Is your residential home survey report often scattered with the following phrase: ‘No issues noted’? If so, then read on to discover how this can sometimes be detrimental to a report, confusing for your clients, and give misguided information.
At Projekt 3, we quality check residential home surveys, reviewing them to assess whether they meet reporting standards and providing feedback on how they can improve. As part of the quality check, we also review home surveys for the ‘lay person’ - the client. In this blog post, we look at a common phrase used in home surveys: ‘ No issues noted’. We explore the downsides of using this phrase, and how best to combat this common term, to ensure you give your clients the best report possible.
We ask ourselves a number of questions when quality-checking a report:
Can the client understand?
Does the client have to interpret anything?
Can the client make an easy judgement and decision?
When ‘No issues noted’ crops up, it makes us wonder, what has factually been seen by the surveyor? If we need to ask that question, how is a lay person meant to interpret it? We see many instances where a surveyor has used this phrase in their report and most commonly, we find it relates to items such as:
Health and safety: Fire safety and lead pipework
Access: Rights of way or easements
Environment: Conservation areas, Title reporting and Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)
Why is it a problem?
If surveyors use a residential home survey template in which standard phrases are inserted, these phrases must provide clarity and be specific to the property for which the home survey is being done. We often see the phrase ‘No issues noted’ pasted into boxes that are either not applicable/redundant (should have been stated as such, or deleted), or in boxes which require more information. This can lead to confusion or misinterpretation from a client. A few examples of this are:
In the first instance, is there evidence of asbestos? If not, then ‘No issues noted’ is misleading. It may be interpreted as being present but of no damage/structural concerns. This could easily be rectified in a statement such as the following. ‘No materials containing asbestos were seen’. Of course, there may be supplementary phrasing needed depending on the age of the property, but overall, facts of what has been seen (or not!) need to be stated.
When it comes to invasive species, ‘No issues noted’ is not enough. This does not state the facts as seen by the surveyor. Was it seen on the premises at all? The most recent RICS Professional Standard: Japanese Knotweed and residential property shares a decision tree that is helpful in terms of reporting (and to review what is said when reporting for purposes other than lending). Regardless, reporting on invasive species cannot be left to ‘No issues noted’. Clarity such as ‘No Japanese Knotweed was seen during the course of the inspection’ is much clearer.
Party Wall Awards:
When reporting on aspects relating to party walls, it may be that your client does not know what a party wall is, or what a Party Wall Award means. First and foremost, a definition would be helpful. Additionally, 'No issues noted' needs interpretation. Does this mean:
an award has been given?
you have seen evidence of documentation?
further legal information and advice is required?
or does it simply mean that there is no requirement/need for a Party Wall Award because there are no party walls?
Ultimately, further clarification is needed beyond a simple ‘No issues noted’.
So, in conclusion, ‘No issues noted’ does not provide fact - it asks a reader to ‘read between the lines’, and sometimes even more than that. Remember who your client is, and take those few extra words to make it clear to the client what you have actually seen (or not seen). A report should make every section work for the reader.
Don’t forget to:
provide definitions where relevant
state facts on what has been seen on site
clarify if is it an issue and if further investigation/legal advice is required
Clarity is key in survey reports and will help to minimise risks of claims/complaints, reduce time discussing a perhaps less clear report and ultimately give you more time to write higher-quality reports. So, instead of overusing the phrase ‘No issues noted’, why not replace this phrase and state what has been seen and give your clients the clarification they deserve?
If you are interested in having a quality check of your residential home surveys carried out, book a call with Kate here. Alternatively, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.