Some things can’t be ignored

Marion Ellis

July 2, 2019

Marion Ellis (pictured) is managing director of BlueBox Partners

I have met a fair few residential surveyors and valuers in my time. And largely yes, they do tend to conform to a stereotype, but things really are changing.

We now have a diverse range of professionals in the industry. More and more I am meeting surveyors with life experience from different backgrounds.

I have met bakers, piano repairers, estate agents, energy assessors and business men and women who have qualified or are training to be surveyors and valuers and who bring a not only a wealth of knowledge but a different way of looking and ways of doing things.

These are people who have joined the industry for their love and interest of property and helping people move into safe and secure homes.

The reputation of residential surveyors has for some time, arguably, been one of not being very customer friendly, sometimes not overly helpful.

A little stiff maybe. But never have I thought of a surveyor as a Del Boy type character, out for a quick fix, moving on to the next job and not really caring about the quality of the service they are providing.

I know this through my years of experience in handing defect and valuation claims and the impact it has on the surveyor (and customer) when things go wrong.

I also know because of the lively debate we often have in the Surveyor Hub, the online community we at BlueBox Partners host on Facebook.

Meet Del Boy?

And yet I question, are we complicit in the equivalent of selling defective goods?

I was recently in the market for a new car, being the sensible parent, safety is of course paramount. Cars cannot be sold in the UK without a high standard of inspection and safety checks. We are required by law to have regular servicing, keep a log book and book in for a MOT.

While the requirement for a safety check sits with the dealer, mainly because the dealer has to ‘fix’ the car of there is a problem, there is not the same requirement for private sellers – it is very much buyer beware and the likes of the AA and RAC offer the equivalent of a survey.

Buying a car is probably the second most expensive thing we as consumers purchase and yet, when we purchase a house through a selling agent, there is no legal requirement to check it is safe. Oh, but there is the EPC requirement of course.

For all the challenges in the rental sector currently, private rented homes are required since 2004 to be classified under the Health and Safety Hazards Rating System (HHSRS).

This includes 29 potential hazards to be identified such as damp and mould growth, excess cold, asbestos, lead, electrical hazards and structural stability.

You, know, the stuff surveyors usually pick up on in their reports. The Habitation Act of March 2019 allows tenants (both social and private) to take landlords to court if a property is not fit. You can find out more here.

And yet while the majority of these issues are noted by surveyors on their surveys, and sometimes in valuation, the HHSRS category is not flagged.

This means the potential for a property to change hands through sale and purchase as unsafe his high. These properties at some point may be rented out in a non-decent state.

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So what if?

Surveyors have a responsibility to help people progress their house purchase, forewarned and forearmed with the knowledge they need to make important decisions.

A property rated as non-decent would have a significant impact for purchasers. It would improve their leverage to renegotiate a property purchase, help prioritising the works that might need to be done and significantly, influence their budgeting and planning.

If lenders insisted on a HHSRS rating as part of their lending criteria for both purchase and remortgage on properties scheduled for let, the ripple effect on the private rented sector and in turn consumers, would be HUGE.

The quality of the housing stock in the UK could start to improve and that would be no bad thing all-round. Valuers could pick up on many of the items while they inspected the property for mortgage valuation.

Landlords are often motivated by money and although they may not adhere to governments requirements on safety and local authorities may struggle to enforce the rules retrospectively, if there is the smallest possibility that their funds could be withdrawn, restricted or not available they will take action.

Make a difference

We have an opportunity to do something useful that’s fits nicely under the corporate social responsibility banner, that makes a difference and EVERYBODY in the housing sector can make it happen.

And so as part of the RICS Home Survey Standards Consultation, which is open to all, you can have your say and change the way we do things not just for those who can afford to purchase a home but for those who can’t and may well never be able to.

You can access the RICS consultation for a new mandatory RICS Home Survey Standard Here.

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