Single surveys and surveyor liability

Earlier this month it was reported that in Scotland while year on year average house prices were continuing to rise there were concerns about a slow down in house sales. The slow down in house sales obviously give the ideal market conditions to introduce the new single survey (so successfully piloted with almost 74 sellers volunteering to participate in a 6 month study a few years ago).

Despite the market adapting to the problems of multiple surveys through the use of offers "subject to survey" in January the Local Government and Communities committee of the Scottish Parliament agreed to the introduction of the single survey later this year.  Part 3 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 will (generally) introduce compulsory Home Reports for properties marketed after 1st December 2008.  This report will include an Energy Report (which will contain an assessment by a surveyor of the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact); a Property Questionnaire completed by the seller (which will contains information on alterations, council tax banding, factoring &c); and a Single Survey.

The Single Survey will include a surveyor's assessment of the condition of the property and a valuation.  The Single Survey has generated much controversy, including correspondence in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland.  One concern expressed in the past queried whether a purchaser could rely on the survey, and sue the surveyor if the survey was negligent. 

Such doubt as may exist has been addressed by The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2008  – passed at Westminster, and published last week.  This statutory instrument provides that if the surveyor's report is not based on an inspection of the house; or has not been prepared in a fair and unbiased way; or has not been prepared with reasonable skill and care then a purchaser who suffers loss as a result is entitled to damages. 

The passage of this instrument at Westminster attracted little publicity, but is a key element in the legislative framework supporting the Home Report scheme.