House-buyers are getting a raw deal from surveyors, it is claimed today. Too many defects are missed in surveys, avenues of redress are "totally inadequate" and the courts are adopting a blinkered and illogical interpretation of the law "which denies proper compensation to innocent consumers". Keith Richards, a senior lawyer at the Consumers' Association, says the financial consequences for householders are enormous. The two main professional bodies regulate admission and advertise the merits of using qualified surveyors "but effectively turn their back on consumers who have lost out at the hands of an incompetent professional".
Writing in Consumer Policy Review, published by the association, Mr Richards says the profession, which is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers, has lagged behind others in adopting schemes for dealing with grievances.
Consumers with allegations of negligence soon hit a "complaints brick wall". In other businesses, these walls have crumbled. "The surveying industry is one of the few areas left unchanged by the move towards more positive and fairer complaints handling systems."
The type and extent of defects which go unnoticed by surveyors is "astonishing" - dry rot, substantial damp and woodworm, subsidence and many other structural faults, according to Mr Richards.
Standard surveyors' reports are also "models of litigation avoidance, peppered with attempts to take away the customers' right to claim if they happen to miss anything during their inspection". These include terms such as "couldn't inspect", "can't comment on", and "recommend you get a specialist report on". Such …