Should I be complaining to my building surveyor?

17 May 2013
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United Kingdom
I figured this forum has a lot of property owners and tradespeople more experienced than I, who can advise if I'm overreacting or justified in my concerns relating to the following. Skip toward the photo if you want to avoid all my preamble.

We moved into our new property, a large Victorian house, in April. We had a survey carried out by a local firm of good repute, going with a a more traditional, established (expensive) firm rather than a cheaper internet-only company. At the last minute they farmed out the survey to someone else as their surveyor was injured... slightly annoying since I reckon I could have saved a couple of hundred quid by choosing them in the first place but not worth it in the grand scheme of things.

The survey in general seems reasonably accurate in hindsight and raised some issues which were worth chasing up. At the time we noted a couple of minor things were factually incorrect but figured this wasn't a big deal, but now wonder if this indicates a wider lack of attention to detail:
  • It says the central heating boiler is dated and un-tested, but in fact it was under two years old (still under manufacturer's guarantee) and a safety certificate under 12 months old was provided.
  • It says the property has mains drainage when in fact there is a septic tank
However the real issue is that the property has a side-conservatory with an under-room (like a cellar but not underground). We understand this was a conversion from a large greenhouse, with a rather old reinforced concrete floor supported by ancient steel girders. These girders are exposed and the survey report simply says in passing:

F4 Floors
The floor coverings in the property comprise of a mixture of suspended timber and
concrete. The floors were generally firm underfoot with concrete floors found towards the
rear of the main property. It is likely that timber repairs will be necessary during further
opening up investigations and damp treatment. The undersection of the side conservatory
extension was inspected and found to be relatively dry. The visible steel column has
corroded and should be maintained.

Here is a photo of the steel column, which is in no way visually obstructed:


Now this immediately concerned me and having shown several people they were worried too. I was leant an acroprop so there is no immediate danger, but a local structural engineer viewed it as a favour and was equally concerned.
If this was highlighted in the survey we would certainly have taken it into account with our offer or demanded it be fixed... closer inspection showed other girders were badly corroded though to a less dangerous extent, and the concrete floor has some crumbling and needs proper inspection. Likely, having this properly taken care of is a few £thousand - the engineer even suggested removing the concrete floor and replacing with a new wooden one might be cheaper than getting expert concrete restoration people.

Should I be contacting the surveyor about this? The survey only listed it as a medium level thing, unlike things like the roof which were highlighted as serious. This is not just a corroded steel, it has a hole all the way through the the I part is very severely rusted too... kick it and big pieces fall off.
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Unless you bought this property blind, what material difference does the survey report's (in)accuracy regarding the state of the steelwork make?
Apart from giving you grounds to doubt the report itself, that is?
Or, am I missing something?
We hadn't noticed it - it isn't in a particular accessible area. It wasn't for several weeks after we moved in we even noticed. But given the surveyor did look at it, if they'd highlighted it as a serious issue we would've acted differently.
As you have now said that it isn't particularly accessible, are you sure that it is the column that the surveyor reported on?
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There's three in a row... If he noticed one was corroded and didn't look at the other yep that's not exactly thorough :)

An offer on a property is often made "subject to survey", and you reply on the surveyor (supposedly being an expert) to make you aware of any issue that may affect the value of the property.

Errors about the boiler aren't important, but the sceptic tank needs maintaining and emptying, and would put some people off the purchase. But to fail to notice that at least one of the steel girders need replacing completely is just negligence. I would contact the company you employed to conduct the survey, and point out your concerns, especially as you had decided on them, and not a cheaper altenative that you got lumbered with. There is at least a case for a partial, if not complete refund.

You mave have a case against them for not doing their job properly, and for not advising you of material factors that would hame made you lower your offer. Do you have legal cover on your home insurance.

You need to get that girder replaced (although I doubt if it's megga urgent) so find someone that can supply a new girder support, and replace and weld the new one in. You may well need a quote for your negotiations with the surveyors.
minor issue

but if the boiler is 2 years old .then it should have been notified to building control ? and u should have a compliance certificate ?
"The visible steel column has
corroded and should be maintained."

The surveyor's sentence with which you seem to have issue.

Well, the column is corroded, and it seems sensible to advise some maintenance...
Well I can see 3 columns in that picture, I would say that a better desciption of the one in question, "was severly corroded, and should be replaced at the earliest opportunity".

On the other hand, if those are the visible ones, where are the invisible steel columns.
Exactly my point, yet he should have been more specific and warned the client that there was a fairly serious problem that was going to cost him money. Telling him that one has corroded, and needs to be maintaned doesn't quite describe the sitation properly - or am I missing something.
Telling him that one has corroded, and needs to be maintaned doesn't quite describe the sitation properly

Would I be incorrect in saying that to "describe the situation properly" would be more in the realm of a full structural report, rather than a generalist one?
corroded ?seems a bit of an under statement to me
severe corrosion
Rotten ???????
Yeah complain that Mr Magoo and his Labrador have missed a significant item and cost you money.

You want a full refund of the fee based on you choosing the reputable firm over another cheaper firm, and you want the cost of replacing the beam(s) as you would have negotiated a reduction in the sale price equal to the replacement cost had you been properly advised.

Complain to the senior partner.
to be fair that's std surveyor speak, never over or under state anything, he hasn't lied and it's not a full structural survey so not really his remit to assess the possible structural effects. I would very much doubt if that pier alone would affect the integrity of a reinforced slab above otherwise that would have come down by now.
As was said it was there for all to see when viewing the property

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