Inconsistent Standards in Valuing Housing Disrepair Cases

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Inconsistent Standards in Valuing Housing Disrepair Cases
 Allaya Hussain
Legally reviewed by: Allaya Hussain Updated: In: Housing Disrepair

Legal Futures’ Housing Condition Conference in Manchester calls for a single source of expert evidence to combat inconsistencies in valuing housing disrepair cases.

Housing Associations Undervaluing Cost of Repairs While Surveyors are Overestimating Them

With housing associations undervaluing the cost of repairs during the claim proceedings, whilst surveyors for claimants are overestimating them, the conference calls for a ‘single expert witness surveyor’ for defendants and claimants. It is hoped that appointing a single expert to both sides, will result in better agreements and resolve issues of housing disrepair more efficiently with less adverse costs.

Formation of the Housing Condition Strategy Group

To tackle the issue of inconsistent standards amongst surveyors, The Housing Condition Strategy Group has formed to improve the quality of work the surveyors use in disrepair cases.  The group is formed of chartered surveyors, social landlords, solicitors, and barristers both from the defendants and claimants’ side of housing disrepair cases. Furthermore, members of the group include housing associations such as Onward Homes and Stockport Council.

Mr Milner, a chartered surveyor, and member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), states: “Traditionally, the role of the chartered surveyor in expert witness cases has been in low volume, higher value claims.

“It’s been a niche within which a smaller number of surveyors have operated.

“With the increase in housing condition repair claims, there has been a movement to higher volume, lower value cases.”

He adds: “With the tragic events that led to the creation of Awaab’s Law, fuel poverty, energy crisis and cost of living issues, this created a perfect storm of publicity that increased the number of surveyors operating in the market.”

There is a “shortage of experienced surveyors, who understand the nuances this type of work brings, and the skills shortage has meant that lesser experienced surveyors have come into the marketplace”.

He adds that there was “increased concern” about the quality of expert witness functions being performed by RICS members while the body put out an alert “requiring immediate action” from its members to “address the evident failure of some members to comply with mandatory standards”.

“The Housing Conditions Strategy Group acknowledges this and seeks to assist this through collaboration and guidance with parties to address these issues and also to look at those upcoming challenges,” he concludes.

Addressing the Quality of Evidence

In recent years, claimants and defendants have become firmly rooted in their positions when experts’ evidence challenges their position. As a result, we are increasingly moving away from a desire for single joint experts. In some cases, surveyors are even being viewed as ‘hatchet-men’ or viewed as one sided, supporting only the claimant or the defendant. It is hoped that improving the standard of quality of surveyor’s evidence, will result in simpler joint expert instructions, resolving housing disrepair claims faster.

Creating a Benchmark for Surveyors

During the conference Mr Paterson, chartered surveyor and managing director at Paterson associates stated, “One of the things we’ve talked a lot about is training and creating a new widely recognised benchmark that isn’t currently there.”

To address the lack of a consistent training course for surveyors, the group will be putting together something that gives more consistency, leading to more trust and “ultimately, single trade, a single data structure.”

Surveyors Being Paid on Results

During the conference a member of the audience raised the issue of remuneration, stating that some solicitors are being “paid on results.”

Mr Paterson addressed the issue stating that surveyors should be remunerated on surveys where they do not find evidence of what the client is looking for.

Another audience member who used to represent social landlords, added that the housing associations and councils were not using experts to survey.

Mr Paterson responded that this can often come down to financial pressures that social housing landlords are facing. It is hoped that establishing the group will get the ball rolling on finding solutions for these problems. He adds that the group wants to work with social landlords to understand the barriers they are facing.

AWH Supporting the Housing Condition Strategy Group

The Legal Futures’ Housing Condition Conference has opened the discussion on the inconsistencies in the valuation of housing disrepair cases.

The formation of the Housing Condition Strategy Group is a promising step towards re-establishing a single source of expert evidence to create a system that is both efficient and providing high quality surveyor work.

The collaborative involvement of chartered surveyors, social landlords, and legal professionals, emphasises the importance of benchmarked training and standards for surveyors. As the group works towards bettering evidence in housing disrepair cases, we hope to see better agreements and resolutions that will benefit both claimants and defendants.

AWH Solicitors’ housing disrepair team is committed to supporting initiatives that enhance the integrity and efficiency of the housing disrepair claims process, resulting in both fair and accurate outcomes for all parties.

Our team of experienced solicitors can advise you on your rights and options if you are living in a property with disrepair issues. We can also assist you in navigating the claims process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

For a free consultation, please contact AWH Solicitors today.