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Buying a flat? You still need a full building survey

Instructing a Chartered building surveyor to carry out a building survey is one of many steps required in the purchase of a new home. Whilst most homebuyers purchasing houses see a survey as a necessity, we often receive enquiries from purchasers of flats asking whether a survey is required or not.

Q. Which types of homes require a pre-purchase building survey?

A. All of them.


The consensus among many of our clients is that there would be no need for a survey on a flat as most of the maintenance and issues that could arise would be taken care of the by buildings management company. Our experience in these matters has taught us that this is not the case.

In fact, surveys on flats are essential in preventing unexpected repair and maintenance costs and identifying underlying structural issues affecting the building block that could end up affecting your home, and service charge contributions in the years to come.

A flat survey highlights any areas of concern relating to the subject flat itself and also detail the construction and defects of the wider block or development. Even if the maintenance of the building is undertaken by a Management Company via a service charge, your service charge is directly contributing to the maintenance and on-going repair costs of the building.

This means it is in your best interests to understand any potential issues that may need addressing before you are bound to pay the service charge that covers them.

Full building surveys provide a thorough understanding of the property’s condition and will provide peace of mind you are making a well-informed purchasing decision.


Case study

Why surveys on flats are equally important as those on houses.

One of our building surveyors conducted a survey of a one bedroom ground floor flat. The flat itself was in good condition, well presented and other than a small number of minor maintenance issues, no defects were noted. If our surveyor had only inspected the subject flat our advice would have been that there was no reason not to continue with the proposed purchase.

As we inspected the entire block development as part of our standard reporting, our findings on the wider building raised significant concerns.
The building had Finlock gutters which, whilst popular in the 1950’s to 1970’s, are notorious for becoming defective. It was clear from our external inspection of the property that there were significant defects with the gutters and the brickwork was heavily stained as a result. (see image below).

Exterior brickwork staining

If we had been able to access the upper flats, we would likely have seen significant damp issues internally which would have reflected the external staining.

As a consequence of the inspection, our advice to the client was for their solicitor to carry out detailed enquiries with the Managing Agents to ascertain whether they are aware of the issue and whether funds are in place to cover the cost of remedial work.

If funds had not yet been collected, our client could face a large bill to cover their share of the work on top of the purchase costs. The costs involved to rectify this defect will be significant and even though the cost will be shared between all flat owners, this will be a charge that our client may not have been expecting.

Our Surveying Service

As part of our building surveying service we inspect the subject flat and the communal areas both internally and externally as standard. We are happy to review service charge accounts relating to blocks of properties so that we can inform you whether there are adequate funds in place to cover general maintenance, as well as one off expenditure.

Ultimately, our surveys not only highlight any issues or defects regarding the subject flat but we also comment on the condition of the block and communal areas in order to provide our client with a detailed and thorough understanding of their property asset.

Our message to home buyers is simple – Whatever type of property you are looking to purchase, always ensure you instruct a Chartered building surveyor to carry out a full building survey.

Use our contact form to get in touch with our surveyors.



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