Article 18 - Secretive woodworm and deceptive damp
An article discussing the problems associated with getting estimates for repairs.
If your property needs repair then in most circumstances it is usually obvious what is required because the gutter has fallen off or some slates have slipped etc. All those whom you invite to estimate for the repair is looking at the same broken gutter or slipped slates so from this point of view it is a level playing field. There will be some builders who may try to talk you into complete new gutters or a new roof but that’s life and most will make their own judgement in these circumstances.
Do you have a problem?
But what happens if the problem that you may have is not so obvious, such as secretive woodworm or deceptive damp. It gets even more difficult if this less than obvious problem is in a property that you are purchasing and it is your surveyor or Mortgage Company that has drawn the possibility that it may be present to your attention?
If it were a potential timber or damp problem then the normal course of action would be to consult Yellow Pages or ask your surveyor or estate agent if they know of a company that could help. You are now almost certainly going to be reliant upon a company whose primary source of income is carrying out treatment work. As woodworm infestation and to a lesser extent damp problems are not as obvious as a broken gutter you are totally reliant upon the skill, expertise and honesty of the surveyor from the company that you have instructed. However it is not unknown for some surveyors to be on commission or some other form of sales incentive which, in some circumstances, must create the potential for over enthusiastic treatment specifications.
Diagnose, execute and profit
The building preservation industry is no different to many other service industries in the way that it operates. The usual scenario is for a representative or surveyor who works for a company that will ultimately profit from carrying out any work, to diagnose the problem and justify the work they consider necessary to rectify the problem. It should however be borne in mind that the primary source of income for most building preservation companies is derived from carrying out treatment work that their own representatives diagnose and deem to be necessary.
Another problem lies with the public who in most cases expect a survey to be carried out for no charge. Very often three or four surveys are obtained and the potential client then becomes confused when comparing these surveys as each found something different. This does not happen with structural surveys because of the cost involved and it is therefore almost certain that only one survey will be commissioned thus the opportunity for comparison seldom happens.
What should happen?
The preservation industry has reached a mature plateau and as a consequence many of the properties now being inspected have been the subject of previous treatment, perhaps more than once, thus one could argue that the skill and expertise required to accurately diagnose a potential problem has increased.
Since 1980 examinations have existed for surveyors in the building preservation industry and over the years further examinations have been introduced and candidates passing all three exam modules are a Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatment (CSRT). The fact remains however that CSRT is an individual qualification and it is probably true that even qualified surveyors have to react to the dictate of their employing company.
The industry is in a position to provide the consumer with a very good overall package. Qualified surveyors exist to make a correct diagnosis of any potential timber or rising damp problem and insurance exists to provide the consumer with an insured guarantee to protect the validity of a long-term guarantee issued following any treatment undertaken.
In our opinion the best course of action is to engage an experienced independent specialist surveyor to investigate and diagnose any timber or damp problem. If necessary the independent surveyor should draw up a specification of work considered necessary which is then put out to tender thus each company is quoting for the same work.
Of course an independent surveyor will cost money but he will be working for you which in many cases will save you money by preventing unnecessary work from being undertaken – and yes we have a vested interest in independent surveys – that is what we do!
Which way the industry goes however very much depends upon whether the consumer is prepared to pay for an independent survey or pay for work deemed necessary by the company who will profit from doing it.
For more information about Peter’s independent survey service click here.