Page 1


TECHNICAL BULLETIN For members of the SAVA scheme

DREAM HOME OR WORST NIGHTMARE Is it okay for a surveyor to shatter their client’s dreams? Page 03

GAS BUSTERS PART 2 The gas safety regulations explained Page


UNDERSTANDING SAVA INSURANCE How SAVA works with your insurer on your behalf Page




MODERN METHODS OF CONSTRUCTION The 21st century conservatory Page




| MARCH 2016




Welcome to The SAVA Technical Bulletin. Here you will find articles, guides, convention changes and updates that focus on Home Condition Surveys and associated non-energy issues.

Is it okay for a surveyor to shatter their client’s dreams?

This publication is designed for members of the SAVA Scheme who offer the Home Condition Survey.


GAS BUSTERS PART 2 The gas safety regulations explained

We trust that you will find it useful in your day-to-day work and we welcome any feedback you have about what you would like to see covered in future editions.




How SAVA works with your insurer on your behalf

Head office: SAVA, National Energy Centre, Davy Avenue, Milton Keynes, MK5 8NA Telephone number: 01908 672787 Email: Web:


MODERN METHODS OF CONSTRUCTION The 21st century conservatory


CPD is a commitment by members to continually update their skills and knowledge in order to remain professionally competent. The SAVA Technical Bulletin is worth 30 minutes of CPD and can be recorded as such. More CPD can be found on the SAVA website.

SAVA is owned by National Energy Services (NES). While every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all content in this publication, NES has no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of NES. NES cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered by any person as a result of the content and the opinions expressed in this publication, or by any person acting or refraining to act as a result of the material included in this publication. All rights in this publication, including full copyright or publishing right, content and design, are owned by NES, except where otherwise described.




| MARCH 2016

DREAM HOME OR WORST NIGHTMARE Is it okay for a surveyor to shatter their client’s dreams? HILARY GRAYSON HEAD OF SURVEYING SERVICES, SAVA

It can be a thankless task being a residential surveyor. Usually, if a client has put an offer in on a home they have invested time and emotional energy into that property before you are called onto the scene.

didn’t want to trouble him to help and she was under the impression that a “mortgage valuation survey” would pick up any issues. It was on further discussion with family members that she realised that is not the case and began to worry that perhaps the valuation was not giving her the information she needed.

Many surveyors are understandably nervous about shattering their clients’ dreams but this case study illustrates how sometimes it pays to be bold and to tell it like it is. It also is a good example of why it is very helpful to have some understanding of your client and their particular circumstances, for one client’s dream home could be another’s worst nightmare.

The client contacted the surveyor again, this time in a bit of a panic because she had found a house, the legal process was fairly advanced and she was due to exchange contracts at the end of the week but had decided, somewhat late in the day, that she should have a survey. She instructed the surveyor on Saturday for the survey to be done the following Friday, the earliest the surveyor could book it in due to other commitments.

The property in question was an end terrace, late Victorian brick built house with a ground floor bay window. This particular property was in the home counties, but could easily have been almost anywhere in the UK.

The client put off exchanging contracts on the house until after the survey had been carried out, although she had exchanged on the original family home and her ex-partner had exchanged on his new property on the Wednesday. As arranged, the surveyor went round to the house on the Friday morning knowing that the contracts were due to be exchanged that day. There was understandable pressure from the client, but also from the estate agent, who was very unhelpful and exerting a lot of pressure on the client because of the delay in exchanging contracts.

It had two bedrooms, a single storey, flat roof rear extension (probably from the 1960s) and a loft conversion. Although the floors would have been suspended timber, the ground floor now had all solid floors. The client was known to the surveyor socially. She was a single mother with 2 children with a limited salary. The surveyor was aware that the client was looking for a new home as the family home was being sold, and had suggested that she should consider a more detailed condition survey. The client was getting a small mortgage and she had a large deposit from her share of the equity of the family home. A valuation inspection had been done on the property and the valuation report had raised no issues. The client’s father was seriously ill at the time and she

See the following page for the surveyor’s condition summary.




| MARCH 2016

With all of those CR3s it is difficult to pick out the two biggest concerns relating to this property but in the view of the surveyor the show stoppers were: 1. The damp 2. The loft conversion (or rather the roof structure)

The Damp

This property is a very good example of why it is so important to ‘follow the trail’ and to use the moisture meter where defects and deficiencies indicate there could be problems. It is also a very good example of how to use the ‘Summary of Dampness’ section of the report to full effect. Damp was found in the following areas: • The front bedroom wall (a patch next to the window) • Under the living room bay window and the party wall with the neighbouring property • The ground floor internal walls • Ground floor bathroom party wall and chimney breast • The internal wall separating the kitchen with the rear reception room (originally this would have been the external wall) • The chimney breast in the loft conversion • The external wall of the rear bedroom • The side wall (the end wall)

Following the Trail

So what lead the surveyor to find all of this damp? 1. Diligence and following the scheme rules – the surveyor used the moisture meter at 1m intervals on external and internal walls 2. Following the trail – there was a damp smell which the agent and Client had put down to the fact that the property was empty and had been for approximately 2 years 3. Following the trail – no visual original damp proof course 4. Following the trail – an injected DPC along the side wall 5. Following the trail – the surveyor noted under D5 (Main Walls) Some of the brickwork is suffering from frost attack and the pointing is weak/missing in places 6. Following the trail – although the property had been plastered/painted white in the last couple of years there were odd patches with a yellowish tinge e.g. chimney breast, front bedroom wall by window




| MARCH 2016

Reporting the Damp to the Client

The surveyor used the Summary of Dampness section in full, providing the client with detailed photographs indicating with red lines the extent of the dampness. Eight photographs showing all the major areas of damp were included in this section and the surveyor cross referenced the damp to the other sections of the report.

The Loft Conversion

This property had a loft conversion. There was no indication how old the loft conversion was but the surveyor noted the following issues (in addition to the damp chimney breast mentioned in the summary of dampness): 1. Lack of fire doors 2. Lack of windows for escape 3. Inappropriate balustrades

However, the most alarming issue was the roof structure. The surveyor noted that the gable end wall was leaning out slightly at the top. But even before getting on site the surveyor had done some research on the property and had found photographs showing the inside of the loft conversion. It was clear that the purlin had been removed at some time. This photograph was included in the report. At the time of the inspection the purlin had been replaced – or rather a new beam was visible in the loft room. What



THE SAVA TECHNICAL BULLETIN was not visible, however, was the detailing showing how the beam was attached to the gable end wall or the party wall. For all the surveyor knew the ‘new beam’ could simply have been hanging from the rafters.

| MARCH 2016

it is to undertake research before going on site. In this case the surveyor really struck lucky, finding a photograph of the loft room without a purlin, and then reviewed against photographs taken while on site, which clearly show a replacement timber of some sort.

The Outcome

Because of the pressure of time, knowing that the client was supposed to exchange contracts later that day and the additional research required by the legal adviser, the surveyor phoned the client while still on site to inform her of the findings.

Interestingly the surveyor put the roof structure as Not Inspected and did not put a CR3 on the justification that further investigation was needed. However, this was covered under Section D5 – Main Walls: Gable End Wall.

Despite the fact that the client was selling the family home, and had already exchanged, and this was just before Christmas, the surveyor was honest and frank – particularly being aware of the limited financial resources that would be available to the client when she moved in. The result? The client pulled out of the sale at the 11th hour! But fully recognising that had she proceeded with the purchase the dream home would rapidly have become her worst nightmare. The agent was, understandably, very annoyed but the surveyor wrote the report up anyway and gave a copy to the client to show the agent to justify why she pulled out (she did not want to jeopardise her own position if that agent marketed another property that might be suitable). The client had to quickly find alternative rented accommodation – not ideal but a much better option than proceeding with this house.

On further conversation with the client, this addition to the roof structure, which had occurred during the current owner’s occupancy, had not been declared on any paperwork provided to the solicitor.

Hopefully, the client will know to get a survey next time and earlier on in the process. Although, in effect, the survey made her ‘homeless’, she was very grateful to the surveyor for being frank about the property.

Desk Study

While the defect at the top of the gable end wall was clearly visible to the naked eye, this illustrates just how important


The case of Roberts v Hampson and Co (1989) established the precedent of following the trail of suspicion when undertaking an inspection. “if there is specific grounds for suspicion and the trail of suspicion leads further behind furniture or under carpets, the surveyor must take reasonable steps to follow the trail until he has all the information which is reasonable for him to have” This does not mean that the surveyor has to go beyond the scope of the inspection (for example lifting floor boards) but it does mean that the surveyor should be alert to all possible deficiencies and defects and explore how they might impact on the property being inspected. For example, a faulty gutter immediately suggests checking for damp at ceiling level adjacent to the fault.




| MARCH 2016


In the last edition of the SAVA Technical Bulletin we published a flavour of some of the activities and items to look out for when surveying any given property which has a gas installation of some type. In this issue, we will start to provide a little more detail on achieving a better understanding of gas appliance installations and how to identify warning signs for dangerous installations.

conducting a combustion analysis check on the appliance with a calibrated analyser. So, as a rule of thumb, if you need a screwdriver or any tool whatsoever to check an appliance, you are probably overstepping the ‘competence’ mark. Keep the term ‘visual inspection’ clearly in your mind and you will not go far wrong but be clear that not being able to open the boiler casing to correctly identify the boiler make will be a limitation of inspection.

It is certainly worth again reiterating at this point that there are stringent regulations in place around working with gas, and any individual who is able to work on gas, must be deemed as competent. Competence in the eyes of the HSE is to be an approved member of the Gas Safe register, and hold the specific qualifications relating to whichever appliance is going to be worked on.

I have put together a small checklist for overall thoughts and consideration, which should be a useful way of considering all gas safety requirements:

So when am I ‘working on gas?’ Well, possibly the most common misconception for many non registered individuals who have a vested interest in reporting on and determining the safety of a gas installation, would be relates to boilers, and specifically, boiler cases.

1. Gas safety legislation and Standards

There are a number of publications relating to safe operation for gas installation activity, and one useful document to have printed out and kept with you in the event of uncertainty is the Industry unsafe situations procedure. This document is the primary driver for knowing how best to respond/act on a dangerous installation.

Where there is a boiler present in a property, and it is a ‘room sealed’ appliance, unless you are Gas Safe registered, you cannot remove the outer casing of the appliance to check for data information etc. The casing structure on many (not all) room sealed boilers, forms part of the actual integrity of the combustion process for the appliance, and as such there are sealing strips and gaskets in place to ensure the safe operation of the appliance. Where a case is removed from the appliance and subsequently replaced, the only true way of ensuring that the gas and air mixture and combustion process has not been compromised is by Industry_Unsafe_Situation_Procedure_(GIUSP)_ Edition_7.0_v1.pdf

2. Gas emergency actions and procedures

In accordance with the GIUSP publication, if you Identify an installation which you regard as suspicious or potentially dangerous you must respond reasonably: You should




| MARCH 2016

6. Using your nose

seek professional advice immediately and advise the ‘responsible person’ to turn off their gas supply at the mains pending a visit from a competent and authorised person.

Clearly any indication of gas escapes or smells that could be caused by fumes should be immediately reported to the person who is responsible for the premises. Such incidences are classed as ‘immediately dangerous’ because if the installation is used it will constitute a danger to life or property.

3. Products and characteristics of combustion

There are over 100 admissions to hospital each year from suspected carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and around 50 fatalities. Carbon monoxide is far more likely to be the cause of a dangerous situation than, say, a gas explosion.

In practical terms the only person who can legally allow a gas supply to be disconnected is either the gas supplier or the ‘responsible person’ and only a gas engineer can make such an installation safe by, in effect, putting the appliance or installation beyond use by physically disconnecting it from the gas supply. If the responsible person refuses to allow this, then the gas engineer must notify the gas supplier who must then take action to make the installation safe.

CO is created where a flame is burning without a sufficient oxygen supply, and where this occurs, the products of combustion create a much higher concentration of CO. Where these products find themselves spilling into a living area, then the potential for CO poisoning is clearly heightened. As the majority of boilers are now room sealed appliances, very few are likely to spill products of combustion into a living area. Even so, and where possible, it is always worth visually inspecting the seam along the case structure for any signs such as brown marks identifying leakage of fumes.

In practical terms, a surveyor may not have contact with the responsible person. If the home owner is not present during the survey and if the surveyor has this suspicion, then the best option is to immediately abort the survey and report this concern to the agent and ask them to contact the ‘responsible person’.

Far more likely to create a dangerous situation will be an open flued gas appliance, such as a gas fire in a living room. It is always worth checking the chimney pots/termination as you walk into a property to establish that there are appropriate pots installed for a gas appliance, as this can be a good early indicator of potential dangers. Once inside the property, look for any evidence of staining or scorching around the tops of gas fires which may indicate an issue. Some appliances have a requirement for an air vent within the room, and unfortunately there is a natural tendency during the winter for the home owner to block up the vent and get the fire burning at full blast. If the home owner also has draft exclusion installed and double glazing etc. this technically starves the appliance of any oxygen, and will be slowly poisoning the occupants every time they turn on the appliance. It is, therefore, well worth checking for cling film/ wall paper over any of the vents.

Clearly there is a duty of care placed on the surveyor in such a situation so we have also checked with the legal team at the Insurers on this point. They confirmed the following: “A ‘better safe than sorry’ approach is the best for this kind of situation – the surveyor should try and ensure that they bring it to the attention of the relevant parties as promptly as possible. If the surveyor is able to speak to the responsible person directly at a later time and alert them to the matter, then it would be prudent to do so. From a legal perspective, however, it is correct in saying that as long as the surveyor does notify the sales agent, then they should be in the clear. Ultimately, the sales agent represents the vendor, and under agency law, notifying the agent of the problem would have the same effect as telling the vendor.”

4. Ventilation

As mentioned above, good ventilation is critical to the burning of an open flued appliance, and it is imperative that any air vent installed for this purpose is clear of obstruction, does not have a fly mesh installed, and is not closeable.

7. Chimneys and flues

5. Installation of pipework and fittings

It is always worth running your eye over as much of the visible gas pipework as possible, from the gas meter right through to each appliance, allowing for the fact that much of this will not be exposed.

Open Flued Appliances If there is an open (sometimes called conventional) flued appliance in a room, such as a gas fire, and the appliance is ventilated via a chimney then, as a surveyor, you can still make a visual check. The products of combustion (POCs) travel up the flue in the chimney by natural draught or ‘flue pull’ and clearly anything that impedes the flue pull will compromise the discharge of the POCs.

It is also worth checking to ensure that all visible pipework is suitably secured and stable and that there is no sign of corrosion or other damage or anything that might compromise the tightness of the system.

There are four main parts of the flue – the primary flue and draught diverter (usually part of the appliance itself), the secondary flue and the terminal, which is fitted to the top of the secondary flue.



THE SAVA TECHNICAL BULLETIN The purpose of the terminal is to:

| MARCH 2016

used. With a balanced flue the terminal will be part of the appliance but must be located so as to:

• Help flue gases discharge from the flue

• Prevent combustion products from re-entering the building (not immediately below an opening such as an airbrick or window)

• Prevent rain, birds, leaves etc. from entering the flue and compromising the safety of the appliance • Minimise down draughts

• Allow free air movement

The terminal must be suitable for the appliance type fitted to the flue. Terracotta chimney rain inserts are not suitable for use with gas appliances. If a terminal is missing or not appropriate this should alert you to the need for further investigation even if a Gas Safety certificate is present. (remember, like an MOT or indeed a survey, the Gas Safety Certificate will only report on what the gas engineer finds on the date of the inspection and it is perfectly feasible for something to have changed between the gas engineers visit and the date of the survey).

• Prevent any nearby features/obstacles from causing an imbalance around the terminal. For Chimney/Flue output positions see the table below.

Below are examples of acceptable flues. However, it is important to realise that flue suitability is dependent on the type of appliance to which it is connected.

Chimney caps, such as those shown here, are not suitable to be used as a ‘terminal’.

Room Sealed systems With these systems the air intake and POC outlet are at the same point. In practical terms there is greater flexibility as to where these appliances can be fitted but it must be within the vicinity of an external wall or roof termination. The POC outlet and air intake are at the same point and so at equal pressure, hence the term ‘balanced flue’ is often

In practical terms it is unlikely, though not impossible, that an appliance was incorrectly installed in the first place. What is more likely is that a building alteration has been undertaken which has compromised the safety of a balanced flue. (A classic example would be constructing a conservatory around a flue terminal and when surveying a property you should be particularly alert to such situations).

CAPTION CORNER A creative builder has been at work! Please send us your caption suggestions to by Friday 1st April 2016 for a chance to win a prize. The winner will be published in the next bulletin! Do you have a picture for the next edition? Send any photos for consideration to the email address above.




| MARCH 2016


How insurers view a claim

In the last issue of the SAVA Technical Bulletin (Issue 20) we included an article on Managing Complaints. This article expands on our previous article and explains in more detail how we work with our insurers on your behalf should a complaint, unfortunately, be escalated to us.

It is probably worth starting by explaining how the insurers work. When we notify them of a possible claim, a number of organisations are involved – we initially notify the Insurance Broker who then informs Hiscox, the insurance company. Claims are then handled on behalf of Hiscox by a specialist legal firm.

As you know, a key feature of your membership of the SAVA Scheme is the support we provide to help you manage any complaints you may have. It is an unfortunate reality that things do go wrong and that an aggrieved home owner, in many cases without justification, looks around for someone to blame. The surveyor is the professional who is often the easy target. Of course, sometimes the surveyor gets it wrong (even the very best and most experienced surveyor can have an off day) but if you do, we are here to help.

First of all, and despite what many people think, the insurers and claims handlers don’t rush to settle a claim. NES Ltd (SAVA’s parent company) is the client and they view us as such and the approach taken is to work in our best interest (and therefore the best interest of our members) when a potential claim arises.

As we reported, managing a complaint can be very time consuming. On average, a complaint that we manage on your behalf involves logging, recording and actioning at least 40 individual pieces of communication. If the insurer is involved, the number increases to in excess of 70 items. We basically act as the facilitator of communication between the complainant and the investigating party. We aim to keep you updated as to the progress of the complaint, requesting further information from you if needed.

The first thing they will do is call for all evidence. In most cases we will have already asked you for this as we will look at the complaint/potential claim as soon as you notify us to get a feel for complaint and to make an initial judgement on the likely outcome. If you have uploaded all the photographs and site notes etc. onto NES one, we will look at those. In most cases surveyors have not uploaded everything and we will have to contact you for all of your photographs and all the records of the inspection and site notes.

This is a key feature of your SAVA membership, and you should never feel embarrassed or worried about reporting a complaint or possible claim to us. It is our job to help sort it out and, wherever possible, to have a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

Once we have collated all the relevant information we make an initial analysis of the evidence (for instance including comment on the use of the SAVA Protocol or the terms of engagement) and we pass the evidence and our initial analysis on to the claims handlers. They formally 10



| MARCH 2016

6. We will look to see what documents you have lodged but usually have to call for more

review everything they have – communication from the complainant, everything the surveyor has provided and any commentary we make.

7. You send us all your photos and site notes etc. and any comment you want to make on the claim

The approach they take is ‘What would happen if the claim goes to court?’ and the rule they then apply is ‘Could the claim be successfully defended?’ The claims handlers are much more experienced than we are over litigation – they have more experience and a better understanding of the views of the courts. Consequently they always apply this experience when they advise us of the approach to take.

Some recent claims and lessons to be learnt

As we reported previously, complaints for Home Condition Surveys can be diverse - ranging from drainage problems and leaking taps to woodworm and cracked floor tiles. However, more than 50% of claims and complaints arise as a result of damp - missing the damp, not reporting correctly on the damp or because the client did not understand the issues reported.

When they have reviewed a case, the claims handlers will give us a form of words to pass on to the claimant. Very often, and particularly where we both feel a claim is unjustified or easily defended, the communication – to the claimant - will come from NES rather than the insurer. This is a conscious decision. In the experience of the insurance industry, as soon as a claimant is aware of the direct involvement of an insurance company there is a much greater chance that they will ‘dig their heels in’ – feeling that they are much more likely to ‘win’ and seeing an insurer as an easy financial target.

No matter how old the property, it is essential that all surveyors should approach all surveys with the following attitude: “This property will have some dampness and it is down to me to prove otherwise” It is the surveyor’s job to find the damp, report on it appropriately and to apply the correct Condition Rating.

Also, and this is a very important point, the claims handlers will also take a pragmatic and commercial approach when considering a potential claim. Going to court is very costly for all concerned and sometimes the claims handlers will advise that we make the claimant an offer, without admitting liability, to simply ‘close the matter down’. Although if they accept an offer it is still possible for a claimant to pursue a claim via the courts, the reality is that the courts will take a dim view of case where the claimant has agreed to accept a payment but still pursues the matter.

We cannot emphasise how important it is that: • Moisture meter readings are taken and clearly indicated on floor/sketch plans (including not just where they were taken but what the readings were) (Case law supports this approach – see Murdoch v Murrells [1995] ) • Moisture meter readings are taken at 1m intervals on external walls, but also should be taken on internal walls and areas where you suspect that deficiencies or defects in the construction could be cause for damp to get into the fabric of the property

We have had a number of surveyors understandably ‘upset’ that we have settled a claim in this way. But if we do make this decision with the claims handlers we do so with everybody’s best interests in mind. If we did have to go to court it would cost us much more (the legal fees alone would be likely to at least match the value of the claim) and the ultimate result would be that our premium would go up. We would have no option but to pass that premium increase onto all our surveyors. Also, it would inevitably eat into the surveyors’ time and cause a great deal of additional upset and worry. It is our view that we should do all we can to avoid litigation.

• Anything that limits your inspection and which prevent readings from being taken (such as furniture, carpets, the seller’s possessions etc.) are included on the floor plan and also ideally photographed as well • The report identifies any potential issues or highlights that the conveyancer should check possible existing warranties and these are clearly indicated in the relevant sections of the report. • You are alert to any defect or deficiency that could lead to problems and ‘follow the trail’

The SAVA process

• You always follow the SAVA protocol and record your decision making (Note: if you come across an example where the protocol does not work, still use it but report it to us and we will investigate. The protocol is a working document – it is not set in stone and we accept that it may need amending from time to time.)

1. You should have your own clear complaints process 2. In the first instance this should involve you trying to resolve the complaint 3. In the event that you cannot do so, then escalate to SAVA 4. But you must tell us as soon as you can if you think there is a more than 50% likelihood that the complaint could result in a claim

Successful claims against SAVA surveyors

Example 1 – not following the protocol: The surveyor carried out a Home Condition Survey and on visual inspection the electrics looked acceptable (there was a modern consumer unit and visible earth bonding). However, there was no valid test certificate available.

5. We take over and handle the discussions with the claims investigators appointed by the insurer



THE SAVA TECHNICAL BULLETIN As there was no certificate the surveyor should have applied a Condition Rating 3 in accordance with the SAVA protocol (simply requiring further investigation) but applied a Condition Rating 1 based on the visual inspection. (See SAVA Technical Bulletin Issue 11.)

| MARCH 2016

surveyor, access was impossible. (It is interesting to note that the discussion relating to this claim did not discuss this issue, although some people might argue that the surveyor could have accessed the loft hatch.)

When the purchasers moved in they found the electrics to be faulty (albeit the faults would have been hidden at the time of the inspection) and consequently had the property re-wired and made a claim against the surveyor. In this case the investigation was swift because the surveyor admitted that they made a mistake and had not applied the protocol correctly in relation to ‘Services that Kill’. The claim was settled and the full cost of rewiring was covered. Example 2 – not following the trail of suspicion: The surveyor carried out an inspection on an older property that had been extended several times over the years. The house was very well presented and seemed well maintained. They survey was carried out in July.

Picture 3 – seller’s possessions in the utility area limiting access to the loft hatch

The back of the property included a single story extension kitchen (See Pictures 1 and 2) with a shallow pitch roof covered in tiles.

The house was very well presented and the kitchen was clean and tidy, with no evidence of staining on the date of inspection. The surveyor reported that: “The kitchen extension to the rear is very shallow pitch and coated in plain clay tiles and concrete plain tiles laid double lap. This roof has a very shallow pitch and rain could blow under the tiles.” Condition Rating 1. On moving in the purchasers discovered that the kitchen extension roof leaked where it joined the main wall and indeed there was a drip tray in the roof void to catch the water. They made a successful claim against the surveyor for re-roofing the kitchen extension. The claim succeeded because the surveyor had not followed the trail (although noting that the pitch was very shallow and that water could blow underneath a CR 1 was applied to this element).

Picture 1 – view of kitchen and utility ‘extension’ from the garden

The surveyor failed to follow the trail of suspicion – at the very least they should have tested for dampness on the ceiling and timbers (they did report to the client that the pitch was shallow) and/or suggested further investigation by accessing the loft hatch and roof void. Simply noting the deficiency but not following it through lead to a successful claim.

Handing Back Fees

This is potentially a very contentious issue because a lot of surveyors quite understandably feel that if something goes wrong the matter can be quickly sorted out by offering to refund the client their fee.

Picture 2 – view of Kitchen ‘extension’ from dining area, with utility area just beyond

However, we have discussed this with the insurers and it is something that they are very uncomfortable about. We and they have no control over any wording you might use

There was an access hatch to the roof void from within the utility area but this was cluttered and, in the view of the



THE SAVA TECHNICAL BULLETIN and, in their experience, such an action is often carried out without careful consideration and therefore, can often be interpreted as an admission of fault on the part of the surveyor. We are aware of a number of surveyors who have handed back a fee and the matter has, luckily, gone away. However, our insurers have experience where the client has still gone to litigation and their case has been considerably strengthened by the surveyor ‘trying to do the right thing’.

| MARCH 2016

3. It is okay to call for further investigation if an inspection is limited, but you must tell the client of any limitations of inspection clearly in the report and record them in your site notes (using photographs where appropriate) 4. Make sure you could, if necessary, defend your position in a court of law. Would your records, either your record of inspection or photos be able to ‘prove’ what you saw or deduced? 5. We are here to help – follow your own complaints procedure (which we are happy to review for you) but notify us if there is any chance that a complaint could lead to a claim

So, tempting though it might be, do not give back a client’s fee. Instead use your complaints procedure and then escalate the matter to us to handle appropriately.

Conclusions 1. Follow the SAVA Protocol and record your decisions (if you think that the Protocol is not working don’t change it by yourself but contact us) 2. ‘Follow the Trail’ – if there is a defect or deficiency then consider what other building elements may be impacted


Under the terms of our policy, we are obliged to notify the insurance company when there is a: “Shortcoming that is likely to lead to a claim against you” In practice this means that we are obliged to notify the insurer if we are aware of any activity that is more than 50% likely to lead to a claim against the policy. As a rule of thumb, this is when a matter is not settled/resolved after one conversation. This rule applies to everyone – all of our staff and all assessors and surveyors who rely on the NES policy for Professional Indemnity and Public Liability cover.


When we take over a complaint from you we will need access to all of your photographs and site notes etc. The sooner you can get all of this to us, the better. Don’t wait for us to ask you. When you notify us we suggest you begin to collate everything. You may have to transfer information to a CD or memory stick if your files are very large and cannot be emailed. That is fine. Also, it is worth noting that you should let us have everything, not just what you think might be relevant. Please let us and our legal experts be the judge of that.




| MARCH 2016


Non-traditional methods of construction have been a substantial feature of the residential urban landscape for over 100 years. In the 20th century the need to build quickly and cheaply forced the development of over 1500 variants on the timber frame, the steel frame and various concrete formed housing designs. Iconic names such as Airey, Wimpey No-Fines, Trusteel, BISF and Swedish amongst others will be well known to our surveyors. Large scale development of these houses took place particularly following the Second World War but tailed off into the 1970s and 1980s: The issues with PRC housing designs, leading to the list of designated defective housing defined in the Housing Act 1985, signalled a decline in most of the remaining forms of non-traditional housing construction. This in part was determined by the reluctance of lenders to provide funds for purchase by home owners.

and the Council of Mortgage Lenders to provide assurance to the lending community and valuers, that non-traditional systems of construction can be used in new house-building with total confidence and traceability of some of the more innovative designs. There are, however, many examples of modern methods of construction creeping into the extension and alteration of traditional homes. You will encounter many upper floor extensions, for example, that are constructed in modern timber frame rather than match the traditional cavity brick construction of the surrounding dwelling. The other area where such modern methods have been adopted is in conservatory extensions. This is generally used in the setting out of the conservatory bases and spotting these innovations is not always that easy.

Lower cost modern timber frame then largely replaced the variety of non-traditional forms but non-traditional construction designs have continued to be developed and championed by a stalwart band of developers who search for a solution to cheaper forms of housing construction, or to adapt techniques developed for commercial property construction. In the last couple of decades joint ventures developers and manufacturers such as the Corus steel frame houses have been tried with varying rates of success.

One such system is the Durabase system. The Durabase System comprises of a bespoke steel base and modular wall, made to fit the specifications of the conservatory upper frame design. The manufacturer stated: “It provides a safe, strong and firm foundation for your conservatory. Durabase arrives in kit form and is suitable for both professional and DIY construction. The only foundations required are a number of concrete pads placed at strategic points around the base.”

The term “non-traditional” has been replaced with “Modern Methods of Construction” in the last couple of decades to shake off the stigma of the past. Most recently the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) has been developed by Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Building Life Plans, Buildoffsite, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

The base of this structure is formed of a steel frame, supported by and fixed to the concrete pad foundations. This supports a suspended steel joist floor structure that is later covered by flooring. A skirting wall, which looks like 14


THE SAVA TECHNICAL BULLETIN a traditional brick wall, is then secured to a base frame. A DPC is laid over this.

| MARCH 2016

Even the internal dry-wall lining is difficult to distinguish from a plasterboard dry lining secured to the internal leaf of blockwork.

The finished product looks very much like a traditional cavity brick wall below the timber or uPVC frame above. The external walls are formed in timber panels secured to an alloy frame.

The finished conservatory looks just like a traditionally built structure supporting a uPVC frame. The energy efficiency requirements of building regulations are met by insulating the walls and use of foil-backed plasterboard to achieve a U-value of 0.27W/m2k. The floor U-value of 0.22W/m2k can be achieved using the Durabaseplus floor system.

Brick slips are then applied to the junction of panels to complete the look of the traditional wall and the joints between the brick slips are pointed up with a mortar to match that of the main panels.

For a list of current BOPAS scheme members see http://, the Buildoffsite website also provides a search facility to check if there are any buildings constructed by members in a particular postcode http://


In the last SAVA Bulletin (Nov 2015) you might remember we included an article called ‘Insect Attack’ that explored woodworm in detail. As luck would have it, just recently we spoke with a home buyer who could have been faced with a rather nasty and costly surprise had it not been for her surveyor’s keen eye. The home buyer, Rachael from Milton Keynes, explained how she and her partner were looking to take their first step onto the housing ladder and thought they had found their ideal home – they had even had their offer on the property accepted. “Getting a survey was the next sensible step for us, we’re first time buyers, so we need all the help we can get. We ended up Googling tips for home buyers and that’s when we read about getting a survey.” Rachael admitted that she only truly realised the value of the survey when she read the report. It showed that, not only had the surveyor identified woodworm, but he also discovered it was so bad that the door and window frames throughout the property would need replacing. With this in mind, Rachael and her partner considered this against their budget and subsequently decided not to go ahead with the purchase. “We have never bought a property before so we would never have known what to look for. The house seemed perfect for us on the surface, but the novelty wore off when we realised the potential repair costs. There’s a lot of contradictory information out there. One article argues the benefits of a survey while another tells you they’re a waste of money. But I’d rather spend £400 on a survey than £150,000 on a house that’s falling apart.”


SAVA Technical Bulletin March 2016  

The SAVA Technical Bulletin contains articles, guides, convention changes and updates that focus on Home Condition Surveys and associated no...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you