Court is the last place you want to be,
but if you are in court you need an
expert that is an expert
1stAssociated.co.uk can provide independent help and advice with regard to building surveys, specific defects reports, structural surveys, independent valuations, property surveys, structural reports, engineers reports and home buyers reports . We would be more than happy to help on any matters relating to boundary disputes, neighbourhood disputes, building disputes or any other property matters . Please free phone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat with one of our surveyors.
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For anyone who has been in a dispute position for whatever reason, you will be very aware that legal costs can run up very quickly, almost unexplainably, particularly when you are on your way to court as you have to show that you have looked at ADR.
What is ADR?
ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution and can mean a whole variety of ways of trying to resolve the problem. Even the court system thinks the courts are the last place a lot of property disputes should be.
Small Claims Court
Depending upon the size of the claim your claim may fall within the Small Claims Court. As the amount that is covered by the Small Claims Court has varied over the years we would suggest that you visit their website to find out the latest information.
With a Small Claims Court you can't actually claim back any of your legal costs although anyone that has dealt with a Small Claims Court will be well aware that you can run up bills quite quickly. This can happen particularly if you serve a notice by a solicitor as it has become clear to us over the years that solicitors work by protocol and the protocol is that solicitors should only deal with another solicitor so they would ask for a solicitor to be appointed and then any correspondence would go between the two solicitors.
Basic claims involving solicitors
Even the most basic of claims, where a notice is served by a solicitor, there will be a response by another solicitor having had consultations with their client. You can see how bills can start to run up. Having said all of that, the Small Claims Court can be a very good way to resolve some things or indeed it can be the way to help both parties come to a rational decision.
Bigger disputes and bigger arguments run up bigger costs
If damages are likely to be in the tens of thousands then the costs associated with them can be even higher. We recently heard of a dispute on a garden shed, no it's not fair to call it a garden shed, it's an office in the garden constructed of timber where there is a dispute about the quality of it and how it had weathered or hadn't. The garden office in the eyes of the purchaser was substandard and in the eyes of the supplier was a perfect standard but things had been applied and added by the client, which had affected it.
This claim ran up bills in the tens of thousands of pounds for both side's solicitor's bills and expert witness costs. It was only the fact that the garden office purchaser had the right type of household insurance that allowed them to appoint their own solicitor and expert witness. The strangest thing is when you are in the middle of a dispute over such a relatively small item where you feel you have got a watertight case and the expert witnesses have agreed with you with regard to the problem you do still wonder whether you are making the right decision in pursuing the claim in court and running up such large legal bills. We know this because we had an in-depth discussion with the owner of the garden office.
It has to be said equally that the other side with their solicitors and their expert witnesses who were saying the exact opposite also may reflect that this is a mad waste of money. Nevertheless having just visited a solicitors who have managed to pack a seven storey building full of solicitors including the top floor, which had amazing balcony views over the City, it is a very lucrative business and therefore the legal profession looks to be a business well worth being in.
A good solicitor can argue for both sides
We once heard it said that a good solicitor should be able to present a good argument for both sides in a dispute to help them present the best case. It may be stating the obvious but it does lead to a situation where solicitors are looking for the best argument rather than the best solution.
Other property surveying articles that may be of interest
If we can have a tea break here and advise you of some other surveying articles which may be of interest to you:
Dilapidations, disagreements on the repairs needed
Party Wall Surveyors being unreasonable
Cowboy Builders and Cowboy Clients
Sorting out property problems with Solicitors and Surveyors
Boundary Dispute - A case study
What is an expert witness?
We have mentioned at the start of this surveying article that there are solicitors and expert witnesses. Most people are aware of solicitors even if they haven't used one and this in itself can be a daunting experience but many fewer people are aware of what an expert witness is and even fewer have used one. In a nutshell or in its simplest form, solicitors deal with the legal element and an expert witness gives an expert opinion on the problem. In our experience the experts can differ considerably in quality and also in their opinions as to who is right and who is wrong. It is very difficult sometimes for a non expert to decide, which is why the single joint expert system came about.
The question that is always asked is why doesn't a legal case have one expert?
When we were teaching this subject at university the question that was usually asked by students was:
Wouldn't this all be a lot easier if both sides had the one expert?
Single Joint Expert
This is known as Single Joint Expert or SJE for short. They really are such a rare phenomenon that the rare as hen's teeth expression is probably an exaggeration and you will find more hens teeth. The reasons why there aren't that many Single Joint Experts are because the arguing parties are arguing and as such find it difficult to agree on a Single Joint Expert.
If the matter is taken out of their hands and a Single Joint Expert is appointed the party that is not seeing eye to eye with the Single Joint Expert will normally feel very aggrieved and will if the argument is big enough normally find any way that they can to have the Single Joint Expert situation changed to both parties having their own experts, which will of course represent their case. You then have to ask what are the other options?
What are the other options should the parties not be able to agree on a Single Joint Expert?
Early Neutral Evaluation is an option if both parties can't agree on a Single Joint Expert
If things are definitely heading to court then an Early Neutral Evaluation may well be a step forward and allow one party or both parties to see the light of day. The judge over an agreed period of time, for example a day, will hear evidence from both parties. It can be whatever evidence they wish, obviously it makes sense to explain your situation and position as best as possible. The judge will then given an opinion at the end of the day based upon what they have heard, which doesn't affect the case whatsoever but it does give both parties an idea of where the case may go.
The first comment to make is that most parties after this procedure still don't agree and there isn't a settlement in place. It may indeed be used by the party that the judge didn't side with when he or she summed up and allows them to review how they are going to present their case and present it in a better light, which is the last thing you want if you were the side that the judge deemed to be correct or partially correct or more likely to be correct.
Will Hot Tubbing help solve a legal case?
We really like this term of Hot Tubbing although our experience of it is not quite in keeping with the name! This is where both parties are ready to go to court more or less and it is decided to allow a day or so where the judge cross examines and grills all the experts, sitting them down in the same place with them all in the witness box so to speak and cross examined to get an agreement.
Unfortunately we would say that the witness box is the last place to try to get an expert to say that they were wrong, inaccurate, didn't correctly understand the situation, didn't have enough knowledge, etc as with everyone watching them this is less likely to happen and much more likely to happen behind closed doors of negotiation taking place before it gets to the court case but nevertheless hot tubbing is a system that some judges think works well.
What an expert witness does
Often expert witnesses are talked about as if everyone knows what they do. In our experience we would say that expert witnesses fall into two categories and this is going to sound almost contradictory:
The general expert witness
The general expert witness can give a view on a cross range of things and most importantly can also comment on a combination of issues.
A good example of this would be on a case that we were involved with of a manor house which had been sublet under various tenancies and lease agreements, some of which required within their covenants that the property was maintained.
We were asked to give an expert opinion of whether the work had been carried out as per the lease on both an ongoing basis i.e. was it painted and repainted externally every five years and likewise was it painted properly at the end of the lease? By this we mean that painted areas were repaired, then prepared and then redecorated on windows for example and general repairs to make the building watertight in relation to pitched and flat roofs.
We were also asked to comment as to whether we felt the lack of maintenance (you can tell which party we were representing) had affected the value of the property and also whether it had affected the rental of the property.
Legal requirements of a lease
In some cases there may be a need for separate experts, i.e. one to comment on the surveying/construction elements of the maintenance and the other to comment on the valuation but in this particular case we felt we were within the remit of what we were experts in and we would add that we did win the case.
In this instance we would mean something where a specific timber problem perhaps had been the issue and the expert needed to have a very detailed knowledge of timber or alternatively a concrete issue where the expert had to have very detailed knowledge of the concrete and what constituted the mix and additives for its use under particular circumstances.
Our Executive Summaries make things simple
Our Good, Bad & Ugly Surveys!
We would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you what we call our Good, Bad and Ugly survey, which is a building survey, sometimes known as a structural survey, and is something that we have developed over many years, in fact several decades. We have listened to feedback from our clients and amended and altered our surveys to make them easy to read and describe issues clearly. The key factor we believe is that our surveys are easy to understand in plain English.
Why have an independent building survey?
Always have an independent building survey as this will highlight any property problems. Caveat emptor means buyer beware and is why you need to have a building survey to find out if there are any problems within the property; the estate agent certainly will not advise you of any.
Remember the building Surveyor that you employ will be the only person working for you with your interests at heart.
If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a building surveyor, we are happy to do valuations, building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects reports, home buyers reports or any other property matters. Please contact us on 0 800 298 5424 to have a free of charge friendly chat with one of our surveyors.
We feel our surveys are quite unique, as they are written to your level of knowledge. The surveys include photos and sketches and definitions. The survey will also include an action required section and an estimate of costs in the executive summary. We are more than happy to meet you at the property whilst carrying out the survey to discuss any specific issues you may have or have a general chat about what we have found at the end of the survey.
We highly recommend you always make sure when you have a survey you meet your Surveyor at the property.
We can email you examples of our structural surveys
If you are interested in having a Structural Survey we can email you examples of our structural surveys please call us on free phone us for a friendly chat on 0800 298 5424.
We would also be happy to email you some examples of our tailor made reports, Schedules of Condition, Structural Surveys and Property Reports. We can send you examples of Structural Surveys on, we believe, every type of property and era.
We also have example surveys of every type of commercial property including shops, offices, industrial buildings, leisure buildings such as pubs, sports centres, places of worship and institutional buildings.
We can talk and talk about property
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have included is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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