Spotlight on…………..Expert Witness Work

As an RICS Registered Valuer, providing a ‘Red Book’ valuation for bank lending or pension fund purposes is hopefully a straightforward exercise and one most surveyors are happy to sign off and then file away.

The prospect of putting your name to a valuation where you know it is going to be critically appraised in a Court of Law and possibly having to stand in front of a Judge to justify your figures is however a different matter entirely and not one that many surveyors would generally look forward to.

Many professionals, including surveyors, can hold themselves out to be experts in their field, but are they really? There is a significant difference between being a competent surveyor and one who is familiar with the requirements of the legal process when it comes to preparing reports that are to be submitted to the Courts as part of legal proceedings.

Whilst it is hopefully the case that a competent surveyor will be able to provide a realistic assessment of Market Value of a property, that in itself is not good enough for the Courts.  A familiarity with the Civil Procedure Rules is required, specifying the content of the reports, the format it needs to be in and the commentary required.

Surveyors can be appointed by the court to act as a Single Joint Expert (where they represent both parties) or as an Independent Expert, where each party has their own Expert.  In the case of the latter the Experts may have to meet in order to have discussions over matters where they do and do not agree.  Again, there are additional rules surrounding how this is undertaken.

Surveyors who act as Expert Witnesses have additional and overriding duties to perform their obligations to the court in a manner that is objective, honest and fair.  They are obliged to help ensure justice is properly served and not fall into the trap of providing partisan opinions to shore up their clients’ case.  The duty of an Expert Witness is primarily to serve the Court, irrespective of who is instructing them and/or paying their bill!

Bearing in mind the above, there is a reluctance by many surveyors to undertake this kind of work once they know what is involved.  Likewise I am told by some of my contacts in the legal profession, that one of their greatest frustrations is instructing a surveyor as an Expert and then needing to ‘hand hold’ them through the process.

It is essential then that anyone instructing an Expert has confidence in the knowledge and ability of that Expert to undertake their role, as the same rules apply in all in instances from a straightforward matrimonial division of property assets, through to Inheritance Tax reports, Capital Gains Tax, Litigation and professional negligence.

At BB&J Commercial we can provide qualified Expert reports for most situations and have taken instructions from solicitors on a variety of commercial and residential property issues across the East and West Midlands.  With our experienced Expert Surveyors having undergone specialist training in Expert Witness reports and achieved The Advanced Award in Expert Witness Evidence, we are extremely well placed to provide ‘added value’ and a sound knowledge of this specialist area of work to you and your clients.

For more information, please contact our lead Expert Surveyor Mark Richardson, in complete confidence on either 01332 292825 or m.richardson@bbandj.co.uk