Subject to survey? My rights as a Purchaser Part 2
You are on Zoopla and you find a property that has the potential to become your dream home. Perfect sized bedrooms, plenty of space for your couch and the garden you have always wanted. In order to make sure the dream does not turn out to be a nightmare; you should request the Home Report for the property from the Estate Agent.
What is the Home Report?
The Home Report is a document which as the name suggests, reports on various aspects of the property. The Home Report provides further information relating to the property covering repairs, valuation of the property and alterations to name a few.
The Report is made up of three parts: the Single Survey, an Energy Report (including an Energy Performance Certificate) and a Property Questionnaire (which is filled out by the seller). The Single Survey section will identify any issues of concern or matters for the conveyancer to attend to if you go ahead with the purchase of the property. Although the Home Report is instructed on behalf of the seller (normally by the selling solicitor), the surveyor is ultimately responsible for the content of the survey. As a result, it is in the surveyor's best interests to be as impartial as possible in their report.
Help! The Home Report Surveyor has missed something
You have moved in to the property, pulled back that old carpet and noticed a patch of damp; what do you do? First of all, you should speak to your conveyancer about your rights under the contract. If the damp has been there for some time, or the seller had no knowledge of this you may be feeling put out and want to blame the Surveyor. After all, he missed it right? Well, not exactly.
Surveyors have very limited liability in terms of issues that have not been identified within the inspection, indeed if you read the small print you will see that any issue of this type (i.e. hidden beneath carpets or behind heavy furniture) would not be seen as a valid claim. The Report will generally list limits to inspection for example, a surveyor will generally only stick his head in a loft and not carry out a full inspection of the roof space.
What if there is something material that has been missed?
If the Home Report did not identify any structural issues however the property is visually unstable, there may be a basis for a claim if you have relied on this information. Surveyors are bound by complaint and redress systems including the independent Surveyor Ombudsman Scheme and you do have statutory rights for damages if your claim against the Surveyor is successful. As the purchaser, you would have to prove that the Report was carried out negligently and follow the procedures set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (more information about their procedures can be found on their website).
MMi Golden Rule
When purchasing a property, make sure that you read the Home Report and ask your conveyancer if you are unsure or unhappy about anything that raises alarm bells. While your conveyancer will check the Home Report from a legal point of view and identify any potential issues to you, you should advise them of any matters which you are concerned about.
If you are buying an older property, one which identifies major repairs or a property which is listed (and repairs can be costly) we would advise that you instruct a more thorough survey to ensure that you are happy to proceed. Similarly, if damp/rot/woodworm is mentioned, you may wish to instruct a specialist to carry out their own report.