e.surv Chartered Surveyors has reported 28 incidents so far this year to lenders concerning vulnerable people, resulting in referrals to social services and the RSPCA, during routine property valuations for lenders.
Some of the people our surveyors communicate with when valuing properties are third parties – the vendor or tenant of the property that is being inspected. Although not a direct customer of the lender or e.surv, we maintain a duty of care towards them.
Our surveyors don’t know in advance whether a person is vulnerable until they arrive at the property to conduct an inspection. But upon arrival our surveyors have had cause to make a variety of reports concerning vulnerable people which have then been acted upon.
Reports have included:
- Children living in circumstances where the walls and windows were smeared with faeces
- A child under the age of four found in a cot with no adult in the house
- A house of multiple occupancy with various people, including four girls, sleeping upon mattresses on the floor
- Children living within a property with 16 dogs inside and dog faeces spread throughout, among bed covers and toys also spread out on the floor.
- An elderly man in a poor state of health, meaning that he couldn’t reach the door in order to open it
- A man with mental health issues, where the property was described as very poor and in a filthy condition, heavily cluttered with rubbish with no real access to the property
- Elderly people suffering from dementia who are not aware what is happening or that their house is being sold
The Financial Conduct Authority defines a vulnerable consumer as: ‘someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care’.
Sarah Haigh, e.surv’s Quality Health Safety and Environment Manager, said: “Our surveyors encounter people living in a variety of conditions, and some people simply don’t have the ability to look after themselves or another person.
“When our surveyors have a concern for a vulnerable consumer, they report it and we are quick to respond by informing lenders and alerting the relevant authorities. Social services often come back to us to let us know they are investigating and to follow up with the surveyor.”
She added: “We have a regulatory and moral obligation as well as a basic duty of care towards vulnerable consumers, and we continue to take the issue very seriously.”