An expert witness has specialist training and understanding that makes them highly knowledgeable and as a result their opinion can be relied upon in court.
They can be called for a variety of reasons but one of the most common is to resolve disputes involving property. This can include anything from development land issues and assessment of losses within estate and farm businesses, through to compensation claims, landlord tenant disputes, sporting rights and restrictive covenants.
They are also called upon as part of matrimonial breakdowns, professional negligence claims or family and boundary disputes.
An expert witness that specialises in property valuation will be a chartered surveyor and registered valuer with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and will very often have received additional training. At Savills it is mandatory to have completed an internal training course and in most cases have a minimum of 10 years’ experience.
An expert witness will undertake a thorough investigation when assessing a property, looking at all factors that may impact on its value.
As well as full measurements, photographs and notes, they will take into account additional buildings, accommodation and land. If it’s a rural, equestrian or farm estate then a variety of other issues will also be considered including the grade of the land, soil series, individual tenancies and farming arrangements along with planning applications and development potential.
Under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) an expert witness must be independent. Their duty is to the court rather than any individual involved in the case. An expert witness must be objective in giving their opinion and nothing can be discussed with either party. Opinions are based on factual observations, transparent and fair to all concerned.
When reporting to the court an expert witness has to give a fair reflection of the property’s market value as defined by the RICS and state what it would fetch if sold in an ‘arm’s length’ transaction to a third party. For that to be effective there must be full disclosure from both parties.
Using an expert witness and agreeing to rely on the evidence they produce can help interested parties to move matters forward and avoid lengthy negotiations – potentially saving them money on court costs further down the line.