One interesting service that is being offered by a number of members during the “lockdown” is video diagnostics. This simply involves a homeowner sending a photograph, or even live-streaming a video, of a potential problem to a surveyor who then provides diagnostic advice by email.
This can be relevant to a host of issues including moisture damage, insect and fungal decay as well as identifying the presence of non-native invasive weeds. We can even envisage tours of basements that allow more accurate specifications and pricing without ever venturing onto site.
Innovation brings opportunity – but be cautious
These interesting innovations are welcomed by the Association. We think that the next few weeks will provide an increasing opportunity for these technology based diagnostic services, however, perhaps because we are also a bit cautious, we would like to flag up a few thoughts about how surveyors can ensure that their desire to help, doesn’t come back and bite them.
The questions we should ask ourselves…
I think there are a few questions that we should ask ourselves. If all we see is a picture or a video, do we know how much reliance the client will place on what you tell them? Without seeing the defect in context can you possibly understand the full implications of what you are shown? Can you understand the consequences of incomplete or partial advice? How do you recognise potentially misleading or intentionally incomplete information from clients?
Like with any survey, terms of engagement are a good idea. Offer photo or video diagnostics sure, but let the client know the service has limitations. You can only see what you have been shown after all.
Remember you are liable for the service you provide
One thing I am aware of, is repeatedly referring to the people sending images of video as clients. Could it be argued that they are not clients at all, but simply people we have chosen to help in some kind of philanthropic gesture of solidarity at a time of crisis. No – not in my opinion at least. Simply offering the service means you are a specialist. As a result you have liability for what you say in your professional capacity and so it follows that you are providing a service that has value.
The surveyor may not be getting a cash reward for your service at the point of delivery, but to my mind there is a form of implied contract. Those providing the service must realise that they can be sued for negligent advice. This is certainly true if the recipient of the service can prove they suffered a loss as a result of information provided in your professional capacity.
Protect yourself and keep a record
So what does all this mean? Provide the service – YES – it’s a great idea. But as you advertise it, add a caveat. Something along the lines of, ‘Our professional advice and recommendations are restricted by the limited evidence supplied to us by you. All images will be retained by the company for future reference. All diagnostic information will be given in good faith however if you are to rely of our findings then a detailed site investigation must be carried out by our surveyor so the defects can be fully quantified, investigated, documented and contextualised.’
We would also strongly recommend that a file is opened for each enquiry and all correspondence be recorded and retained. Email confirmation of both the enquiry and the response by the surveyor should be kept as a record of the client reading and understanding your terms of service.
PCA is here for members
This all might sound a little over the top for a facility designed to engage with potential future clients, but we are long in the tooth here at the PCA. We have seen many well intentioned and very capable surveyors fall foul of their own good intentions over the years. We welcome innovation but have a duty to try and protect members too.
For further information, call us on 01480 400000.
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