Sorting out Property Problems with
Solicitors and Surveyors
Our Surveyors pride themselves on a high standard of work. We can offer Residential Building Surveys also known as Structural Surveys and Home Buyers Reports, together with Commercial Reports, Schedules of Condions and Property Reports.
Phone us free on 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat with a surveyor.
What do Surveyors do?
Surveyors help with property problems particularly when you are buying a new house or when you want drawings or alterations carried out for your house.
The main work that we do all day and every day is to carry out building surveys on all types of properties i.e. both old and new properties and residential homes, and yes we do find problems with new houses! Building surveys are also known as structural surveys or full structural surveys. We also carry out what we term in-house as specific defects reports. These are reports on one problem area and they are also known as engineer's reports. We are often commenting on cracks in properties and we also do a large number of damp reports as well.
Whilst building surveys are our main work we also receive numerous enquiries relating to building and boundary disputes and party wall matters, all of which we have dealt with in the past. As mentioned above we are also able to carry out measured surveys of properties and produce accurate plans. We also produce planning and building regulation drawings and we feel we have the benefit of all the building surveys that we carry out to avoid common problems that we come across.
For a friendly chat we are available on Free phone 0800 298 5424.
Please remember it is Caveat emptor when buying a property which means 'Let the buyer beware'. This is why it is important to have a building survey carried out.
What do Solicitors do?
They represent you on legal matters and different solicitors tend to specialise in different areas of law such as family matters including divorce and probate etc. etc.
What do Solicitors do with regards to property?
Normally a specialist property solicitor or a conveyancer ensures that legally you are purchasing the freehold, leasehold or shared leasehold and that you understand the rights and responsibilities associated with purchasing the property, particularly in the case of lease or shared ownership schemes such as with the Housing Association. They also check that the deeds are present (although not necessarily correct) and that the property is put on the Land Registry which is a register of property owners.
How many clients can a Solicitor have on one particular case?
Most people think the answer to this is one however, within property the answer is generally two. They are representing both you, the client buying or selling the property. Often they are also representing the mortgage company. We would ask the question, can they represent two clients at once that have different interests?
Are Solicitors purely representing their client's interests in purchasing a property?
We have felt for a long time that there is a conflict of interest when purchasing a property between the solicitor acting for you and the mortgage company. As you are a one off client and the mortgage company is a regular client with very stringent rules and regulations it may be very different to your requirements.
Do regular property clients get treated by their property solicitor differently to one off property clients?
We would say that with nearly every business peak clients or regular clients can be treated very differently.
Here is a property example that we have been involved with that illustrates how differently a repeat customer is dealt with to a one off customer.
During the course of a structural survey the ground levels were noted to be too high. Quite a simple case we thought of needing to ask the new build construction company to lower the ground levels. For the record you usually have damp proof course of 150 mm or two bricks or a stone course above the ground level. However, in this case it was likely to be expensive to remove the driveway bridge of the damp proof course and lower the levels. We will leave you to judge if you feel the solicitor dealt correctly with the case. We feel that they were very much working for their regular repeat mortgage company client rather than the purchaser of the property. Below we explain what happened.
In this case the solicitor acting for the property purchaser duly wrote to the seller's / vendor's solicitor. Interestingly, they also advised the mortgage lender as they were acting for the mortgage lender too. So this is one solicitor acting for the purchaser and also the mortgage lender. If you recall the surveyor's concern was that the damp proof course was too low. They duly had requested further information from the seller or vendor's solicitor. But the letter they wrote to the mortgage lender asked whether they wanted to re-value the property as this would affect the value. You can only imagine the problems this would have caused the purchaser with the property being down valued. Whilst we feel they did act in the correct manner we do feel they should have advised their other client before they wrote the letter or have dual correspondence with both clients.
Delays from Solicitors
We would add that as is often the case solicitors take far longer than the clients would wish. In our opinion if you experience anything out of the normal with a house sale you will find it takes a lot longer than you would expect, which can be very frustrating to both the house purchaser and the house seller.
Did the Solicitor really get a good answer?
We are finding there is almost a stock answer from solicitors with regard to building problems on new properties. That is, that they have the Building Regulation Completion Certificate. That in their mind seems to be the be all and end all of any problems. However, Building Control were never meant to be a supervisory organisation for the builders who view the property at set points during the building work which it does state on the Building Control Completion Certificate. We particularly find this frustrating when we have provided photographs to show them the building work is not cracked or complete.
Pressure on the purchaser to complete
You then get in a very strange situation where the vendor's solicitor feels that the problem is solved and the estate agent puts pressure on the purchaser to complete. This is where as a house purchaser you have to make a decision whether to complete on the property or walk away without really in our opinion having the full facts.
Building Regulations Completion Certificates what they really say (we have an example of one below)
A Building Regulations Completion Certificate says that this is to certify that works of (and then it names the works) at the address in (and then it gives where it is) a compliance of building regulations (the said date) as far as could be ascertained at periodic inspections.
We would re-emphasise the term periodic inspections. This last bit is very important as the building control officer only has a set number of visits and each visit lasts for a short time and they cannot see everything particularly if;
1. It is covered up
2. It has not been done
3. Builder hides!
This is not a guarantee that the work has been carried out. In the example you could literally see that the damp proof course was not at the right level. This is why it is far better for someone to have the work independently supervised. Nevertheless, the Building Control Surveying Department will issue a certificate. This is not a guarantee that the work has been carried out properly and in this particular case we feel that you could see that it has not been carried out properly.
Major Extensions and Building Regulations Completion Certificates
Another example we can advise you of is a major extension that was carried out that doubled the size of the house. The "developer" we have put this in inverted commas because we would describe them more as an enthusiastic DIYer from the standard of work that we could see. They have no doubt built everything to best intentions but literally did not have the skills necessary to carry out the work. They had had a professional set of drawings prepared to pass planning permission and building regulations but had no working drawings to actually build the extension with. They had done their best from the drawings they had. This work had received a Building Regulations Completion Certificate.
What a Building Surveyor can do for you with regards to a Building Regulations Completion Certificate
In this case we had the usual chat between the solicitors that said that a Building Regulations Completion Certificate had been issued therefore the work must be ok. We decided to talk with Building Control Officer off the record about the work that had been carried out. He advised in no uncertain terms that he had not been able to see all that he wanted to see and that the builder he would say was at the poorer end of the standard that he typically sees. He did comment they were enthusiastic but lacked knowledge.
We would comment more strongly than this. From our survey and what we saw we would term it as poor quality work with poor quality detailing with future problems to come.
We always say that even a bad builder can cover up pretty much everything for a year or so and in this case they literally had covered up everything with render and white paint. It's the few small details that the surveyor spots that indicate future problems.
For example, in this particular case there was;
Popping to the plasterboard where the wrong nails had been used.
Rainwater from the driveway to the front that had been added. They hadn't considered how the rainwater would get away.
The render to the property was poorly detailed, particularly the bell mouth detail to the base.
All of these little things add up to indicate to us that the construction may not be all that it was. We hope this gives you an idea of how a Building Surveyor can help you.
Below is an example of Building Control Completion Certificate
Building Control Completion Certificate
This is to certify that the works of
opening in wall in basement
1 Example Road
(post code here)
Borough of nice place to live
For which Notice was served on (date here)
is in compliance with the
as far as could be ascertained by periodic inspections.
Mr X Building
Head of Building Control
Dated (date here)
Ref : 01-TG-12345
Borough of nice place to live Regeneration and Neighbourhoods Department
If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from an independent surveyor and you do not want to use surveyors that are owned by mortgage companies, banks, building societies and estate agents then please free phone 0800 298 5424.
If you have a commercial property, whether it is freehold or leasehold then sooner or later you may get involved with dilapidation claims. You may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at www.DilapsHelp.com and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site www.DisputesHelp.com .
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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