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Thread: Incompetent/unethical surveyor- what to do?

  1. #1
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    A new cusromer brought in a 17' mahogany CC runabout yesterday to a local yard that I help out in occasionally. He has never owned a boat before and decided he wanted a classic wood boat. He found this boat on the net, and determined that he should hire a surveyor after talking to several people about it. The surveyor was recommended by the seller as a wooden boat expert, judge for all the local classic boat shows, etc. I read the survey yesterday and it stated that the boat is in excellent condition, blah blah blah for four pages. The new owner bought the boat based on this survey. I looked the boat over yesterday when I first saw it. Within five minutes and with nothing other than my eyes and one finger to tap and push with I discovered one broken plank, three planks with substantial rot along seams, seven rotten butts, and numerous places with loose/bad fasteners. I believe this surveyor is either incomepetent or unehtical (maybe a friend of the seller trying to help unload this boat). I'm tempted to write to whatever society this surveyor belongs to and complain. I have no interest in this boat other than that I feel this buyer was taken for a ride. Here is someone who wants a wooden boat and hired a professional to make sure he made an informed decision and he has had a very bad experiance. This will possibly turn him off from wooden boats forever. Does he have any recourse against this surveyor? Would I be out of line writing to the association about this incident?

  2. #2
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    Did the runabout come out of Rochester? If so, I think I posted the E-bay link a couple weeks ago.

    How involved do you want to get? I think I might recommend that the buyer complain, first to the surveyor, and see what they say? Probably nothing much, at which point I'd encourage the buyer to contact the surveyor's professional association.

    I doubt it will change much, but it might make the buyer feel a little better to alert the PA.

    It's too bad; it seems pretty clear there is something underhanded here.
    So many questions, so little time.

  3. #3
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    I'd have the buyer complain to both the surveyor and the seller. I'd threaten action against the seller (it's illegal to hide problems with items you're selling), and threaten to notify the surveyor's association unless he leans on the seller to rectify the situation.

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    Is this guy a member of the AYS? Does the survey have a stamp on it? Thats the first place for the buyer to start. Depending on what he paid for the boat, another survey should be in order. Has he contacted the original surveyor? If he is a member of the association, and is he semi local, a face to face meeting would be in order to "feel him out". If the boat has been sitting, maybe the seller was unaware of these problems.

    Has he asked the seller about this? Rule number 1: Never use a surveyor suggested by the owner of the vessel or a house.

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    "Recommended by the seller...."

  6. #6
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    Get another, properly done survey. Present copies of it to both the seller and the original surveyor. Demand the seller buy back the boat and the surveyor refund his fee, or threaten to sue them both. Should be open and shut, and it seems unlikely they would refuse your demands.

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    This kind of crap happens all the time. I thought I was buying a boat that just needed a little TLC. That was 2 years ago before I discovered the rot in the transom and the delaminated decking and windshield. My buddy said it best....."bend over, it's a learning experience". [img]tongue.gif[/img] I don't feel too bad though because I only paid a few hundred dollars and should have known better at that price. I do now. It's meant alot more work and expence than I had planned but It's not stopped me from my dream. Being ripped off for thousands is another story. Do what you can to help make things right Roger.

    [ 07-04-2003, 09:48 AM: Message edited by: Mr. Know It All ]

  8. #8
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    After looking at the boat yesterday I spoke with the manager at the yard. After talking it over we decided to call the owner and have him meet us at the yard. We explained that the boat had problems and was also unsuitable for his intended use and where he planned to use it. He showed up an hour later with the survey in his hand. After a short talk he said that he had obviously made a mistake purchasing this boat. He asked how he could most quickly sell it. This is when I asked if I could read the survey. I actually got angry as I read this report, if I had charged someone close to $400 to suvey a 17' boat I don't think I would have missed much. This survey was fantasy at it's best. We told the owner about a 22' CC sea skiff that is for sale locally and even went and looked at it with him. This boat is in excellent condition and the price is only $3000 more than he paid for the first boat that needs extensive work. He seemed to like the sea skiff but I'm afraid that he is so soured by this that he may give up on boats before he ever gets afloat.

    The boat came from NJ so I don't know the surveyor or I would definitely have words with him.

  9. #9
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    Jeez - I can really get angry when I hear that.

    The problem now is that again there is a frustrated guy probably already cursing his "stupid" dream to have a wooden boat (if he isn't, his wife/girlfriend will help him with that - cursing his dream I mean ).

    He will either buy a cheap FG-boat to just be out on the water, or he will give up his idea of boating altogether. If he is single all might not be lost.

    [ 07-04-2003, 10:53 AM: Message edited by: martin schulz ]

  10. #10
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    If the guy is working fulltime as a marine surveyor, even in New Jersey, he should have a business license to do so. If the guy is registered with the AYS, then he is accredited to do surveys for the insurance business. If not, his surveys are not accepted in our area, for insuring a boat upon value and conditon survey. This maybe little recourse from the money end of it, but in some ways, he would loose more with a faulty or misleading survey. Check the date on the survey. If this is pretty current, rot dosen't happen overnight or in thirty days.

  11. #11
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    The surveyor was recommended by the seller as a wooden boat expert, judge for all the local classic boat shows, etc.
    Chances are that this guy is at least a WBF lurker. Once he realizes what the mention of his name here might do to his "expert/ classic judge" career, the buyer might hear from him, with a sincere offer to make things right.

    [ 07-04-2003, 11:39 AM: Message edited by: Paul Scheuer ]

  12. #12
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    Its like most things good and bad in all fields... recalls he with the surveyors with the house problems...

    Do what you can Roger to help the fella out... and try to keep his pecker up and aiming for the water... hopefully hes an enthusiastic sorta fella and wont be put down by this bad experience particularily if between you you can get it sorted well enough to please him... and with you helpin him out he cant help but get motivated right?!

    {note here I beleive weve seen your back yard mate! get him out in one of your many and show him what its like Im sure he will stick it out!}

    Note if the surveyor is within our ranks... shame and many expleatives headed your way!
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    Nil illegitimi carborundum = Never let the bastards wear you down

  13. #13
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    The survey was done within the last two weeks. I think I'm going to ask the buyer if I can make a copy of the survey and then I'll write a letter to which ever association he belongs to. The buying price was in the low five figures which makes it even worse.

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    publish his name, rank and code speed and I think the forum can handle it from there.......
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
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  15. #15
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    IMHO First the buyer should contact the surveyor. It's his beef after all.

    If the buyer doesn't get satisfaction, he (with your help and factual support) should contact the surveyor's association (NAMS, SAMS).

    Third, hopefully he's not put off of boats - wood or otherwise, and can consider this a valuable lesson.

    Fourth, there is always the litigation avenue. I don't know if it's required up there or not, but the surveyor might have errors and omissions insurance. If not, he should

    Dave put it on another thread a few days ago, but there's a 60+' Trumpy on the rail at our yard right now and he watched a surveyor spent less than two and a half hours doing a prepurchase survey.
    - M<br /><a href=\"http://www.sailingwithsarah.com\" target=\"_blank\">www.sailingwithsarah.com</a>

  16. #16
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    Here is a site for you to skim over.
    In general:
    http://www.nams-cms.org/

    New Jersey:
    http://www.nams-cms.org/membership/r...te&StateMap=NJ

  17. #17
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    All surveyors do not have to be members of a professional society. Any old joe can hang out a shingle and call himself a surveyor, more's the pity, as we've seen in this case.

    membership in a professional society is a useful thing to ask about when deciding whether to hire someone to do a survey, as well as asking what experience he has with the type of boat in question. Unfortunately, a newbie to boat ownership is the least likely person to know this. Giffy Full and Paul Haley have written concise 'checklists' about how to go about interviewing potential surveyors.
    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

  18. #18
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    Yes its true anybody can hang out a shingle and call themselves a Marine Surveyor. You would think the banks and insurance companys would demand a better system that would hold these rogue types accountable.
    Heres another list. http://www.marinesurvey.org/

  19. #19
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    First step, get the seller, owner and surveryor together, point out the discrepancies between the report and the boat and see if you can come to a solution.
    This probably won't happen because like a couple of others, I feel this was a deliberate attempt to diddle the new buyer. However ...
    If this fails, get onto both the surveyor's professional body - even if he's not a member the industry may still be able to do something and may be interested in applying a little background pressure. Certainly they'd want to know if they are worth anything.
    Also, get onto your local consumer watchdogs - this sort of thing is illegal in Australia because the boat is clearly not fit for the purpose it was sold for. The buyer would be entitled to a full refund. However, achieving that may require a visit to court dammit.
    Finally, if no solution is reached, tell the story, honestly and with names here.

    Cheers
    Richard

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    hang hin to the yaard arm 'till he shivers
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  21. #21
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    I'm a law student. THis ain't legal advice. But hey, we study a LOT of negligence. And that's what this looks like: a duty (to give a good survey), a breach of that duty (bad survey) and resulting damages (he overpaid for the boat). It's also a contract, usually. The surveyor might be liable for all sorts of damages:

    a) the cost of a replacement survey (since you didn't get what you ordered, so to speak)--very high probability of winning that one.

    b) The difference in value between what he paid and what he would have paid. Well, you might win that one. but then again, who is going to calculate that second theoretical value?

    c) The difference between what he paid, and what he can sell the boat for. This fixes the calculation issue of (b).

    d) The price of fixing all the work which another surveyor, using the standards of the industry, would have found.

    e) the money paid for the survey.

    And so on. But it always makes me grit my teeth, when people do this annoying "i know, but I don't want to post, blah blah blah". POST THE DAMN THING. If it's true, what on earth have you got to lose by sharing the name? Half the time on other BBs it seems these are just trolls, where nothing actually happened at all. And I'm sure this isn't but there's no reason to sweep it under the rug.
    People who generalize are always incorrect <img border=\"0\" title=\"\" alt=\"[Big Grin]\" src=\"biggrin.gif\" />

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    ErikH ---

    Your wrote:

    "But it always makes me grit my teeth, when people do this annoying 'i know, but I don't want to post, blah blah blah'. POST THE DAMN THING. If it's true, what on earth have
    you got to lose by sharing the name?"

    Truth is not always a defense against libel. Wait 'til you lose a libel suit and see how you feel about the truth.

  23. #23

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    Most surveyors put disclaimers on their surveys about influencing purchasers etc... but I don't know the the first thing about the legal ramifications of an issue like this. I do know that buying a wooden boat only gets easier after having a couple of totally rotten ones confront you and your boating dreams I would say that a lot of folks out here use surveyors for confirmation of their own suspicions.... then again we all tend to romance the rot, and make less of a project at the beginning to convince ourselves of it's merit.

    I hope this project turns out okay for the person in question [img]smile.gif[/img]

  24. #24
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    Funny thing, this board always comes out with the mantra, "Get a survey, get a survey", and yet, what is the survey worth? particuarly if qualified with disclaimers.

  25. #25
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    I'm trying to get a copy of the survey. The owner has contacted the seller who insists there is nothing wrong with the boat and will not consider buying it back under any circumstances. I don't know the surveyors name as I didn't write it down when I read the survey. I am not involved in the transaction in any way other than being very upset at how this buyer was treated by the seller and surveyor. I am going through the boatyard manager to try to get the survey but the owner seems to just want to get rid of the boat at any price and just forget about boats. I think that what upsets me most is that the owner was a great candidate for owning a wooden boat- desire to own a classic, the money to have it maintained, and a great place to use it. He did everything that anyone here would have recommended before buying and he got shafted anyway. I really want to write to whatever association the surveyor belongs to and let them know how one of there members conducts himself. If I can get the name I'll post it here so no one else in NJ will get screwed by this guy.

  26. #26
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    I always thought that the truth was a complete defense of libel...?

    Perhaps the mantra of "get it surveyed" should be changed to "get it professionally surveyed"!

    Caveat Emptor!
    If you don't think for yourself, someone else will do it for you!

  27. #27
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    Something wierd here. $400 to survey a 17' boat?

    Are we sure that the boat the former owner was selling and the boat the surveyor was surveying and the boat the new owner got are all the same boat? Maybe there's one nice one at the yard and a couple of bad ones . . .

    Barring some interesting fraud, I suppose, but doubt, that the former owner could be that dumb. No 'surveyor' could be. If there was not some sort of boat switch, then the former owner and the surveyor have to be up to no good.

    If the boat's worth it, especially if the boat can't readily be forced back to the original owner, then maybe some very litigation for what it will cost to get the boat to the alleged condition (plus costs and damages depending on your state's laws) might be the only option.

    Or - one further thought that's far less sinsiter. I saw a boat of some classic vintage at a local yard I much respect a few years back. It seems that many manufactored wooden stinkpots of the 40's and 50's and such have fan clubs.

    Anyway, new purchaser had gotten this one with survey done by one of the show judges of that type of boat. Then took her to the yard for work. The yard flat declined to do the work the way the surveyor had outlined as they found just never ending work as one problem connected to the next. Angry words like, "Whatda ya mean replace 12 planks? There's only a couple little splits."

    There may be a difference in values to what an afficianado of the type, a person looking at the varnish and looking at the only original hardware and the restored original engin, sees and what a professional boatwright who's rep may sink with the boat . . .

    A big difference in perception and even perception of purpose. Like you see in some classic auto groups where the things look pretty but you'd not actually drive it cross country.

    That's the best spin I can give this one.

    G'luck

  28. #28
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    The buying price was in the low five figures which makes it even worse.
    Anybody got any pictures of this craft ?

    As to the "get a survey", I always thought is was implied - get your own survey. Better to have "deuling surveys" before the deal is made.

  29. #29
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    Every time I go to the yard I look at this boat. The yard is only three houses away, so I'm there almost every day. I can only think that the surveyor is a friend of the seller and saw the buyer as an easy target. A total novice with money
    who would have no idea what he was looking at. As for the price of the survey, I thought it pretty outrageous. To my way of thinking this survey could not have been much more than a cursory glance, I don't see how else he could have missed so many major problems. Unless of course he was helping the seller unload a pile of junk. I don't think the buyer saw past the new paint job on the engine or the chrome fittings. Even the varnish job on the hull is matte finish- the better to hide the swirl marks from someone's disc sander.

  30. #30
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    Paul- The survey was done for the buyer, but unfortunately he used a surveyor recommended by the seller.

  31. #31
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    I ain't no lawyer, but it seems to me a matter of caveat emptor. With the proviso that the surveyor might be sued in civil court for malfeasance--with you as a witness. Other than that, how much work to make the boat right? It sounds a bit of mess.

    It's sad, because the buyer did everything right, except for taking the advice of the seller re a surveyor.
    So many questions, so little time.

  32. #32
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    If the surveyor is a member of the Society Of Accredited Marine Surveyors, (SAMS) the buyer can file a complaint. “The Complaint against a member must be filed, in writing, to the President and must be accompanied by documentation which supports the allegations.” (SAMS BYLAWS article 2.03)

    The buyer can call SAMS @ 1-800-344-9077 or 904-384-1494 and ask for Mary. She will be more than happy to provide the buyer with the information needed. The complaint has to be made by the survey purchaser or person authorizing the survey.

    I am sure that NAMS has the same policy and can be found on line.

    It would be good if you can get the buyer to file a complaint if the surveyor belongs to either of these organizations, as they do not want people like this representing them.

    Dave

  33. #33
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    Originally posted by holzbt:
    Does he have any recourse against this surveyor?
    Assuming that everything you have said is true:

    Yes, he would have recourse against the surveyor and possibly the seller. I assume the buyer was the one who hired and paid the surveyor, even though he was recommended by the seller. In that case, the surveyor has a duty of care toward his client, just like anyone else who performs a service for hire. If the scope of the surveyor's commission included inspecting planks and frames for rot, and the rot was obvious and extensive, it sure sounds as if the surveyor did not do even a minimally competent job. The buyer was entitled to rely on the survey, despite any disclaimers. That's what he pays for.

    Damages are simple: he wouldn't have bought the boat if the surveyor did his job correctly. The surveyor can pay to have the boat repaired, or he can buy the boat from the buyer for an amount equal to the purchase price plus the cost of the survey and any other incidental expenses.

    If the seller saw the survey, and knew of the rot that was not disclosed in the survey, and then did not tell the buyer, then the seller has committed a fraud. He has knowingly misrepresented the condition of the boat, with the intent that the buyer rely on the misrepresentation.

    The buyer should go see a lawyer and have the lawyer write a strong and nasty letter to the surveyor, with a copy to the buyer and a copy to the surveyor's professional associations (which should be listed on the survey).

    Sad story.

  34. #34
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    Ta dum. Always good to hear from someone who knows. Are these matters true of say, a car?

    You see where I'm going. Part of me wants the lawyers out of it. If you buy a fookin' sad story, well, figure out how to cry.
    So many questions, so little time.

  35. #35
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    I agree with Scott that a nasty letter from a lawyer might be useful, but I'm skeptical that the buyer could actually do much if the seller and surveyor are not frightened by the letter.

    Re the survey: in the home inspection area, potential buyers routinely sign a contract that says the inspector is not liable for anything OVER the cost of the inspection. As far as I know, those contracts stand up in court, and I can't see why it would be different in the marine inspection realm, unless the inspector knew of the rot and committed a fraud.

    If push came to shove, I doubt the seller could accomplish much by going to court unless he could PROVE that the seller or the surveyor knew about the rot. How's he going to do that? Unless they wrote something down (very unlikely) or someone can be found who overheard them talking about the rot (possible, but still unlikely), there's little chance of proving that they knew about it.

  36. #36
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    There are degrees of negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and intentionally malicious conduct, which can affect liability. the damage limitations may not apply.

    If a surveyor just missed something in an understandable fashion (let's imagine that me missed a rotten engine stringer that was hard to see, and it cost $1000 to fix) then the probable result is a win for the surveyor: nobody is perfect, not for $400.

    If he missed something that he should have seen, say a rotten deck beam, but otherwise did a good survey, then he might be liable, but there's a good chance he'll be allowed to use the 'survey price' limitation.

    However, if he did an insanely bad job as you've described, he's probably grossly negligent, or worse yet may have wilfully deceived the buyer. It's hard for him to completely breach the contract, either intentionally or by his actions, and still maintain the defense of "I'm limited for damages, it's in the contract!"

    So yes, a lawyer is in order. Sooner rather than later, BTW, they may not have very long to protest under local law.

    this BB may be a good place to vent, but it's not who the owner should be talking to now, if you get my drift.
    People who generalize are always incorrect <img border=\"0\" title=\"\" alt=\"[Big Grin]\" src=\"biggrin.gif\" />

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