What to Do if You’re Unhappy With the Quality of Your Building Survey

By Dean Merryman AssocRICS on and updated on

Getting a survey is a crucial part of the house-buying process. A survey should give you all the information you need to help you understand the property you’re about to buy. At a basic level, it should assess the general condition of a property, highlight any defects and explain any repair or maintenance issues you should be aware of before parting with any cash. A good survey will be clear and informative and give you the confidence that you’re making the right decision. But what do you do if this isn’t the case?

The role of the building survey

You have a few options for which survey you should use, depending on the level of insight you’d like. For modern properties built after 1990 that appear to be in a good state of repair, you may opt for a more basic HomeBuyer Report. This Level 2 survey will give you an overall opinion on the property’s condition, highlighting any visible defects in an easy-to-understand traffic light format that makes it clear if any areas require further action.

Of course, all properties can hide more severe defects, which is where the Building Survey comes in. This comprehensive report provides a detailed picture of the property’s construction and condition and thoroughly investigates as much of the property as is physically accessible. This could include cellars, lofts, under carpets and behind furniture, where nasty surprises can lurk. It will also assess the condition of key elements such as windows, doors, external walls and outbuildings, highlighting issues such as damp, poor insulation and overall structural integrity. Significant issues will be reported alongside any wear and tear defects, and the implications of these faults will be thoroughly explained.

At Novello, the Building Survey is a crucial element of our Private Client Surveying Service, which goes way beyond what a standard building survey would offer. From personalised support and advice throughout the buying process to assistance with arranging further investigations, Private Client Surveying is the most comprehensive surveying service on the market.

When can I complain about the quality of a survey?

Unfortunately, issues may arise as you navigate the house-buying process – or even after you’ve moved into a property – that may make you want to raise a complaint against your surveyor. This could be for several reasons, such as poor service, a lack of impartiality, failure to follow proper procedure leading to delays, or a failure to explain essential matters sufficiently. While these can all be reasons to complain, the most common, and the one that will have the most significant impact on you, is a failure to spot an important issue with a property that ultimately costs you money.

How to make a complaint

If any of these issues arise, the first step in making a complaint will be to contact the firm involved. If they are a member of RICS, they should have a Complaints Handling Procedure in place to deal with any grievances. Details of this should have been sent to you when you employed your surveyor, but if not, be sure to request it in writing so you can start to keep a record of your communications.

Once you’ve contacted the firm, you’ll likely be asked to submit your complaint in writing. RICS requires that your complaint be handled by a designated complaints manager or a senior member of the firm, so you should be contacted by someone fitting this description within eight weeks, although at Novello we promise to get back to you within 28 days.

If you feel this response isn’t sufficient you can inform the surveying firm that you wish to pursue the complaint with an independent arbitration process, such as an ombudsman or other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider. The firm should let you know which ombudsman scheme they have forwarded your complaint to so that you can stay informed of its progress.

There are now two redress schemes for the property industry: The Property Ombudsman (TPOs) and The Property Redress Scheme. As with the dispute resolution option, the ombudsman can order your surveyor to make good on expenses or losses arising from faulty or negligent work.

Alternatively, you can contact RICS directly, although they only handle complaints in specific areas. So, if the firm has failed to utilise a complaints handling procedure, failed to disclose a conflict of interest, misused clients’ money, failed to answer correspondence, or employed a surveyor with a criminal conviction, RICS will step in to investigate and take steps to stop the risk of additional misdemeanours. However, this will only be the case if the complaint is about an RICS member. It’s also worth noting that RICS cannot force any of its members to pay compensation to a claimant or become embroiled in any litigation brought against a member firm.

RICS Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) does offer a range of arbitrative services designed to resolve issues and disputes without having to endure lengthy and expensive litigation from the courts. Unlike contacting RICS, as mentioned above, the decision of the RICS DRS arbitrator is legally binding on all RICS member firms, meaning that compensation costs can be ordered without appeal.

If all else fails and you feel your complaint is so severe it needs to be pursued, you can take your surveyor to court. You have six years to claim professional negligence (or three years from when negligence is first discovered or suspected). You will need to employ a solicitor to assist you with this, which will likely be expensive, and there is no set timescale for hearings such as these, so time can pass, and costs can rack up with very little progress.

How to minimise the risk of having to make a complaint

With dispute resolution a stressful, slow and potentially expensive process, the ideal scenario is one in which you don’t need to make a complaint. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take that can help you to choose a competent, trustworthy surveyor who can be relied upon to do a good job.

  • Always use an RICS-qualified surveyor

With a RICS surveyor, you know that they are impartial and are bound by strict rules of conduct which should ensure a positive outcome for you. If not, the firm should at least have a sufficient complaints procedure, and you can also utilise RICS’ Dispute Resolution Service if needs be.

  • Shop around

Even among RICS members, though, services and quality levels can differ, so always do your research. Speak to several firms to gauge how responsive they are, how much they meet your needs and how knowledgeable they are about the type of property you’re buying.

  • Ask for recommendations

Also, remember that friends and family may have helpful information to share – whether that’s recommendations or less positive experiences. Online reviews such as Google Reviews or TrustPilot will give you genuine insight into clients’ experiences.

For more advice, read our blog How to Choose a Surveyor.

Why Novello surveys are better

At Novello, we don’t just deliver a survey report and leave you to it. We’re here to act as your trusted advisor throughout the house-buying process, and our Private Client Surveying service ensures you are fully informed throughout. This bespoke service is tailored to your specific needs, so if there are areas of concern or something you’d like more detailed information on, your RICS-qualified surveyor will investigate them thoroughly.

Novello surveys utilise the latest technology to ensure we delve into every nook and cranny and deliver the most comprehensive survey report in a straightforward and easy-to-understand format. We’ll even run through the report with you, so you are clear about the implications of our findings. Not only does a Novello Building Survey highlight any issues, but we also give you the information you need to take strategic action to address these issues – from major costing estimates and introductions to relevant independent tradespeople to advice on the next steps and renegotiation strategies. We even include a reflective market valuation, floor area measurement, insurance reinstatement cost and more, so you can be confident you’re buying the right house at the right price.

At Novello, we work closely with clients, their solicitors and other specialists to deliver a unified service, simplifying a complex process so you can move into your dream home with minimal stress.

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive surveys and our unique Private Client Surveying service, or book a free consultation.

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