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Posted by: on 24/08/2017
I was contacted 2 weeks ago by a client who required a Damp & Timber survey on the property that they were proposing to purchase as part of the mortgage process. I was happy to do the survey but there was a problem in that I was going on holiday for two weeks. The client agreed that I would carry out the survey when I returned back to work this week. During the course of my holiday, I received an email from the client saying they had instructed a damp proofing company to carry out the survey as they did not want to delay the proceedings by two weeks.
The estate agents had provided them with the name of 'their' damp proofing company who could carry out the survey sooner without charging for the survey. I sent the client an email thanking them for letting me know and that was that.
On Monday this week (first day back at work after my holiday), I got a call from the client saying they, had the survey carried out and were not happy with the contractor's findings. The contractor's surveyor had missed a number of defects that the clients had actually picked up on during the course of their viewing of the property. They also had a quote for £4,000 + vat for a new damp proof course. The client was not convinced that the property needed a damp proof course and wisely asked me to provide a second opinion. They were happy to pay my Survey Fee as previously agreed.
To cut a long story short, I provided the client with a report stating that there was no evidence of rising damp and absolutely no need for a damp proof course. There was one a wall which was registering elevated levels of moisture at the base, on that wall the wall plaster had been taken down to the floor and there was no skirting board fitted. The pattern of the readings was consistent along the length of the wall in a straight line approximately 100mm above floor level. Rising damp does not generally occur in straight lines in such a definitive pattern.
The contractor's surveyor had stated that there was woodworm in the roof void and recommended that the entire roof void was treated with an insecticide. There was indeed a small infestation of woodworm in one timber but there was no sign that it was active and was in need of treatment. The client had a quote for £400 to treat the roof timbers.
Damp on the first floor was not mentioned in the Surveyors report (see photo below) and the active woodworm in the understair cupboard had not been picked up. There was a number of external defects externally that could potentially have resulted in water penetrating the building but they had not been mentioned in the Surveyors report. A Damp Expert should be checking more than just the damp proof course when carrying out a pre-purchase Damp & Timber Inspection.
This raises a number of issues: -
1. Why do estate agents continue to recommend unqualified, unregulated Damp Proofing companies to clients when they are potentially making the biggest investment of their lives.
2. When the said companies reports are proven to be inaccurate and misleading why do the agents continue to put them forward to clients?
3. Why are the estate agents putting their commission from the sale of property before the best interest of the purchaser/vendor?
4. Why do more purchasers/vendors not challenge the estate agents on this matter when the agents are clearly acting in nobody's interests other than their own?
5. There are many reputable, honest and qualified Damp Proofing companies that the agents overlook because they charge for surveys as well as Independent Damp & Timber Surveyors. Do the agents not feel a pang of guilt that their clients are paying out thousands of pounds unnecessarily because they have been recommended to sub-standard companies.
6. In this instance, the client would have paid from their bank account 14 times what they paid for my survey fee for something they did not need. They would have also paid out another thousand pounds or so on defects that the Surveyor had not identified prior to the client purchasing the property.
If you are asked by the lender to obtain a Damp & Timber report for mortgage purposes, please please do your homework and vet any potential Surveyor or Damp Proofing company that you are considering instructing to carry out the survey and submit a report. Failure to do so will very likely end up with you paying out an awful lot of money and the inconvenience of having work carried out unnecessarily. If in doubt ask for advice from the Surveyor who carried out the original Survey on behalf of the lender.
Whoever you instruct to carry out the Specialist Survey, check them out, ask for testimonials from previous clients, check out their trade association membership, ask for evidence of their qualifications in the field that they are offering advice. No decent company or individual will mind you asking these questions and most will be proud to demonstrate their professionalism.
Will things change soon, I won't hold my breath but here's hoping.