We bought a house based on a home report in which the surveyor missed approximately £40,000 worth of essential repairs needed to make the house wind and watertight. An independent survey reported that they had also overvalued the property by £40,000. They accepted liability for missing the essential repairs, but are not compensating us for the costs we incurred as a result of their negligence.
The law uses diminution in value to calculate damages, which seems reasonable. Surely the true value of losses are the costs incurred to rectify the negligent home report? However, the firm’s lawyers said: “The question of valuation is not an exact science and there are valuation tolerances.” They added that the surveyors “simply provided an opinion of market value at the top end of an acceptable range”.
If valuations can vary as much as £40,000, surely that should be highlighted within the home report, rather than a single figure? According to the Scottish Government, the home report gives sellers and buyers detailed information about the condition and value of a home before an offer to purchase. How can anyone make an informed decision on possibly the largest financial transaction of their lifetime, if there is a range of valuations and details of condition are sketchy?
Research to inform the five-year review of the home report identified a conflict of interest between seller, surveyor and buyer. “This has two potential impacts: pressure applied (by or on behalf of the seller) on the surveyor to improve the single survey, or sellers commissioning a number of single surveys to pick the highest value survey.” Again, how can anyone make an informed decision on that basis?
The house we bought was surveyed and sold by two companies owned by the same group. No surveying firm owned by, or linked to, the estate agent should be allowed to produce the home report. How can it be genuinely independent or trustworthy? Clearly, it’s in the best interest of both to maximise the valuation.
Having spoken to many people over the last six months, we believe there are a huge number of people across Scotland who have been through similar situations, and we feel compelled to try and address this issue. In our opinion, and those we have spoken to, the current system is failing buyers and costing people thousands in unexpected repair bills, not to mention the stress and financial worry associated with litigation.
We would like to see the current home report system scrapped in favour of a more in-depth, accountable and robust report with comprehensive recommendations in each of the 1, 2, 3 categories. Simply putting a 1 is not enough. There should also be consistency in the survey: we heard about one surveyor who refused to go into the attic for health and safety reasons; a surveyor from a different firm was happy to go in.
Surveyors should be financially accountable for any mis-reporting or incorrect rating. The buyer would have much more confidence in the process and there would be far fewer negligent reports.
We have set up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ScrapHomeReport), with a link to a petition, asking people to share their experiences and to sign the petition if they agree the home report is flawed. We intend to present this to the Scottish Government in the hope that they will consider a redesign. I would very much appreciate if you could share this with your readers.Victoria Paul