When might you need a property Expert Witness?

February 15, 2023
An Expert Witness is someone called upon to provide an expert opinion on a matter in which they are recognised as an industry expert, in a dispute in a Tribunal or Court of Law. But when it comes to property, what sort of situations might require an expert opinion?

Stephen Hobbs, Partner and RICS Registered Expert Witness at property consultancy, Vail Williams LLP, discusses.

In almost all cases where I am appointed as an Expert Witness, I am either instructed by solicitors or end up working closely with solicitors, where they are acting for one of the parties to a legal dispute.

A dispute that requires an opinion from an Expert Witness can be about anything from medical negligence or claims of faulty workmanship, to disputes over the rental value or market value of a particular property.

When acting as an Expert Witness, the overriding duty is not to the client, but to the tribunal where we are giving evidence.

It is the solicitor’s job to advocate for a particular point on behalf of a client, but it is the role of the Expert Witness to give a true and honest opinion which is independent and unbiased, and falls within the scope of our expertise, experience and knowledge.

But when might you need an Expert Witness in a property dispute?

Claims of property valuation negligence  

If a lender loses money on a property loan, they might refer back to the valuation advice they were given when the loan was made.

An Expert Witness may be required to carry out a retrospective valuation to determine whether the advice given was reasonable, or whether it could have been negligent.

Claims of negligence can also arise against solicitors who provided a lender with legal advice when a loan is made, which subsequently turns out to be potentially negligent, compromising the bank’s ability to rely on its security to recover the loan.

Disagreement over Market Value

Occasionally, Expert Witnesses are needed to provide independent property valuation advice when a dispute arises over the market value of a building or land.

This is particularly relevant when there is an ‘option’ to purchase at a later date, at a price to be determined in the future when market values have changed.

Similar disputes can arise between developers and landowners when a purchase price is agreed and contracts are close to exchange, but one party stalls due a dispute over market value.

Enhanced value and overage

Sometimes, when a landowner agrees a deal to sell land to a developer, they agree an overage agreement. This means that if the developer obtains planning consent for the site, a proportion of the enhanced value of the site would go to the landowner.

However, there can be disputes over the enhanced value of the site. These require the independent opinion of a valuation expert to assess – one way or another – whether the landowner has been paid the correct overage value.

Vail Williams works with a range of law firms to provide Expert Witness advice as part of their disputes. For more information or to discuss your requirements, get in touch.