Types of survey for commercial properties

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Surveys, inspections and investigations for commercial property.

There are several surveys, inspections and investigations that are carried out on a commercial or industrial type property and depending upon what your needs are at that time determines the type of survey, inspection or investigation will be needed. You could be about to purchase a property, have a property that you let to a tenant or could be a tenant with a lease to a property or about to develop a property. Each of these situations at some stage will require one or more types of survey, inspection or investigation to be carried out to the property.


Acquisition stage

Property purchase survey and valuation

A property purchase survey and valuation will advise the prospective purchase on value as well as giving factual information on significant aspects of the condition of the property.

Whilst a property survey and valuation may be undertaken for the prospective purchaser or lessee of a commercial property, it may be appropriate for a valuation together with a building survey to be carried out in respect of larger, older or non-standard buildings or buildings of a commercial or industrial nature. Prospective lessees may often need to arrange for a schedule of condition (see below) before commencement of the lease.


Building survey

A building survey is an inspection and assessment of the construction and condition of a building and will not normally include advice on value. The survey will generally include the structure, fabric, finishes and grounds. The exposure and testing of services are not usually covered.

The extent of the survey will be subject to the specific agreement between the surveyor and client and advice on costs of repair will be subject to such agreement. The report may include reference to visible defects and guidance as appropriate on maintenance and remedial measures.

The report may recommend that elemental or specialist investigations are undertaken or other specialist advice obtained relating to specific issues.

The survey will not normally include intrusive investigation of materials or structure, or inaccessible or hidden areas, unless agreed with the building owner.


Schedule of condition

A schedule of condition will record the condition of the building at the time of the inspection and may be supported by photographs, sketches and drawings. It may be prepared at the beginning of a lease or prior to commencement of adjacent construction work or regarding litigation.


Elemental or specialist investigations

An elemental or specialist investigation will be carried out where concern exists over specific parts of, or defects in, a property. Examples of this specialist work are the detailed study of movement, cracking, bulging, timber decay, dampness or the testing of building services such as wiring, heating, drainage, etc.

The scope of this type of investigation will be specific to each individual job and, if necessary, the brief may be altered as findings on site dictate.


Occupation stage

Stock condition survey

A stock condition survey is commissioned to assess the state of repair and condition of an organisation's current building stock in connection with the preparation of a maintenance programme. The results of stock condition surveys will often be stored on a database or used as part of a planned preventative maintenance process for a property.


Planned maintenance inspection

Such an inspection is undertaken at predetermined intervals following the preparation of a planned system of maintenance that will have been developed from an initial stock condition survey. The inspection will be cyclical (say at every three, five, ten or twenty-year intervals) and will focus on prescribe criteria of maintenance standards. Lease documents will be used to establish the standard of maintenance required throughout the term of leasehold.


Defects diagnosis/building pathology

Specialist tests and inspections are common for diagnosing a defect. Typical tests may include use of moisture and carbide meters for dampness, endoscope investigation for voids and cavity defects, infrared thermography for water ingress investigations and taking samples for testing of suspected asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

Such tests are used to establish the cause of a recurring defect or because of recommendations for further investigations made during a building survey.


Fire/storm/water damage inspection

This is undertaken to assess the extent of damage caused to a building following a fire, storm or flooding. A schedule of damaged elements with approximate quantities is prepared for discussion with the insurer's representative.


Schedule of dilapidations - interim

A schedule of dilapidations will identify the wants of repair, including decorations, of leasehold premises in relation to the repairing obligations under the terms of the lease. It may be prepared for service on the landlord or tenant, depending on their respective lease obligations.


Disposal stage

Schedule of dilapidations - terminal

The terminal schedule of dilapidations will identify the wants of repair including decorations and reinstatement, of a leasehold property in relation the repairing obligations under the terms of the lease. The schedule is prepared for service on the tenant by the landlord prior to the termination of the lease.

The inspection of the property will identify all wants of repair, decoration and reinstatement that are collated into a terminal schedule of dilapidations prepared in pursuance of the Civil Procedure Rules protocol.


Development stage

Development appraisal

A site will be appraised to establish its potential development value and viability. Input from several specialists including environmentalists or planning and investment consultants may be required. An environmental survey would normally form part of the appraisal to establish any costs and liabilities in remediation. Legal issues including transport, environmental and planning restrictions are reviewed.


An investigation prior to alteration

This exercise will sometimes be required when alteration work is to be undertaken on a building. Subject to the necessary authority, it may involve opening up, measuring, calculations to check the adequacy of structural and service elements and detailed tests.

This investigation can be more detailed than the building survey and is likely involve the services of several specialists. The scope of this type of survey will be specific to each individual job and, if necessary, the brief may be altered as findings on site dictate.


Measured survey

A measured survey sometimes referred to as a 'dimensional survey', will involve taking measurements of a building and/or its site prior to the preparation of accurate scale drawings. Such a survey may include taking levels. The purpose for which the drawings will be required, their scale, detail and acceptable tolerances need to be agreed between the parties beforehand.