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Housing Improvement Task Force

1 January 04

The Single Survey Steering Group has considered the distribution of the survey to prospective purchasers, its content and hidden defects insurance

by Linsey Lewin

I refer to the previous articles regarding HITF and now advise you about the further progress being made by the HITF Single Survey Steering Group, which has held three meetings and will hold further meetings throughout the next few months.  You may also wish to look at the Single Survey Steering Group website at www.scotland.gov.uk/sssg where you will find all papers from the various meetings and the minutes.

Distributing the single survey

Most of the last meeting was devoted to discussing how the single survey would be distributed to the purchaser, and while the detail of the system still needs to be refined, a number of points came out of the discussion. Essentially the view seems to be that prospective purchasers should approach the seller’s agent for the single survey after noting interest in the property, rather than it being available with every set of property particulars issued. There was also discussion about the costs involved in copying survey reports and it was accepted that though costs would be incurred, copies should be available free of charge to purchasers if possible. The Executive emphasised that they could not be prescriptive about charging for the copies of the single survey although there was an expectation that charging would be held to a reasonable level. It was also pointed out that this was a market-led pilot and the expectation had always been that fees would reflect market forces.  

Content of the single survey

I mentioned in the last article that RICS have prepared a draft single survey report and the Scottish Executive has appointed Professor Brian Sloan of Napier University as an external assessor. At the November meeting we were advised that there had been productive liaison with Brian Sloan and we were provided with revised examples of the draft which is nearly in its final form.

In addition, as I also mentioned in my earlier article, there were discussions about the need to ensure the legal transfer of the surveyor’s liability when the property was actually sold. Legal advice is currently being taken by the Executive on this important point.

At the meeting, the contract for the web-based system, which has now been let, was discussed together with the issue of awareness-raising. The Steering Group are aware of the need to advise the public and the professions about the pilot and the Executive are taking steps to ensure that information is produced and disseminated. In particular, Community Scotland’s communication team intends to produce a newsletter within the next few weeks targeted at the professionals involved. It was also reported that it was intended to target regional and specialist press in a controlled “drip feed” way to make people aware of the position.

Hidden defects and the single survey

It is anticipated that there will be hidden defects insurance (“HDI”) in the single survey but nothing has been finalised yet. It was reported to the meeting that advice had been received from two insurance specialists in this field and that only one provider of HDI currently existed. The chances of persuading more to enter at this stage were slim. However, it was anticipated that if the pilot, and any HDI provided with it, proves successful more providers might enter the market.

In the meantime the Executive will approach the existing provider to discuss whether they will provide a product for the pilot single surveys, what it will cover and what the costs will be etc. The Executive is also looking at the issues surrounding the knock-on effects on professional indemnity insurance. These will require to be taken into account before any decision on whether to offer HDI with the pilot single survey is taken.

The next Steering Group meeting will be held in January and at that stage we hope that more practical information will be available.

As far as circulating information to the profession is concerned I will continue this series of articles in the Journal and if you are in the pilot areas your firm should have had a letter from me explaining the developments to date. If you have not seen this letter and would like a copy please contact me. I will be sending further letters to the firms in the pilot areas as more information becomes available. In the meantime if you have any comments, questions or queries I would be more than happy to try to answer these. Please contact me at the Society either by email at linseylewin@lawscot.org.uk or alternatively please telephone me on 0131 476 8174.

Linsey Lewin, Secretary, Conveyancing Committee