Rising damp

The Property Ombudsman, Rebecca Marsh, reviews a complaint about an agent’s surveyor’s work.

Damp kitchen image

As well as dealing with complaints about agency services, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) also deals with complaints concerning surveys provided by member businesses. In this case TPO was asked to review a dispute from buyers who were concerned with the agent’s surveyor’s survey and valuation service.

Link to The Property Ombudsman
Rebecca Marsh

The buyers complained that the surveyor failed to identify damp in the property as part of the inspection which led to a missed opportunity to renegotiate the sale price to take into account the damp issue. The agent’s surveyor responded saying that, as per the RICS Building Survey Practice Note, they carry out random damp tests and that “where only random damp tests are carried out, damp may be located in other areas of the property which are not randomly tested.”

In this case, the Level 2 RICS HomeBuyer Report prepared by the surveyor was considered. The report provided an observation on the overall condition of the property on the day of the inspection.


The buyers provided TPO a photograph of one of two areas that showed damp, which was taken after they moved into the property. However, within the content of the surveyor’s report, there was no mention of damp being visible at the property at the time of the inspection and did not refer to any damp tests being undertaken.

During the course of this complaint’s procedure, the surveyor conducted a re-inspection of the property and subsequently confirmed in writing to the buyers that “the Area Director has confirmed that, at the time of his re-inspection, dampness was noted in the hallway (on the left-hand external side wall) and on the wall between the kitchen and the sitting room”.

In the surveyor’s report there was no mention of the damp being visible at the time of inspection.

As well as failing to record evidence of any damp testing having been done, the surveyor was unable to provide any photographic evidence of the condition of the property when they carried out the inspection.

The buyers were seeking financial compensation in respect of unquantified remedial costs. With a lack of evidence from the surveyor, the Ombudsman was however unable to conclude with any degree of certainty what the condition of the property was at the time of inspection and, therefore, whether there were damp issues that should have been reflected within the report.

Nevertheless, the buyers should have been able to expect the report to clearly state, one way or another, whether damp testing had been undertaken or to have provided a warning so that further investigations could have been carried out.

On top of failing to do this, there was the absence of any photographic evidence to show the property and its condition before the buyers moved in. The Ombudsman was critical of this.

The surveyor did make a goodwill offer of £1,000 in respect of the complaint which was rejected by the buyers.


The Ombudsman supported this complaint and considered that the circumstances merited an award of compensation.

From evidence provided, the Ombudsman was unable to establish whether or not the damp was visible to the surveyor during the property inspection. As such, the award did not reference any direct financial loss which may have been incurred for remedial work. However, the award reflected the avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused to the buyers as a result of the issues identified.

Taking all the circumstances into account, the surveyor’s goodwill offer of £1,000 was considered to be an appropriate figure in respect of significant aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused to the buyers on discovering the damp issue at the property and the fact that they were denied the opportunity to attempt to negotiate a price reduction with the sellers in respect of any remedial work.

An award of £1,000 in compensation was therefore made.

NOTICE: From 1 June 2022, TPO’s Terms of Reference have been updated to ensure that if a TPO member makes an offer that the Ombudsman considers to be reasonable in the circumstances, the consumer will be advised to accept the offer and the case will be closed without the need for a formal investigation.

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