The standard of care required of a surveyor or valuer is that of the ordinary skilled man in that profession exercising the same skill himself. Whether the standard has been complied with will be determined taking into account the circumstances of each case and the current knowledge at the time in this field when the surveyor carried out his instructions. This standard will not be lowered to take into account a surveyor with limited experience. In Daisley v BS Hall Co (1972) 225 EG 1553 expert evidence was adduced that the risk to buildings on shrinkable clay subsoil adjacent to poplar trees was well known and part of a surveyors education. The defendant surveyor who had failed to recognise the trees as poplar trees was held negligent in failing to warn of the risk.
Further, the standard of care will remain the same irrespective of the fact that no fee or a lower fee is charged say for example when a quick survey is required. The standard of care remains the same irrespective of the engagement or whether the task was carried out in unusual circumstances or whether a claim is made in contract or tort.
The standard of care will not vary according to instructions received but the extent of the duty may well do so. Thus in a valuation for mortgage purposes the extent of the duty will be much less than that of a full structural survey.
A valuation will require making a short and reasonably careful visual examination to enable a report to provide a valuation and a general guide as to the condition and observed defects of the property. The valuer has to be able to recognise defects and be able to assess value. A valuer must do his/her best as a valuer and not as a general surveyor. It is not for a valuer to warn a purchaser of any difficulty with resale of the property-see Sutcliffe v. Sayer  1 E.G.L.R. “The inspection time does not give itself for moving furniture or lifting carpets especially where they are nailed down”.
The standard of care and skill allows for a margin of differing opinion and even a degree of error. Accordingly, provided that the valuer has done his job honestly and with due diligence there may be no negligence.
The process of valuation does not admit of precise conclusions, and thus that the conclusions of competent and careful valuers may differ perhaps by a substantial margin”.
It must be borne in mind that in any action for negligence against a surveyor or valuer the burden of proving the case is always upon the claimant. It is not enough to prove that his advice/valuation or report was wrong. Negligence has to be shown. It has to be shown that the valuers or surveyors’ calculation or valuations could not have been arrived at had they used reasonable care and skill expected of someone in that profession.
Quinn & Co have experience of bringing successful negligence claims against surveyor and valuers. Should you wish to discuss a possible claim against a surveyor or valuer please contact Joseph Quinn on 01392 248858.
This article does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken before acting on any of the topics covered.