Being an Expert Witness Building Surveyor requires more than a thorough knowledge of your subject. There is the need to understand the legal protocols in preparing and submitting technical evidence, and in presenting it in court or a tribunal.
The need arises for expert witness reports and testimony when one party challenges another, and either wishes to take the matter to court, or threatens to do so. In some cases, the trigger might be in applying the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act) 2018 consumer law, such as for residential tenants, or similar tenancy laws against landlords.
Chartered Surveyors are experienced in their technical areas, but not all can act as expert witness.
One needs to understand that whilst a client may pay a professional a fee for such a technical report, the technical report must be impartial, and inform the court in a practical way, so that a relative layperson can understand it. The duty of the surveyor is to the court. If there is a dispute on the cause or causes of dampness, for example, then the surveyor must be prepared to start from first principles, eliminating surplus information, but being objective. After all, the content is likely to be examined in detail by others, and the other party’s expert, if appointed, might well challenge it, or challenge part of it.
The Civil Procedure Rules, (CPR), may be relevant to the presentation of evidence in a case. These rules have been updated in recent years. Expert Witnesses, clients, and their legal team need to be aware of Part 35 of the C.P.Rules, as it is an important protocol to be followed, to avoid problems.
Collecting the information and data is the starting point, collecting the relevant correspondence, photographs of defects, dates, times, and so on. But much more than that, preparing an expert witness report is about structuring the report so it provides and separates the facts from professional opinion. One should never merge the two as that would cause confusion. A surveyor who has written an expert witness report must follow the professional guidelines set out, and be prepared to argue the basis of the technical report in court, if it proceeds to that stage.
Arun Associates have a track record in preparing expert witness reports.
We are also able to act as Single Joint Expert, (S.J.E.), where the parties agree to such an appointment. This can save both professional fees and time.
As Expert Witness building surveyors, we can use our technical database to enhance and support reports, whether this is referring to technical papers, photographs, or other information.
Whether you as a landlord or property manager, have been served a formal notice/letter under housing legislation by an aggrieved tenant, or are a developer who is at risk of having their work stopped by a third party, on a technical matter, or indeed, a leaseholder with a dispute with your management company or landlord, we can probably assist you.
Note that you may not always like what is outlined in such an expert report, as it must be fairly and impartially balanced. But that is because we understand our role and our obligations. If the report is clearly biased, then this will be quickly exposed, and the value of report significantly reduced.
Anyone can write a report, but few can prepare a technical report which informs the court in a structured way, and can be understood by judge and laypersons. Getting the balance correct between fact, opinion, technical and non-technical issues, is a skill which takes years of practice.
The RICS guidance refers to members who have the requisite experience, knowledge and expertise in their subject matter, as well as acting impartially with an agreed timescale and to the appropriate standard of reporting.
We can refer you to the RICS publication –Surveyors acting as expert witnesses – Client Guide. This is an excellent guide which may be of interest, even though it is intended as guidance for both professional surveyors and clients. It is available free of charge, online.
Fortunately, most cases are settled or agreed before they go to court or tribunals. But if they do, then Arun Associates’ surveyors and their professional support team will be prepared.