A common question we often get from clients making building survey inquiries is whether you can undertake a building survey on a flat.  In this blog, we explore this question. 

Many surveyors hold the belief that you cannot undertake a building survey on a flat.  This is for the principal reason that full access is commonly not available during the building survey.  For example, a building survey undertaken on a ground floor flat in a period conversion would ordinarily mean that there is no access to, say, the roof space.  Conversely, a building survey undertaken on a first floor flat in a period conversion would ordinarily mean there is no access to the ground floor and basement, for example.  A building survey on a first floor flat may also mean there is no access to rear garden areas and rear elevations, as well as rear roof slopes.

It is, however, entirely possible to undertake a building survey under these limitations if they exist.  The thoughts of RES Property Surveyors are very much that, as a building survey is the most detailed report, following this idea of a building survey not being able to be undertaken on a flat,  would force every flat owner to settle for a less detailed Home Buyers report, which this firm considers very limited. 

Why should someone purchasing say a period flat which, if it were a house, would fall to be assessed under a building survey, not be able to access the building survey option.  The potential pitfalls, defects and repairing liabilities are exactly the same when buying a flat as they are a period house.

The type of survey should be dictated by the age and build of the property and not whether it is a house or a flat.

Of course the limitations on access, as described above, are often just that, limitations, however a building survey can and should be offered to the client and any limitations acutely explained. 

Furthermore, best endeavours can be used in order to effect access to other areas of the property where these are not subject to the purchase and, of course, things like camera poles are very effective in accessing areas from, say, rear windows or ground level. We use these on building surveys regularly.

For example, if you are commissioned to undertake a building survey and you cannot get access to the loft because there are stored items or the loft hatch is painted shut, you do not simply terminate the inspection and report to the client that you cannot undertake the building survey.  You of course make arrangements where possible or make reasoned assumptions. 

Thus, it is fully possible to undertake a building survey on a flat and this firm does undertake building surveys on flats to the fullest possible degree.  It is only right that flat owners have access to detailed building surveys.  A building survey is used as the most detailed report and would be appropriate for, say, a period conversion flat. 

This firm also deals with issues of, say, service charge quantum or fire risk in the building survey and thus RES tailor building surveys to leasehold property, which is a further advantage.

Of course, it is important to explain any limitations to the client and, ultimately, it is a decision for the client knowing the facts as to whether they wish to undertake a building survey or report of lesser scope.  The point is that it is absolutely right to offer the client the building survey option rather than simply and automatically direct them away from the building survey, even though physically it may be the most appropriate report. 

We would happily discuss your building survey needs.