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RICS Valuation surveyors using damp meters

16th November 2016

I've just had a lengthy phone call from a chap in London who is selling his house.  The RICS valuation surveyor for the buyer has been and done the valuation.  He used a damp meter.  In his report, he has told the buyers they must get a 'Timber and Damp survey from a Property Care Association surveyor'.  The buyers have then got a PCA registered damp company to do a 'damp survey'.  The 'damp surveyor' was in the house for about ten minutes - and produced a report that said the house suffered rampant rising damp and needed £12,000 worth of damp proofing.

My caller is furious.  He got an independent survey of his own, which concluded that the walls were all bone dry.  He now knows that the PCA damp company is fraudulently misrepresenting the situation by using a damp meter to con him into thinking that £12,000 needs to be spent.  He may have lost the house sale as a result.  His call to me was to ask what to do.

My recommendation is this;

If ANY RICS surveyor uses a resistance meter to measure moisture in a building, that surveyor needs to re-train.  It is now common knowledge in the industry that these meters are useless. There are 3 British Standards that define this - BS:7913, BS:5250, and BS:6576 all say the same thing - that resistance meters cannot be used to measure moisture in building materials, and that chemical methods are the only way.

So - you need to make a note of the RICS chartered surveyors number from the report.  You need to then get in touch with RICS, and  make a formal complaint.  Under the RICS professional ethics regulations, a surveyor who knowingly uses a resistance meter to measure moisture, when he knows all too well they don't, is breaking the professional ethics rules. RICS is just as keen as we are to make sure that their surveyors do the right thing, and act professionally. 

There are thus several courses of action:

1.  Report the surveyor to RICS under the ethics rules.

2. If the damp company is PCA member - report to PCA with all the evidence that the walls are dry.  If the company is Trustmark registered - which they are, if they are PCA - report them to Trustmark as well.  If the PCA do nothing (which they never do), report this to Trustmark - the Chief Executive of Trustmark is Liz Male - she needs to be told of every example of PCA members committing fraudulent misrepresentation.

3.  Report the PCA damp company to Trading Standards immediately.  The damp survey is a clear case of fraudulent misrepresentation. Fraud because they are attempting to take money by deception, and misrepresentation because they are using a 'damp' meter to misrepresent the true moisture content of the building.

4.  Consult your solicitor, and see whether you can sue the PCA registered damp company for fraudulent misrepresentation - AND in this case, damages for loss of sale of the house. 

My best case is that RICS need to change the rules and deny any further reference to damp meters, the PCA, and the damp industry.  Chartered surveyors need to learn about the real causes of moisture in building fabric, and be responsible for their own surveys - and not delegate to damp companies who only wish to sell chemicals. Unfortunately for a lot of RICS surveyors, they will have to go back to school for this - learning about moisture, temperature, diffusion, and thermal performance of building materials is a huge area, and not to be sneezed at.

About the author

Peter Ward has spent many years working a geochemist and geologist, as well as restoring historic homes all over the world.

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