Can we sue our surveyor?

Q: There's a problem with the drainage in our new home; every time it rains our front garden floods as rainwater isn't draining off the roof and away from our house properly. We believe our surveyor should have picked up on this in his structural survey, but he claims it's beyond his remit. Do we have a right to sue him?

A: Janet Waine, a partner at Stevens & Bolton LLP, says:

You have every right to try, but it's harder to say with any confidence that you would succeed.

You need to look at the wording of your surveyor's retainer and the contents of his report; surveyors will often state in the small print that they haven't been able to test such things as the guttering and will suggest that the buyer obtains a more detailed assessment.

Many surveyors indicate the weather conditions at the time of the survey. If, for example, it was a dry, sunny day it would be difficult to comment on the rainwater system, although there may be tell-tale signs such as staining.

A surveyor should certainly state whether the guttering complies with current regulations, and if there are stains, suggest that the system should be investigated further.

So, depending on the weather conditions and the cause of the problem, it's unlikely that you will have a claim.

Even if you feel you have a case and decide to press ahead, you'll have to prove that the surveyor's duty of care fell below that of a reasonably competent professional.