Homebuyers Survey issues and down valuation

Discussion in 'Builders' Talk' started by JAzer, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    Hello chaps and chapesses,

    We have agreed a sale on our 150 year old home, but the Homebuyers Survey has reported some issues and the valuation has been put £15k below the sale price. Some of the issues are nonsense, such as potential problems with log burner and electrics, but they were only installed a couple years ago and we have the relevant certificates. The main problems relate to damp and woodworm, but again, I believe they are nonsense and there are websites confirming this - I just need to know how to respond to some of these points and would appreciate your expert help. Here are the points made (in italics) and my draft responses (bold) - do you agree or would you change anything?:

    There is no visible evidence of a damp proof course within the external walls.
    There is evidence of damp to the walls internally. Please see below.
    Similar type and condition as described above.
    Similar type and condition as described above

    MIDDLE RECEPTION (dampness)
    There is dampness at low level in the walls. The dampness appears to be originating from/have been caused by rising damp. This should be investigated further by a PCA registered damp proofing contractor

    The previous owner advised that damp proof course injections had been previously undertaken, I believe going back around 20 years (this is visible where there is no skirting board, in the cupboard under the stairs).
    For a house of this age, it is perfectly normal and to be expected for residual damp to exist, as confirmed by advice received from another RICS Chartered Surveyor that visited the house (verbal advice, not as part of a report). There are many companies advising that you should install their products. There are also many impartial people advising this is unnecessary and will do more harm than good.
    We advise the buyers to do their own research into this subject, as information like this can be found: Taken from https://www.heritage-house.org/damp-and-condensation/managing-damp-in-old-buildings.html:
    Homebuyer Surveys - the truth about them...
    I am constantly inundated by people who are getting Homebuyer surveys, in which the 'Surveyor' recommends you get a 'specialist timber and damp survey from a PCA registered contractor'.
    If a qualified surveyor - a Chartered member of RICS - tells you that an independent 'timber and damp' survey is required - I suggest you tell them you are not paying the bill. These people are incompetent. If they cannot diagnose the REAL reasons for damp in an old house - tell them to go survey a dolls house.
    If they even MENTION Rising Damp - they are incompetent.

    There appears to be some historic woodworm to the main beam. Your legal advisers should check to see if there is any paperwork in place to confirm the timbers have been treated.

    Again, very common to see this in an old house. The timbers may have possibly been previously treated, but not under our ownership as it is unnecessary. As above, the woodworm is "historic" and no longer present. Again, we advise the buyers to do an internet search on this subject to find information such as: Taken from https://www.heritage-consulting.org/woodworm-or-beetle-attack-of-timber
    Most holes that we see in surveys are over 100 years old - some over 400 years old. ... a lot of research has clearly established that these treatments are not needed. This is now neatly summarised in the new BS 7913: 2013 Guide to the conservation of historic buildings, published jointly by the British Standards Institute, and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (BSI and IHBC). Section 6.10.3 - 'Insect attack' includes the following statement: "The principal objective should be to remove the sources of moisture..." it goes on to say this about chemicals: "Insecticidal treatment should only be used as a last resort as it can cause environmental damage and might require licenses of protected species. Precautionary treatment should NOT be applied to unaffected timbers." These are powerful words - and clearly establish that wholesale and automatic 'timber treatment' should NOT be undertaken.

    The clay pipe in the inspection chamber (nearest to the garage) has broken and will need to be replaced. In the absence of a full inspection and test report by a drainage specialist, you must accept the risk of defects existing to the pipes not visible. We should make you aware that properties of this age are often found to have defective drainage, due to the brittle clay pipes having little protection from slight degrees of movement within the ground.

    As per the comment, it is common for a property of this age. It has not caused any issues and is still functioning as expected.

    Unfortunately we were not present when the surveyor visited, as we would have liked to discuss the points they made regarding their damp and timber findings. Although we would not advise following their advice, we are happy to engage (at our own cost) an independent timber and damp surveyor to offer a report and expert advice on these matters for the buyers.

    Thanks for reading. Would you change anything or do anything differently? Appreciate the help.

  2. Heat

    Heat Well-Known Member

    I would address some of the claimed faults by doing a ‘fix’ rather than defending myself with argument.
    That way you will have evidence of removing an alleged problem.
    For example - have clay pipe repaired replaced and invoice/certificates for proof.
    It is all a paper trail
    Astramax likes this.
  3. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    Thanks Heat. Yes, you are right. I will get a fix done. Just been to house to check clay pipe - there's a small crack and hole in it and really not an issue - will take 5 mins to patch up.
    Heat likes this.
  4. Hans_25

    Hans_25 Well-Known Member

    Surveys will always pick up issues, unless there are real deal breakers or can be fixed easily (in which case fix them) I'd say its down to the buyer to decide if they want to proceed or ask for a discount from the previously agreed price. As a seller, my position might well be that no properties are perfect, take it as is or look elsewhere.
    JAzer and Joe the Plumber like this.
  5. Heat

    Heat Well-Known Member

    Surveyors risk their reputation and also risk legal claims against them should they miss anything that falls under what the survey is supposed to cover.
    So it is to be expected of a Surveyor to put every obvious fault down so nobody can say they haven’t done their job properly.
    Can be annoying though to have an obvious, but minor thing put in writing against your property
    JAzer likes this.
  6. sospan

    sospan Well-Known Member

    Well without seeing your property the report seems to be what I would expect in properties that old. I have three properties from the 1870's and all have issues either through age or previous owners bodges.

    Solicitors these days have to do a lot more diligence on their conveyancing work and check that all the necessary paperwork and standards are adhered to as much as they can.
    JAzer and Heat like this.
  7. ajohn

    ajohn Well-Known Member

    Woodworm is pretty common in anything around 100 years old. Our place was built in 1911 and has had it. Some timbers in the garage really suffered. Easy to tell as the beams could be pressed in with a finger. It had been treated. Woodworm usually is so signs of it in the past are a nonsense.

    Damp is trickier. It depends on what they found and depends on what the notes below say.

    JAzer likes this.
  8. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    Thanks for all the feedback guys!!

    I AM FUMING!!!

    I offered the buyers a independent damp survey at my own expense. The estate agent said that they would call in a favour and get someone out. They did, but it turns out it was one of those "free" reports, which of course found a load of problems (rising damp throughout and £5,000 to put right). Estate agent told not to divulge this information.

    Knowing this was nonsense, I told the estate agent I would get the independent survey done at a cost of £350. Survey come back, NO RISING DAMP AT ALL!! Staining is caused by salts, which is perfectly acceptable of a 150 year old house and there are simple remedies.

    Estate agent calls - BUYERS HAVE PULLED OUT!! Apparently they had randomly called the free report company (estate agent denies giving them details) and obtained the information from them. The paid surveyor advised me this is completely unacceptable and against data protection laws. Looks like I'm going to be taking someone to court!!
  9. sospan

    sospan Well-Known Member

    You have very little chance of winning a legal case any of the parties.

    So you had a report which showed defects in your property, you actively didn't want the purchaser to find out, but the found out and pulled out of the deal - having stood in front of many judges you aren't going to get any sympathy from a judge.

    You also have a "free" report which another company provided. They own the report and can do whatever they want.

    Just find another estate agent and move on with your life
  10. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

    So the estate agent has instructed the “free report” company and in my view has implicitly accepted liability by doing so. Whether the agent passed the details of that company to the buyer or the buyer guessed it is irrelevant because the damp company should not have disclosed information to a third party. As you have no contract with the damp company you cannot go after them but you can go after the estate agent who instructed them. The suggested loss seems to be £5,000. My suggestion is to issue the claim via small claims court. As simple process
    JAzer likes this.
  11. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

    The point is the report is erroneous and as a result of the professional survey for £350 there is proof of such. Disclosing erroneous information to potential buyers is grounds for consequential loss
    JAzer likes this.
  12. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    The situation has evolved..

    I called the "free" company and said the independent surveyor found no rising damp. He did not seem surprised or try to argue the matter.

    I am going to get a second independent report for confirmation.

    The guy said that the buyers knew he was doing the report and that estate agent must have given buyers his details. He said he did not divulge the information to them and only sent report to estate agent!! I am going to ask solicitor to check with the buyers direct as to what actually happened.
  13. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    Sospan, the "free" report was done by a sales company. It is ******** and therefore I didn't want this disclosed.
    The independent report did not find issues with damp.
  14. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    Jonathan, you make good points!
  15. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

    You need a written statement from the free damp company that they did not disclose anything to the buyers but to your agent. Email will suffice and the threat of legal action will encourage them to give it. Second you need a statement from the buyer that they obtained the report from the agent and they pulled out as a result. Again email is sufficient

    With these two pieces of evidence you have a claim against your agent for loss
  16. JAzer

    JAzer Member

    This continues to evolve...

    The buyers have told us the date that they contacted the damp company to request a report. This date was about a week before the estate agent even mentioned to us they could get someone out as a favour. So the damp company would have been aware of the buyers' request when initial contact was made between damp company and estate agent.

    Therefore it seems highly probable that the damp guy contacted the estate agents to arrange access. I've been trying to get their account, but they aren't responding. I'm now threatening legal action to prompt a response.

    The estate agent denies any knowledge that they knew the buyers had made contact with the damp company. They say it was their idea to involve the company as a favour for us.

    They gave the damp company the keys to our house without our consent. We gave the estate agent keys so that they could carry out assisted viewings. The report information was divulged to the buyers by the damp company despite our clear instructions that they shouldn't even be made aware that it was taking place.

    Anyway, we just got to the point where we were going to walk away from it all. We told the agent we were going elsewhere as we can't trust them and nobody has confirmed what's actually happened. They sent us a bill, we said we are leaving because you have given us no choice so we're not paying. They've now raised a money claim against us for their marketing costs.

    I'm not entirely sure what to do now as I don't have a straight story off them and damp company. I'm so annoyed they'd even consider making a claim against us after what's happened. I think I need to raise a claim against agents and damp co and go from there. Any advice? Thanks
  17. just for me to understand correctly, the buyers are asking for £15k off?
    Just say NO
  18. jonathanc

    jonathanc Active Member

    ok there are multiple threads in this which are more of a legal nature than construction.

    First, the damp company. It appears you have proof they were appointed by the buyer. Your agent misrepresented this and asked if they could have access on the grounds they would prepare a free survey for you. You agreed to them having access to your property to provide a damp survey for you. You did not agree to them having access to the property to provide a survey for the buyer. If this is correct and at no time were you made aware that the damp company was acting for the buyer then the agent has in my view not acted on your instructions, misrepresented matters and caused you financial loss. The big issue here is providing financial loss because you still own the house - what have you lost? if the buyer will proceed with the original offer and rely on your damp survey, what's the loss.

    turning to the claim from the agent for their fees: on what grounds are thy claiming their fees? Presumably they are citing some contractual provision or other you agreed to?

    overall my feeling is that you are probably best advised to defend the claim of fees from the agent with the evidence of their wrongdoings but i think you will struggle to recover the £15k price chip. Better to move on and list with another agent i feel

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