Structural Surveys and Schedules of Defects
The prospective owner or tenant of a building will want to know whether any defects or shortcomings are apparent. However, they may also wish to know about the suitability for current requirements, and the potential for refurbishment and future adaptability; expansion capability for growing businesses or the potential to sub-let space that may be surplus to requirements. All such questions can be answered as required. The requirements for surveys can be quite different for owner occupiers or tenants and the main differences are highlighted below.
Surveys for Owner Occupiers or Landlords
Owner occupiers or landlords will be primarily looking at commercial premises as an asset and need to know that it is not only structurally sound but that significant short term expenditure is not likely to have to be incurred on replacing or refurbishing main elements of the building envelope such as roof, walls, windows, curtain walling or mechanical and electrical plant such as lifts and air conditioning. They will also be interested in ongoing maintenance costs and running costs for the premises in terms of heating/cooling and lighting. All such potential concerns will be addressed as standard with recommendations for remedial work and cost thereof, if required, to facilitate an equitable transaction cost of acquiring the property.
Surveys for Tenants
Sometimes tenants will be taking a demise on a whole building in which case their requirements for surveys are much more closely aligned with those of an owner occupier. However, many tenants may be taking a smaller demise in a larger building which may be multi-tenanted.
Prospective tenants often assume that if the space they are taking in a multi-tenanted building is in good condition then they have nothing to worry about. This is often an erroneous assumption. We regularly come across building shells which have had cosmetic refurbishment where the space to let is in pristine condition. This can disguise a number of potential pitfalls for the unwary including possible life expired roof coverings, windows or curtain walling or aged plant including air-conditioning and lifts, and poor thermal insulation leading to high running costs. Where there are building defects outside the demise, relating to the building as a whole, the rectification costs will eventually be passed onto the tenant in the form of service charges unless there is a service charge cap or limitation of liability inserted into the lease. All such problems would be addressed, and appropriate recommendations made in a survey.
Other factors of potential concern such as statutory compliance with building regulations and adequate disability provision for Equality Act compliance and even adequate provision of sanitary accommodation will also be covered as standard in any survey.
Types of Survey
The commonly referred to Structural Survey or Building Survey traditionally outlines the detailed construction of the building as well as itemising defects and can be laboriously detailed. Not all surveyors offer remedial solutions or cost of rectification. These are included as standard in any PRA survey. Over many years of dealing with clients however, PRA have come to understand that the majority of clients want to know what’s wrong with a building, how to put it right and how much it is going to cost – as simple as that. We have therefore developed a report unique to PRA which we call a Schedule of Defects.
A PRA Schedule of defects focuses less on how a building is constructed, although main points are highlighted, and more on what is wrong with the premises in a concise format, with recommended remedial solutions (which may involve lease changes or a service charge cap) and the approximate cost thereof. Clients find this an easy and informative read enabling them to complete their acquisition of a leasehold or freehold interest with confidence.
Included in a PRA survey fee is a limited amount of time to adequately liaise with the client’s other professional advisers including solicitors, agents and any specialist recommended consultants such as Services Engineers or Structural Engineers.
Sometimes if a demised space is in poor condition PRA will recommend a Schedule of Condition prior to entering into a lease. This can be undertaken separately or at the same time as the survey although is a separate service which PRA can undertake.
By choosing PRA prior to finalising detailed premises negotiations any shortcomings can be identified and addressed ensuring any property transaction runs smoothly.