I’ve just come back from a survey looking at a lovely basement, but with some damp in one corner.
My investigation almost immediately revealed that the basement has type ‘A’ structural waterproofing some some sort of minor defect. For the uninitiated hear alarm bells and bad news!
I did some further investigation before informing my client that the waterproof barrier has a small defect on the other side of this wall somewhere within a 3m2 area. The lovely couple asked for the solution and I duly explained that the only real solution is to install a sump and pump and cavity drain membrane to the entire basement. This seemingly small defect will cost over £40,000 to put right!
At the same moment my client comprehended the possible cost they began bad mouthing the chartered surveyor to whom they paid £900 when they first purchased the property.
Here are my top tips for building surveyors when looking at a property with a converted basement:
1. Inform the client of what you notice.
The nature of the building survey is that you’re obliged to inform the client of any defect you notice; but that doesn’t necessarily mean diagnose.
2. Refer to a specialist.
I know you’ve been annoyed by the ‘report’ that some “damp specialists” have provided in the past but there really are some genuine specialists out there who know what they’re doing when it comes to structural waterproofing. Point your client to the Property Care Association and encourage them to find an independent surveyor who holds the following qualification: Certificated Surveyor in Structural Waterproofing.
3. Refer your client to their legal advisers
Your client needs to know whether the work carried out was done correctly. Records from building control along with reports and guarantees from structural waterproofing specialists should be collected by solicitors as part of due diligence during the conveyance. However, does your client or the solicitor know what to look for? Surely not. I think that the outstanding building surveyor would both notify the solicitor of the need for documents and inform them what to be looking for. Going further still the solicitor should supply the independent specialist surveyor with this information and ask for an opinion.
Even if the structural waterproofing was carried out perfectly, has the system been maintained. Will the guarantee company easily assign guarantees to your client when they are the owner; or will it only then come to light that the vendor hasn’t paid for proper maintenance and the guarantees are void.
Here’s my shortlist for what a solicitor should collect from the vendor:
- copies of structural waterproofing company’s
- receipt confirming payment was made in full
- maintenance schedule (this may be provided through a third party)
- copies of sign off from building control
- copies of maintenance records
- a formal letter from guarantee issuing company that they will willingly assign the guarantee upon completion