Surveyors should ensure they are prepared for the new RICS Home Survey Standard (“HSS”) which will apply to domestic surveys from 1 March 2021. The new HSS comes in tandem with the decision in Hart v Large EWHC 985 TCC from last year, which sent shockwaves through the surveying industry when the judges departed from case law and ordered a negligent surveyor to pay significant damages to his client. The case went to the Court of Appeal in December 2020, on the matter of damages, but the high level of damages was upheld.
The HSS sets out a list of mandatory obligations together with a list of what constitutes good practice. Surveyors will need to update the terms and conditions in their current survey documentation in line with the new HSS. There is a list of mandatory items to include that apply to all levels of service, such a details of any referral fees, inducements and potential conflicts of interest, the fee and payment arrangements including the payment period and cancellation rights.
In Hart v Large, the surveyor undertook a HomeBuyer report for his client and assumed that a damp proof course had been installed in the house, failing to identify the significant damp problems that later came to light. The judges held that he should have reported that it was impossible to see if one had been installed, and that further investigation was required. The property had also recently been completely renovated and as such, a professional consultant’s certificate should have been provided by the architect, but the surveyor failed to recommend this. It was held that the surveyor was negligent in not doing so.
So, what should surveyors do in light of the new HSS and the Hart v Large decision?
- Update the format of the survey and terms and conditions in accordance with the HSS.
- The report should be clearly drafted with all technical terms explained. In particular, if there is anything that has not been inspected, this should be highlighted with an explanation as to why. Surveyors should take special care at present due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which might limit their ability to inspect.
- If anything needs to be investigated further, this should be clearly brought to the attention of the client.
- The type of report you are going to carry out should be clearly explained to the client, and clients should understand the differences between the levels of service. You should keep your advice under review, for example, if it becomes apparent during your engagement that a full building survey should be undertaken, you should advise the client.
- If you are inspecting a recently renovated property, you should consider the appropriateness of recommending a professional consultant’s certificate which could ultimately protect both you and the client.
If you need help checking and redrafting your current documents, please get in touch with one of our specialists.
This is only intended to be a summary and not specific legal advice. If you would like further information or advice on Construction Law, please do contact a member of our Construction team.