SAVA Changes ‘Threaten Future of HCS’


28 March 2017

Residential property surveyors who are members of SAVA are being hit by a “triple whammy of more work, more cost and more risk”, according to an energy assessor association.

West Country assessors’ group DCHI said changes being introduced by the NES-owned organisation are believed to result from increased claims over surveys, which may result from a ‘compensation culture’ fostered by lawyers.

As a result surveyor members of DCHI, carrying out SAVA’s Home Condition Surveys, have said they are facing tougher audits and higher insurance costs, and many say they are thinking about leaving the industry or moving away from SAVA.

In response to these concerns SAVA told us they have been communicating directly with surveyors about the rationale behind changes they are making, and will also contact DCHI about them.

Though it now has members from all strands of energy assessment, DCHI began as an organisation for home inspectors; DCHI is an abbreviation of Devon & Cornwall Home Inspectors.

Ian Sturt (right) of DCHI, who is himself a qualified Home Inspector though he hasn’t chosen to carry out surveys, said comments from members suggested there appeared to be a sudden tightening of audit requirements for residential property surveyors, combined with a hike in insurance premiums and raising of insurance excesses, which could threaten the future of the HCS.

He told us: “This triple whammy of more work, more cost and more risk for a RPS is causing some to question the viability or desirability of continuing in the profession. Rightly or wrongly there is increasingly a perception that the rules being imposed on a residential property surveyor are significantly more onerous than for other similar professions.

“There seems to be a generally negative view of the changes that are likely to result in a reduction in the number of residential property surveyors, or a proportion changing away from SAVA; potentially to a less structured approach. Neither would seem to be good news for the Home Condition Survey (HCS) sector.

“Perhaps some of this is driven by a failure to ensure appropriate standards across all surveys, but if the way of addressing this is seen as penalising the good as well as the bad it is less likely to achieve the desired outcome.

“The right balance is not easy to find as surveyors who do the fewest surveys will rightly feel discriminated against as proportionally they will be audited much more. However, these same surveyors will also be less experienced because of their lower volume and therefore potentially do pose a higher risk.

“We understand that Damp is the most prevalent reason for claims received by SAVA and perhaps there is a need to target the specific reasons for this, either within the HCS itself or the understanding of it amongst surveyors. It is too early to comment on whether the current changes will effectively address the most significant factors.”

He added that a common question being asked by surveyors is whether the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) valuation, currently required, really has a place within the HCS.

“It is after all nothing to do with the primary purpose of the HCS, i.e. identifying the presence and significance of defects. Given the variety of other accepted valuation principles, the BCIS seems to be a lot of work for minimal added value, and for the majority of properties is largely irrelevant,” said Mr Sturt.

He told us: “A perception exists amongst some, that Draconian measures are being applied to protect against ambulance chasing lawyers bringing a compensation culture into more and more areas of our lives.

“There are few winners and everyone else becomes a loser; because everyone else has to pick up the cost. Whilst unlikely to be the prime factor here, the plethora of no win, no fee lawyers chasing money-making opportunities must be having an impact on HCS insurance premiums.

“SAVA has been at the forefront of the development and recognition of the Home Condition Survey and it would be a shame to see its progress set back if the right balance can’t be found.”

We sent the DCHI statement to SAVA and in response a spokesperson told us: “SAVA has been communicating directly with its surveyor customers as to the rationale behind the changes and will continue to do so.  We will communicate directly with DCHI and we have made contact with them today.”