebuyers want to know the following four things as a priority:

  • Is the property subsiding, or otherwise structurally unsound?
  • Does it contain asbestos?
  • Is there rising damp, and if so, how bad is it?
  • Are the gas and electric systems safe and fit for purpose?

All the other information is nice to have, but it’s window dressing compared to the main event.

Unfortunately, these are just some of the questions a structural survey won’t definitively answer.

Are buildings surveys too vague?

Paradoxically, the report we received was both very long and very vague. For example, it told me that ‘no evidence of asbestos’ was found – which sounded great, until I spoke to the surveyor on the phone and realised that essentially, all he’d done was look up at the ceiling.

The report made a vague mention of damp ‘on the ground floor level’ – which of course got us both panicking about the possibility of rising damp and rotting joists.

Again, it was only when I pinned down the surveyor on the phone that he clarified things, admitting that he’d taken the damp reading right next to a leaking radiator, which ‘might’ have been the cause.

Many points were so heavily caveated that I felt it became more about covering the surveyor’s back than coming to helpful conclusions. For example, when it came to cracks in the plaster, the report essentially said (though not in so many words) ‘they’re probably nothing, but you might want to get them looked at’.

I felt like shouting: ‘Isn’t that what I’m paying you for?’

What isn’t covered

It turns out, it’s not. I hadn’t fully understood all the areas a structural surveyor isn’t obliged to investigate.

For example, I now know that a standard structural survey report won’t generally comment in detail on heating or electrical systems. Nor will it typically cover “deleterious materials” – for example asbestos – in any depth.

So, my surveyor wasn’t shirking his duties, but it makes me think that there’s a gap in the market: could a survey be created that does promise to investigate my four main areas of concern?

We’re currently investigating the subject, so we’d love to know about your experiences of structural surveys. Have you felt let down by a structural survey? Or perhaps yours proved invaluable?

Comments
D Gravell says:
27 October 2012

I’ve just ha a full structural survey and i agree that it doesn’t cover all the main issues. Electric and Gas supplies being the main ones.

SimBob says:
22 February 2017

A surveyor should describe the services in general terms and then go on to advise of any obvious defects, noting the age of the systems and need for upgrading to meet current standards or good practice, highlighting any safety issues etc. If a surveyor falls short of this then you have not chosen a good surveyor. However, homebuyers can honestly not expect a surveyor to provide in-depth advice in this regard, as by law, only Gas Safe registered engineers can test and work on gas / heating installations, EIC or comparable registered electricians for electricity and so on… Therefore, a surveyor cannot comment on services in-depth as clearly they will not be competent, trained or allowed to do so to these levels, or carry out testing of any kind which could reveal hidden defects. If they did offer this level of service, it would require them to carry out 3-4 years to be a heating engineer, 3-4 years to be an electrician and so on, which, unfortunately, there is not a surveyor in the land which will be able to do this for you. Services is therefore a tricky one in this respect.

I would add, buildings are complex structures with many areas concealed from view. It is not possible to open-up the structure, drill holes in walls, take samples or lift up floorboards etc., unless the owner allows it, which they usually don’t. Would you be happy to come home and find a hole in your house wall? For this reason, and the fact that homeowners will never hesitate to claim against a surveyor and sometimes for very minor things, caveats are added (these simply state what could not be seen which, in my view, is a reasonable statement to make). Further investigations are also recommended where there are legitimate concerns. For example, despite what you often hear from damp-proofing companies, it is not generally possible to confirm whether a wall is actually damp unless a sample of it is taken and tested with specialist equipment, which involves damage to the wall. This is easily done and well within the remit of a good Building Surveyor but unfortunately it cannot be done in a normal pre-purchase inspection / survey, so a surveyor may well recommend ‘further investigation’ and rightly so. This is not usually incompetence.

Movement to buildings is another complex and tricky case. A surveyor who states ‘the movement may not be historic’ is not automatically providing poor advice. Many Chartered Structural Engineers state the same thing. Why? Because again, buildings are complex and sometimes it is not possible to confirm the cause of movement without monitoring the building over a period of time. Insurance companies regularly monitor possible subsidence cracks for 6 – 18 months before confirming the cause and scope of necessary repairs! A pre-purchase surveyor has to make a judgement from one single inspection, without exposure work and usually within a few hours.

My point here, is that homeowners have a very unrealistic expectation of surveyors and what pre-purchase reports are designed to provide. They are not an inventory of every single defect nor are they a schedule of repair or specification.

So what benefit do survey reports have then? Well, a good survey report should still be able assess and advise upon the condition of most building elements and the site (such as – is the roof coming to the end of its life), most defects to the building including causation, prognosis and what repairs are necessary (including movement, asbestos, dampness and decay). It should provide general advice regarding the services, I.E. an indication of whether rewiring is clearly needed, or obvious safety issues. This should therefore provide enough information for purchasers to decide whether they wish to purchase, or what they need to do in order to decide.

I agree with SimBob. The purpose of a pre-purchase survey is to identify potential problems and get an assessment of their seriousness and the urgency or otherwise of any remedial action. When a prospective purchaser views a property, sometimes for a very brief period and usually in the company of the estate agent or owner, it is not easy to notice all the things that need to be checked or any tell-tale signs that might require examination. The surveyor goes round the property in a disciplined manner, usually on their own and uninterrupted [because it is in the seller’s interests to facilitate a thorough survey], and knows what to look for and where to find it. The surveyor’s report will therefore be either (a) a useful guide if the prospective buyer completes the purchase, or (b) a caution if the problems identified are very serious, or (c) a responsible and justifiable basis for negotiating a reduction in the price. Sometimes a property is described as requiring updating and that its condition is reflected in the price. A survey is a useful means of validating that proposition.

If people are worried whether every light switch and socket is correctly wired and that the circuits are correctly identified and protected then they do need to have a qualified electrician carry out an inspection and test which will result in an approved form of report indicating what action is necessary for legal compliance and what is recommended for safety and conformity with the latest standards, and will state the urgency in each case. This is worth it for peace of mind alone because many owners do not reliably know the state or condition of their own systems and because something works they assume it is safe.

A number of detailed concerns can be covered by asking the solicitor or conveyancing executive who is undertaking the legal work on the purchase to include specific questions to the owner in the pre-contract procedures and to request production of certificates and guarantees in respect of any work that has been carried out to the property during their period of ownership. Failure to produce such documents is a good indicator of something that might repay further investigation and the buyer can ask for certain things to be done before exchange of contracts. Where a vital certificate is absent [building regulations approval for an extension for example] the purchase can be made dependent on the owner purchasing an indemnity to cover any future claims or adverse consequences.

I’ve recently looked at a house that requires modernization, it requires re-wiring, the roof looks to be in good condition, the chimney could do with lead flashing around the edge to replace the mortar flashing, but at present it’s not leaking, there appears to be no asbestos in the building, structurally it is sound however the air bricks at the back of the house are below ground level and could / do let water in and requires rectification, this can be done by simply removing the patio. I know all this from just a 20 minutes viewing, although I’m not a specialist. What exactly am I paying a surveyor for? Or is surveys more for people who are ignorant to these things?

The more you understand, the less useful a survey is likely to be. In your position it might be worth asking the surveyor to skip those items you are confident about and focus on whatever you need a second opinion about.

A thorough inspection yourself is very sensible so you can get an idea of the state of the property and the sorts of jobs and expenditure needed.

Good surveyors will know what to look for that many of us may not. Whether a crack in a wall may be possible subsidence or just settlement perhaps. Is there damp in walls. Does a gap under the skirting indicate a suspended floor might be weakening. I’m guessing, but a decent professional can spot things we could easily overlook. And presumably if they give incorrect information they are covered by insurance.

However, it seems to me that when you are spending a large fortune on a house why risk missing a costly problem for the sake of an extra <0.5% for a survey?

Michael Pemberton says:
27 October 2012

I believe that a Building survey should comment on the services but you should be told up front that we are not qualified to carry out tests. Again, this is all about managing client’s expectations.

I normally say to clients that I will look at the services and ask whether regular inspections have been carried out. If there is evidence of a problem (ie no recent tests, displaced drain runs, old wiring or consumer units etc etc) I will recommend test and explain why and what, in all liklihood will need to be done.

If everything looks modern and free from defect I will say so but I will always say that if you want to be 100% sure you will need to instruct an electrician, drains specialist etc to test.

Whilst this may seem like a get out, imagine this scenario:

There is one manhole on site. I lift this and see 1m of clay drain in good condition. I make the assumption that because this bit is ok, the remaining 15m is also ok. Is this the best advice to my client? or should I be saying ‘the bit I can see is fine but this is no guarantee the the remaining 15m is in good condition and you would be sensible to get checks done’. Cost of lining 15m of drain if there is a problem £1500. Cost of digging up and replacing the drain (c.) £3500.

Hope this helps you to see the issue from the surveyors side. I am not condoning lazy surveying but there are limits and you should be made aware of these before you commissioned your survey.

Chris Watson says:
3 April 2013

I live in a block of apartments which are approx. 8 years old. Although the landlord has responsibility for ensuring that the building is insured how often should a buldings survey be carried out please?

Michael Pemberton says:
3 April 2013

There is no specific requirement to have a Building survey of the block done. Regular inspections to ensure it is well maintained should be part of the management companies remit.

Re-assessment of the insurance valuation should be carried out (every 3 years or so) to ensure that the property is neither over or under insured.

Andrew D Thompson says:
3 April 2013

In the context of this thread the type of “Building Survey” is the pre purchase type. Therefore an inspection need would be triggered everytime at the point of sale of the block. These should be spread out but you might get in one short period a series of inspections by differing interested parties.

However taken in the wider context of a management inspection of a flat within a large block these can be triggered by a range of technical issues. The routine are all linked to the need to inspect for good block management however the nature of block living is sometimes problems above/below/to the side of your own unit may trigger a need for inspection. It is sometimes the nature of block living that a problem somewhere elese triggers a need for a series of inspection in the other units. The surveyor should inform you of the basic purpose of the inspection but may not be able to discuss the detailed as this maybe sensitive to your Landlord. The rules for access to your property by the Landlords Surveyor are typically set out in the lease so no inspection should come as a suprise.

PMcB says:
15 April 2013

I feel that the money I paid for a full survey was completely wasted. Most of the issues I can understand that the surveyor might not be able to fully inspect but I’m really annoyed that I have a roof of asbestos that wasn’t mentioned. A builder that came round instantly took one look at the roof, spotted it and queried had that been mentioned in my survey.
I’d be interested in finding out whether it was just my particular surveyor was poor or do they not generally comment on this issue (something that anyone would really, really be better off knowing)

Michael Pemberton says:
15 April 2013

A survey is not an asbestos audit but advice on where asbestos may be found should be given. Just because there is asbestos present does not mean there is a health risk and you might like to have a look at the guidance which can be found on line on the Health Protection Agency website. Often removal of the asbestos material is the worst thing you can do. Much will depend on condition and the type of asbestos material.

Ultimately, if you feel let down by the surveyor, you should make contact and voice your concerns.

Please be aware that on occasion, contractors can over state issues. I remember identifying asbestos to a ceiling in a garage and advised on it presence. The client had an asbestos contractor look at it who instantly pronounced it to be blue asbestos. There is no way to identify the type of asbestos without tests and this was pointed out. My client had another company look at the issue and the material was deemed safe but recommendations for encapsulation and monitoring were made.

Steve says:
4 May 2013

I totally understand why people feel totally miss informed from their surveys. I had a survey completed 12 months ago, the surveyor missed key areas such as:
1) Stated all the windows were uPVC, they are actually all very old aluminium – cost to replace about 10k.
2) Missed obviously signs of structural movement, including big cracks in 1 ceiling beam and 1 wall is actually ‘leaning’ – cost to repair – still unknown but given initial idea of 15 to 20k.
3) Various other issues that they totally missed.

We complained and they said we were right and without saying in so many words that they were wrong, we asked for compensation, they laughed!
Unfortunately there just isn’t a real form of redress without going through a long drawn out court process, as the property ombudsman a worse than useless, as they basically back the surveyor up. Again stating they were wrong, but it doesn’t really make any difference!

Michael Pemberton says:
4 May 2013

Steve

It is very disappointing that you have had the experience you have. I wouldn’t try to defend the mistakes or attitude of the surveyor if they are as you say they are. If the cost of repair work exceeds £25,000, you will have to look at the Court route but there are solicitors out there who will take cases on a non win no fee basis.

What sort of survey did you have and what type/age of property did you buy?

Make sure you have asked for and followed the surveyors complaints handling procedure (CHP). Ultimately, if the attitude of the surveyor has been unprofessional you can report them to the RICS.

The Ombudsman service is there to provide unbiased opinions based on the facts before them. Ask a surveyor and they will complain that the Ombudsman is biased toward the consumer!

If the surveyor is A chartered RICS surveyor and you have a complaint send your compliant to them in writing and if you do not get a satisfactory answer then the RICS has an arbitration process. The issues you raise could be potentially serious. There is a point about detail because the cheaper surveys do not give much detail as to what to do about some defects or how to asses them or costs for repairs. They are designed to be an initial heads up with recommendations to follow up. The more detail you obtain the better you can negotiate but I agree there is no room for negligence. As a general tip be sure to use a suitably qualified surveyor for the more complex and period properties. Some surveyors are linked to agents and lender so this can be an issue of a conflict of interest for some clients which they avoid by using an independent chartered surveyor.

Mrs b says:
4 July 2013

We bought our house a year ago it’s about 60 years old. We paid for a full survey. Funnily enough things like non safety glass in interior doors were picked up but not the fact the roof was in need of replacing. We now have to add another 5k to our costs! Shameful

It don’t know the facts of this and I’m sorry you feel caught out but how did the issue of the need to replace the roof arise? If a builder has suggested this is the best remedy then this would be a matter of opinion not necessarily a fact. You do have redress if it is found the surveyor was negligent but do be careful that others that follow often have a completely different view on how something is remedied. Contact your surveyor and ask why roof replacement was not flagged up. I see many roofs with poor detailing that don’t leak. In these cases I explain in my survey what I have seen and how much it would cost to upgrade but the roof is not necessarily defective. The client can then choose how to negotiate the price by balancing the risk to market conditions.
The term “full” survey is often used by agents and solicitors but it is an old term. It implies that everything is checked and tested and often this is not the case. In my experience of offering options to test everything that very few clients pay for that. When they do it is amazing how strong a negotiating position they have and the survey pays for itself.

Geoff says:
7 December 2013

Purchaser has recently had a survey on my property and they have now withdrawn offer but will not tell us what was in the survey.

Under the data protection Act can we insist that the findings be revealed because it is about our property?

Often vendors ask to see the report but the issue is that the information is not public. It is specifically for the client and is confidential. It is the buyers responsibility to check all issues and to ensure they are happy with the price offered. In my experience there is no knowing what a buyer may perceive as a problem. One mans “defect” is another man’s “character.” What I have experienced is vendors trying to sell an adulterated survey which is very deceitful. Do not Buy the last survey as you are not party to it and you will have no redress. Check your surveyor is independent for absolute certainty and make sure you know that there is a difference between a Building Surveyor and a Valuation surveyor. Most House surveys are not undertaken by Building Surveyors.

Spring999 says:
14 April 2014

Hi recently I have make an offer on the flat in Orpington and the bank survey come back and saying parts of the property are thought to contain asbestos material. You should take care when carrying out repairs, maintenance or renewal. I did called the agent to ask about the details, but there is nothing serious about it the surveyor is only wanted to cover his back.

Is anyone facing the same issue before? This flat was build in 1984 or before.

Any advice?

My son bought an ex-council house and, when renovating, found asbestos where a heating boiler had once been installed. This possibility had not been mentioned in his own survey and, being cautious, he contacted his insurance company. They paid for all costs of having the asbestos removed and disposed of, and replacing all items where asbestos fibres may have been caught – carpets, curtains, clothes,even household appliances like a toaster. Was it overkill? Maybe, but it put his mind at rest.
If, before purchase, the survey detects asbestos then presumably you would have to pay the (potentially high) cost of removal and disposal if you disturbed it through renovations.

Asbestos has to be managed carefully and with some basic precautions it can be left in place safely enough so no expensive removal need be employed. Much of the asbestos left now is hidden. However renovations do cause a lot of disturbance which is a risk in older buildings. If you intend to undertake such work a “Residential Building survey” might be more valuable as you can ask the surveyor to comment on your proposals and the risks associated. This will help you budget your contingencies. It is quite likely that in a house built before the 1970s that asbestos can be present so “project” houses need more investigation and a two way discussion with your surveyor is needed. I would recommend people looking at older properties brief an independent chartered Building surveyor rather than a standard template home buyers survey.

Discovering asbestos in your project will stop it instantly for at least two weeks for notices to be given so it is very expensive if you have to stop contractors. I hope his project is well under way now. Interesting to hear that his insurance company paid up. Not all of them do that.

Hi Malcolm,
We just bought a house and found out that there is Asbestos Insulation Board in the cupboard. It is in rather bad condition (i.e. broken with pieces on the floor!) so it will need to be removed. It will cost thousands as far as I know and we don’t have budget for it.
May I ask you how your son claimed the insurance company for it? Will it be covered by basic home insurance or it will need to be premium?
Thanks a lot!

My son took a sample when he discovered his asbestos to a local company that dealt with that sort of problem. They confirmed it was hazardous and he then claimed on his insurance as he had accidental damage cover. His asbestos only came to light when he was doing an alteration.

In your case it maybe should have been discovered by your surveyor, depending on the type of survey requested. They may be liable (they would be insured). You could also consult the solicitor that did the conveyancing for advice. Then try your insurance company. But I would think if the sellers knew there was asbestos present and didn’t disclose it they may have liability; I don’t know whether claimed ignorance on their part would be a defence.

Maybe Which? (Legal?) could help or comment.

Gordon bidwell says:
9 December 2014

My son is trying to buy out his ex girlfriend. He has just been refused a mortgage as the current survey states that there are problem with the structure of the house. Prior to the original purchase of the house a full structural survey was completed with no major issues. How long is the original survey valid for. We are considering legal action against the surveyor.

Hi Gordon – Sincere apologies for not responding sooner. It’s a rather debatable issue where the person who gets the survey done expects it to cover everything.

Unfortunately, we don’t know off the top of our heads what the legal status of surveys are or if there is a limited period this applies for. Have you been in touch with our Which? Legal Service?

Martin says:
28 February 2015

We moved into our property in July of last year having had a full structural survey. It’s an old property and of course we expected there to be some issues.
The report gave no indication of damp, just noted a small area near the front door, but nothing else of note. Within 3 months of moving we have uncovered widespread damp in our hall and one of the living rooms. To date we have paid out £8500 to get it sorted out and possibly not quite finalised.
What is the responsibility of the surveyor in this instance?
Seems like we wasted £800 up front for a worthless piece of paper.

Hi Martin, thanks for your message. It’s difficult for us to say because it all depends on if the survey was expected to cover everything.

As previously mentioned, you could contact our Which? Legal Service for further advice. Also, here’s our guide about dealing with damp – I’m certain you’ll find this content useful:

http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-improvements/guides/dealing-with-damp/

Martin says:
28 February 2015

The report does appear to have get out clauses suggesting additional reports as back up! We didn’t do these as nothing in the main report was identified.

Gerry says:
1 March 2015

I bought my current house 22yrs ago the surveyor picked up Garage roof at bottom of garden may be aspestos, the vendor was adiment it wasn’t, as he had had it built only a few years earlier & had all the docs, about the said garage, this was all presented to the during convaincing and no test of materal was ever done!! & been a bit green I just accepted the explanation and thought as lawyer haven’t pushed for more evidence all was ok…
The Garage had many uses down the years play house for the children, used as a gym in their teenage years never worried as was convinced not aspestos.
I have recently sold this property & on buyers homebuyers survey came back last week, been informed that in fact it is aspestos sheeting on the roof. The buyer demanded I address the issue and use a company to not only test but establish exactly what aspestos we were dealing with at a cost to me of £100 pounds.
What I want to know have I any redress with the lawyer that lead my convaincing as he not doing correct investigations back then that I’ve been made to not only do as seller but bear all the costs *testing * and pay for removal or knock value of my sale by approx £2’000
Angry is an understatement and what about future health of my family who played and came in to contact with said garage throughout their childhood.
Where would I go with this
Grateful of any advice

Hi Gerry, thanks for your comment. In your position, I would definitely give our Which? Legal Service a call for some advice about this matter:

http://legalservice.which.co.uk/

Mary says:
9 March 2015

Can you please tell me what a structural survey consists of? i had one done however no testing was carried out for example no damp readings, no physically checking the roof or gutters no dye testing on the gullys grids etc, the surveyor initially refused to go into the loft i had to insist he did where he found daylight through the tiles, no felt and a fire wall missing!!!!!! when i recieved his report it stated the gutters needed lining how would he know this from the ground, the report also stated the back kitchen wall has to be rebuilt due to the gully possibly being blocked but again no testing carried out,i was informed the wal,ls needed rebuilding but was not informed why are all surveys visual reports,or are they supposed to use equipment like damp meters, thermol imaging, dye testing and physical inspection like actually getting up on a ladder and looking at the roof and gutters? can some one please enlighten me!

Afternoon Mary – I’m pleased to let you know that you can have a read through the different types of house surveys here:

http://www.which.co.uk/money/mortgages-and-property/guides/buying-a-house/house-surveys-explained/

Mary says:
12 March 2015

Hi Andrew
Thank you for your reply, i have looked at the info on the link you sent, i have read and researched every piece of information regarding different types of surveys, but my question is are all surveys visual only, it seems surveyors state things and assume things need doing without actually testing, this is what happened with mine, i just want someone to tell me the house i want to purchase is structurally safe, my surveyors report was so ambiguious is was contradictory for example, the gutters need lining, my reply how do you know that you did not go up to check the gutters his reply, well they may or may need re lining!
The front portal frame needs removing and rebuilding (its part of the house 200 years old) as it has gaps down the side of the door, or fill with cement and resin bond or fill the gap with timber, when i questioned these very different options he was unable to tell which one!!!!! the list went on, he was unable to tell me the value of the property, so basically i am back at the begigning no wiser if my house is safe or not, when i have read the info on the internet regarding what is done and what is used on a survey be it home buyers or structural it seems that the surveyor just looks at the property without investigations, so can you tell me if surveyors are to use equipment like damp meters, thermol imagers, dye testing, ladder etc it seems everything is assuming and none commital when challenged.
Thanks
Mary

Marc L says:
5 May 2015

My house was under offer but when the purchaser had a survey done it was reported that the roof was structurely unsound and they pulled out of the sale. The house is a middle terrace built in the late 60’s early 70’s when regulations and hence construction were different, apart from that there is nothing wrong with the roof and it has been well maintaned. Does this mean that all properties with this type of construction should have their roofs replaced? How should I deal with this issue as it will probably be failed again in future surveys, and surely is also an issue with even older properties.

Thanks

Marc

Silva says:
18 July 2015

I’ve recently had a structural survey done, awaiting the report. I didn’t shop around and went with a friend’s recommendation. However the terms and conditions included one paragraph of what the surveyor can do and 2 pages of what they can’t do! I’m no expert but it read like an expensive homebuyer’s report. Is this typical?

Tina Jefferies says:
30 July 2015

Hi we bought our 1950s bungalow 8 years ago and had a full structural survey. I’ve just had an electrician tell me we have no earth to gas or water pipes and none into a box next to the electric meter…fairly serious I think! None of this was brought up in the survey nor was the fact it’s obvious there is some original wiring in there which may mean a total rewire.
Nothing is hidden in terms of them being able to see these things so I would have thought at least they should have raised some concerns and if they had I would have thought twice before buying the house or at least paying what I did for it. Is this something I can take issue with the surveyor about?
Thanks

I am buying my Mother’s house, which I have lived in for fifteen years since she bought it. It is over a hundred years old. I know the house well, but obviously I am wondering whether I should still have full structural survey. The survey done fifteen years ago mainly mentioned an issue with a garden wall which was apparently about to collapse (still standing) and that the electrics were about to fail (still working with no repairs)… my only current concern is damp. I notice two areas which may / may not be cause for concern. So light it’s hard to tell. Really I don’t know whether I need to get the survey done? Incidentally the first surveyor I rang didn’t call back. I called again assuming it was an error, and again he failed to call back… yet another emailed me back even though he was on holiday!

Hi, I was due to exchange contracts on a property two weeks ago after have a full building survey completed. It picked up the usual visual stuff (i.e. the things we already knew about!!) and cost around £900. Of course the reports had all the usual caveats (“need a specialist report on this and that” without really offering any advice at all). Anyway, two days before exchanging contracts my husband visited the property. Whilst in one of the rooms he thought he could hear the faint noise of running water…. to cut a very very long story short, it turns out that there was a major leak under the house that has been leaking for some time (property has been vacant for 12 months). Thankfully we have pulled out of the purchase as we were advised that there could be issues with subsidence in the future due to the movement of the soil under the property. We have contacted our Surveyors to complain – WHY DID THEY NOT PICK THIS UP? To date we have just been batted from pillar to post and no-one is accepting any responsibility. What are your thoughts?

Hi WA, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that you’ve found problems with the property that you were buying, although at least it was pre-purchase that you discovered this issue.

My understanding with house surveys is that they come in differing levels of investigation, which essentially depend on how much detail you would like about the condition of the property. Although you would expect an issue such as audible running water to have been reported.

It’s possible to escalate your complain higher if you’re not happy with the response you receive from the surveyor. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors deal with such complaints, details can be found here: http://www.rics.org/uk/regulation1/complaints1/

Alternatively, if you’re considering taking legal action then there’s a useful guide on using the Small Claims Court on the Which? Consumer Rights website: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/how-to-use-the-small-claims-court

Hope that you mange to resolve this issue.

Happy New Year