damp survey in london
Damp Survey London, who’s scamming?

Is there a “scam” amongst Damp Surveyors in London. We look at evidence and compare independent surveys to contractor surveys, known as quotes.
Explore Damp Survey – Londonscam?PCA | £199 surveys | conclusion.

Damp survey London – scam?

“Over the last few months we have watched in fascination as a beleaguered damp industry tries to hold onto its rapidly disappearing market.  Damp surveys in london are the last bastion of this horrible, fraudulent industry.” writes Heritage House Consulting Ltd. HHC asserts that a damp and timber survey fee below £300 is “paltry”, too cheap to be credible, therefore must be cross-subsidised through “fraudulent” damp treatment. Other assertions include;

  1. Funding by the Property Care Association (“PCA”), Trustmark or contractors who make money out of damp treatment on condensation control.
  2. Lack of independence, earning money through treatment, referrals or elsewhere.
  3. Reliance on damp meters as a primary tool for determining causes of dampness.

None of these remotely describe us. We’re off the hook, but is there a scam?

Currently the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (“RICS”) recognises the PCA as UK’s only trainer of damp, rot and insect infestation. PCA qualifications are necessary for reporting on RICS mortgage valuation surveys.  Neither constitute dependancy. YES we have the necessary PCA qualifications (it’s what mortgage lenders want and it can’t be taken away), but we have no dependency on the PCA.

Simon Hichens
Simon Hichens director of Damp Surveys Ltd

We are open, transparent, anyone including rivals, can visit us at our registered office, call or meet us in person, speak to a willing client, or see anyone of our reports (made anonymous for GDPR privacy purposes).

We are self financed through surveying, have not made a penny from remedial treatment, don’t recommend  contractors for rising damp treatment and we are happy to be independently audited as such.

Pete Ward of Heritage Homes Consulting

For the record Pete’s willingness to expose sharp practice within the damp industry is a breath of fresh air. We would not repeat some of the wording as we don’t agree with many of the views expressed. We don’t agree with much of his criticism directed at RICS; “scam of RICS” and “RICS surveyors are incompetent” or to some extent the PCA, it’s not their fault they lack competition.

We don’t think Pete focuses on the nub of the issue, that there is a lack of independence between surveyors and remedial treatment companies. And the PCA has no visible competition.

The “scam”

There probably is a “scam” (not us), or profiting through conflict of interest, but it’s the structure that’s motivating builders (contractors) to habitually misdiagnose:

  1. Driver 1 lenders need certification from an expert that a property has sufficient resale value to more than cover loans over the life of their loan.
  2. Driver 2 – the experts of choice are RICS surveyors, however RICS surveyors rarely see damp and timber extremes, so look for specialism from UK’s only recognised damp and timber trainer, the PCA.
  3. Motivation 1 – buyers, who have spent £400 –  £2,000 on a RICS survey, don’t expect to pay more for a defective property, so they are easily tempted by a free “survey”. Besides most buyers expect to renegotiate the purchase price by the cost of remedial treatment. Most estate agents take the easy route (short-sighted) and don’t try to persuade their vendors to spend £199 on an independent damp survey.
  4. Motivation 2 – no one can offer a free survey, without cross-subsidising with profits made elsewhere, so contractors employ PCA certificated surveyors. These contractor “surveyors” are motivated to find the most expensive form of treatment, whether or not it is correct. One simple solution is not to look for the root cause of dampness, but instead to cover damp with impermeable plaster, this blocks the damp but does not resolve the problem, which will reemerge in a more extreme way – often rot. The irony (tragedy) is 95{f898b7ccba74aedaf6f9f165b1651d39d829939f1b62e7036dcda8fdc0245a9d} of damp can be stopped for little or no cost.
  5. The PCA is the result of this cycle of dependency – At least one organisation needs to provide damp and timber training, whether it’s the PCA or Josephine Bloggs. Unless a benign body funds it, the organisation has to attract money from interested parties through membership, and just like any other organisation becomes dependent. The ICAEW has similar dependancy, but the difference is it has competition (Simon Hichens qualified as a Chartered Accountant where he learnt his forensic skills and independence).
  6. Education, education, education. It takes years of relevant experience and an independent, obsessive, inquisitive mind (almost impossible to teach) to make a good damp surveyor.

We propose three alternative options for breaking the “scam”, see conclusion.

Property Care Association

The PCA has no real competition. RICS recognises it as the “leading training provider in the UK” for “remedial treatments” i.e. damp and timber. It has the resources, for example, between the PCA and its trainers, they probably have UK’s most extensive collection of rot and woodworm damaged timber.

The issue with the PCA is it’s apparent lack of independence from the rising damp industry. Its chair and most of its board appear to be connected to the “Rising Damp” industry. The conundrum is who would want to spent their time on the board of an organisation without any self-interest, besides no secret is made of their external interests.

Most PCA trainers are good people with considerable experienced, who don’t buy the Rising Damp pre-conceptions. Most PCA trainers focus on timber rot and woodworm, wood being an idiosyncratic specialism of the greatest structural significance. Maybe it is for this reason that trainers are reluctant to challenge Rising Damp pre-conceptions.

Rising Damp Pre-conceptions that should be challenged;

  1. Does rising damp exist? If so, how high can damp rise up a wall, what are the exact requirements to replicate rising damp and what are the effects?
    This should be evidenced with bricks and mortar, for public scrutiny, with peer review.
  2. Rising damp depends on standing water, such as a high water table. If there is standing water, why? The London water table is rarely anywhere near ground level.

Trainers mention, but don’t teach for exam qualifications issues which form the basis of most misdiagnosis;

  1. condensation is the most common form of dampness, every property has some degree of condensation, even in summer, it has a distinct profile, relating to thermal properties,
  2. interstitial condensation often forms around cold embedded metal, such as RSJs,
  3. absorbent plaster touching solid floors often appears to be rising damp, but isn’t,
  4. moisture is absorbed in all directions, mainly downwards through gravity, so the profile of rising damp is distinctly horizontal,
  5. a band of nitrates around 1.2M high is caused by uric acid in human sweat,
  6. nitrates found in rising damp inhibit mould, therefore where there’s mould there’s no rising damp,
  7. damp meters don’t measure dampness, they measure humid salts, salts migrate to evaporating surfaces and are associated with salts in normal building material or historic burning of fossil fuel – therefore surface salts does not mean there is a damp problem (there maybe a surface salt issue 1mm deep). Damp meters have their place, but dry meter readings are more important than damp meter readings and should be reported on,
  8. any suspect wall should be tested and reported on both sides, along and ideally, within in it,
  9. insufficient humidity is released from rising damp to rot wood, so misdiagnosing of rising damp makes rot more likely,
  10. it is always the changes to a property (from when it was constructed) that causes damp, be it weathering, damage, bad alterations or lifestyle changes, therefore correct treatment is rectifying the change which is normally FREE or at least cheap to remedy.
Damp Survey Cost
Contractor misdiagnosis is real cost of survey!

£199 Surveys

Damp and dry rot is a major problem in London, where prices and popularity results in overcrowding and inappropriate use of space. The damp industry is not currently structured to favour experts with skill, imagination and time to trace damp to its root cause(s).

There is a desperate need for truly independent experts to identify the causes of damp rapidly and accurately, report succinctly so that a buyer, home-owner or property professional is independently directed on how best to stop damp and rot. And yes, we can do that.

Each survey takes 30mins to 2 hours (occasionally longer) to trace the damp back to its source and 2 – 3 hours to review data, compile the report and discuss it with the client (next day). We can survey and report on two to four surveys a day (depending on location) and do this for a fixed fee of £199 per survey. There is a higher charge for dispute resolution and expert witness statements. It’s hard, diligent work but rewarding when clients and property professionals appreciate the extra knowledge, effort and comfort.

This example £199 survey saved £37,000, and would have saved considerably more had the owner not had two previous failed damp proofing treatments. Our surveys are fully guaranteed.

Client review; "Trustworthy, knowledgable, and extremely diligent - Simon and the team at Damp Surveys Ltd. come highly recommended. With great communication throughout, they offer an extremely comprehensive service (at a very competitive rate), and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. Whatever you do, go with an independent surveyor (who isn't trying to sell you unneeded products or solutions), and give these guys a call!"

Conclusion – the PCA needs competition?

  1. The PCA has cornered the market in worthy property causes such as rot, insect infestation, flood control and Japanese knotweed.
  2. It is not in their interests to challenge pre-conceptions about rising damp.
  3. Jeff Howell made a valiant attempt at challenging pre-conceptions, as have others such as Pete Ward, however there is currently no organisation rivalling the PCA for training.

We offer three options for breaking the “scam” profiting through conflict of interest.

  1. Somehow make it a misdescription for a contractor to call their damp and timber report a “survey” (legally it is a misdescription for market appraisals to be called valuations by estate agents –  but they do). And ask RICS to recommended only qualified independent surveyors undertake damp surveys (independent means no income from treatment).
  2. Set up competition to the PCA without the involvement or direction of contractors or suppliers (difficult to see this unless RICS or the ISSE, our membership organisation, have the resources).
  3. Target a public campaign of re-education supported by the most influential independent surveyors willing to dedicate time and resources;
    1. Why RICS surveyors, lenders, buyers or home owners should not rely on contractor surveys.
    2. A public demonstration that the rise of damp in a wall is too small to be of consequence to a building.
    3. Awareness of the limitations and how a damp meter should be used.
    4. That both sides and the length of a damp wall needs to be measured and reported on.
    5. Make public a record of the greatest abuses by damp proofing contractors – we have some we are willing to share.

We support an impartial debate on training and qualifications of damp surveyors that best serves the public, perhaps through the ISSE or RICS. Do email, link and comment on this. See blog.

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