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What Are Common House Survey Problems?

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

29th Nov 2019 (Last updated on 26th Mar 2024) 9 minute read

A property survey is a vital step in the home buying process and it’ll reveal any issues with the property. There are common issues that crop up in surveys, such as damp and structural movement.

A study by RICS revealed that 4 in 5 homeowners bought a property without having a survey. This resulted in an average bill of £5,750 for unexpected repair work.

This guide features the most common house survey issues and how to tackle them if they arise.

  1. 1. Asbestos
  2. 2. Structural Movement
  3. 3. Damp
  4. 4. Japanese Knotweed and Other Invasive Plants
  5. 5. Electrical Issues
  6. 6. Faulty Drain Pipes
  7. 7. Roof Issues
  8. 8. Woodworm and Beetle Infestation
  9. 9. Insulation
  10. 10. Flat Roofing
  11. House Survey Problems - Who Pays?
  12. What if the Survey Failed to Pick up a Problem?
  13. What Happens if a House Fails a Survey?
  14. Finding a Surveyor

1. Asbestos

Asbestos is one of the most common house survey issues that homebuyers face. Once praised for its durability, asbestos is now condemned for creating health issues. Most asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were banned in construction in 1999. Buying a house with asbestos is a common problem. Specialists have been working to remove it from buildings since then.

If a risk of asbestos is highlighted in your survey, you may need to talk to an asbestos specialist. If any suspected ACMs are exposed, damaged or in poor condition and cannot be safely contained, they may need to be removed by an appropriate specialist.

The cost of removing asbestos depends on the type of asbestos used and the way it has been applied. The specialist should give you a much clearer idea of how much your removal and disposal costs will be.

To learn more, read buying a house with asbestos.

2. Structural Movement

Structural movement is another issue often highlighted in a survey. In extreme cases, this type of movement can result in walls, floors or roofs collapsing. You can spot thesee from cracks or other damage to the structure of the building. However, other small ceiling cracks may be perfectly natural and should be of no serious concern.

You’ll need to speak to a structural expert if significant structural movement is flagged in the report.
The expert may recommend that the affected area is monitored, reinforced, underpinned or rebuilt.

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3. Damp

Damp is a common issue that often turns up on many HomeBuyers Surveys and Building Surveys, especially in older homes. This issue can vary in severity and how widespread it is. It can range from a small patch of local damp to significant rising dampness throughout the home.

You will need to talk to a damp specialist for a deeper specialist survey. They’ll be able to give you a much better idea of the extent of the damage and how to fix it. In some cases, this may be as simple as minor local treatment. It may mean whole walls need to be rebuilt with appropriate resistant materials.

When it comes to cost, this will depend on the extent of the damp in the home and the nature of the repairs. Minor causes of damp can sometimes be remedied with DIY treatment. For more serious cases, it can cost up to several thousands of pounds for full houses.

To learn more, read damp survey.

4. Japanese Knotweed and Other Invasive Plants

Japanese Knotweed is the most invasive plant and can damage homes and gardens. It often causes issues for buyers, sellers and mortgage providers as it's pervasive. The plant is also resilient to certain methods of control and can be difficult to remove.

If Japanese Knotweed is identified in your survey you will need to seek specialist help. It's a possibility that any mortgage you’re planning to take may be void if Japanese Knotweed is present. rest assured, there are several recognised removal schemes available. These come with insurance-backed guarantees, that are approved by most lenders.

A specialist can arrange a further examination to provide more information. They’ll also be able to advise you on an appropriate course to remove and control the plant.

The cost of remedy can vary depending on the extent of growth and the type of fix required. A small patch of Japanese Knotweed could cost around £2,000 - £3,000 for herbicidal removal.

To learn more, read buying a house with japanese knotweed.

5. Electrical Issues

Your survey might flag Electrical issues with the property. These can vary from small repairs to rewiring the whole property.

If the issue is urgent you’ll need to get in touch with an electrician. This is likely to be done by undertaking an Electrical Installation Condition Report.

Costs will vary depending on the nature of work that needs to be undertaken and, of course, the location. Many rural areas often cost more due to their location, so it's vital you research and compare costs.

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6. Faulty Drain Pipes

Faulty drain pipes are another issue flagged in property surveys. Backlog of water, ponding, and damage to nearby building elements can lead to faulty drains.

If the issue needs tackling immediately you should contact a specialist drainage company. You should explain the findings from the report and they will be able to advise on the best next steps. They may send a professional to take a more detailed inspection of the drain. They can then advise you on the severity of the issue.

It could cost £250 for an initial CCTV survey of the drains to identify and assess the severity of the issue. The repair work will vary depending on the length and the damage to the pipe.

7. Roof Issues

Issues with the roof are often noted as part of a property survey. this includes cracked tiles, faulty or blocked guttering, or an unstable roof structure.

A qualified and experienced professional can replace broken tiles. For more serious problems you may need to talk to a specialist roofing contractor.

Costs will vary depending on the severity and extent of the issue. you should expect to pay around £100 to replace up to 6 broken tiles or £5,000-£7,000 to completely re-tile the roof.

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8. Woodworm and Beetle Infestation

Woodworm or other wood-boring insects can be a major issue in timber properties. If the issue is caught early on in the process, then it can be fairly easy to remedy and treat.

If woodworm is highlighted in your survey, you’ll want to get this looked at to prevent it from spreading. A timber treatment specialist can inspect areas of concern and be able to look at the structure to give a full inspection of the issue.

For common furniture beetles, a simple process of treating the wood should work. For beetles such as The House Longhorn Beetle and Deathwatch Beetle, more costly treatments and repairs will be needed.

Ask the specialist to provide an estimated cost for the treatment and any necessary repairs to make the structure safe again. The quote will vary based on the treatment required, the size of the house and the extent of the infestation. However, an average cost is usually in the region of £500 - £1,000 for typical treatment and repairs.

To learn more, read woodworm found in survey.

9. Insulation

Another common house survey problem often found is insulation. Potential issues include missing insulation or insulation that has been moved or damaged so that it's no longer fit for purpose. All modern homes should have good levels of insulation as part of an effort to keep in the heat and protect the environment.

The government encourage the use of insulation on nearly all properties and all buildings should have a reasonable depth of roof insulation. Pipes should also be well insulated in areas where they are exposed to cold to help reduce any risk of freezing.

Where the roof area is easy to access you may be able to fix this on your own, with rolls of insulation costing around £20. In cases where extensive insulation is required, it could cost £300 to £400 for a three-bedroom home.

10. Flat Roofing

Flat roofing is a cheaper alternative to traditional pitched roofs. They have a much shorter lifespan due to the poorer durability of the materials. While some newer flat roofing materials last for a while, most older materials will only last around 10 to 15 years.

If your survey highlights any damage or considerable wear and tear to the roof, then it’s a relatively simple process of getting it replaced. This must be done by a specialist and should come with a warranty to protect it against future issues.

The cost of replacing a flat roof will depend on your location, the size of the area of the roof and the type of material. Flat roofs are often used on small extensions and garages as a cost-saving measure. To replace this type of roof costs start from £1,200.

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House Survey Problems - Who Pays?

No one is legally obliged to pay for the problems flagged in the house survey. Typically, the buyer is advised to discuss the repair work with their surveyor or a builder to get a general idea of quotes for the repair work.

Many buyers will use the quotes to negotiate the house price down to cover the costs of any repair work. This isn’t always accepted, but many sellers are often willing to compromise and might agree to lower the price in the light of the survey report.

If the buyer decides to continue with the sale, they’d typically arrange any necessary repairs after they’ve moved in. It's uncommon for the seller to arrange any repair work, especially if any major issues are highlighted.

What if the Survey Failed to Pick up a Problem?

You may be eligible for compensation if a surveyor failed to pick up on a problem during their inspection. If the surveyor had no way of reasonably knowing about a problem, then it’s not their fault. The defect might have been concealed or they didn’t have access to a certain area.

All RICS surveyors will have a complaints procedure in place that you should go through straight away. If you don't get a response from your surveyor, you can take things up with RICS to help resolve your complaint.

What Happens if a House Fails a Survey?

A house survey can’t fail, but it can be marked poorly with condition ratings. If a house survey fails, then it shows the house isn’t safe for purchase. As a property survey is carried out before exchanging contracts, you’re not legally obliged to carry on with the purchase.

To learn more, read what happens after a survey on a house.

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Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is the director of Cambridge Building Surveyors.

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