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Hi David. You have my sympathies having also been in practice for 35 years doing similar reports. If they have had their money back and did not proceed with the purchase, there is no loss to them and therefore no reason to continue to complain. If they are trying to sell the report on, then they are simply trying to profit out of their position and clearly had no intentions of buying the property, possibly irrelevant of your report. You have probably had a lucky escape, even though your report was no doubt thorough, in terms of any ongoing claim against you.
With regard to copyright, we state in our reports that copyright remains with ourselves. We are aware that, irrelevant of this, sometimes reports get passed on, whether for a fee or not, but we always advise both clients and estate agents if they ask that copyright remains with us and they cannot sell the report on. Indeed, if I am asked to look at the same property by a new client perhaps only two weeks later, I always make a point of undertaking a completely new inspection and never re-jig my initial report, assuming no conflict.
We don’t take card payments, so the scenario that you describe would never occur as far as my practice is concerned. Unfortunately it is the way the world has gone, which is certainly not the right direction. I have found, even though we have specialised in Level 3 reports for many years, that it is no longer possible to obtain realistic fees given the amount of work involved and the detail that we all go into in trying to produce the best report possible for our clients. To this end I am looking to cease undertaking survey reports and concentrate on valuations such as Probate, Capital Gains, Inheritance Tax etc., together with some Expert Witness work. This is far less litigious and should also result in my PI premium reducing, making for cheaper runoff when I ultimately stop. I am aware of other surveyors who have already stopped trading in part because of the fee/liability scenarios, which is a great shame, particularly as I used to enjoy undertaking Level 3 reports and there seems to be little appetite from those coming into the profession to take up this role.
Richard Hocking FRICS, F Land Inst., RICS Registered Valuer