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Purchase inspection carried out

Mr. Van Vuren had a purchase inspection done before buying his boat. A year and a half later, water was leaking in from the roof along the wheelhouse windows. Can he get compensation from the expert?

An expert you hire when buying a boat has a so-called best-efforts obligation (service contract) and not a result obligation (contract for work). This means that the expert must perform an assessment to the best of his knowledge and with care, but that he is not necessarily liable for defects that he has overlooked. He usually assesses the parts that can only be inspected by eye. For example, he will never drill holes because that would make the ship worse. If no specific instruction was given for such a destructive inspection, an expert cannot be held liable for problems that would come to light only after such an inspection. However, he is liable for gross negligence. For example, if the expert overlooks a particular power cable near the engine, creating a high risk of fire, and that fire also occurs, he will have some explaining to do…. Can you then hold an expert liable for all damages incurred? This is not the case either. Usually, especially for inspectors affiliated with HISWA, the general terms and conditions of the surveyor include an exclusion clause for consequential damages: the cost of repairing the undetected defect is covered, consequential damages are not. In addition, these terms and conditions also contain a limitation of liability, which limits compensation to a maximum of x times the amount invoiced by the surveyor. The conditions also usually contain a limitation period of one year.

Tip 1: Remember that even a purchase appraisal does not provide absolute security. Be critical when buying your dream vessel. Ask the seller/broker, and if you call in an expert, have him examine the vessel very critically. If he suspects something, you risk a destructive investigation. This can prevent great misery afterwards! If the inspector has doubts about something, take appropriate action.

Tip 2: Check the conditions of the surveyor for limitations of liability and whether he is a member of the Water Recreation Disputes Committee (Geschillenkommissie Waterrecreatie). If there are problems after the fact, you can at least hold him accountable there without having to go directly to court.

Specialized in legal issues related to water sports:
Frits Hommersom
You can reach Frits Hommersom, who speaks fluent English and German, at




Frits Hommersom met groene bril

"You have the right to a lawyer who tells it like it is!"

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