Should I get a survey on a flat?

It is all too simple to think that because the flat you are buying seems clean and tidy, you do not need to worry about the greater building.


When you buy a flat you are actually buying into a larger building.

By way of illustration, although your property maybe ground floor, you are potentially still liable, in part for everything above you including the roof and chimney!

Conversely, if you are a top floor flat, you could be liable to contribute towards the cost of remedying dampness in a ground floor property.

When you buy a flat it is imperative that the building is effectively managed.

Blocks that are managed by an external company are preferable whereas blocks that are self-managed by residents can be a worry. Unless someone in the building is an expert on property construction, it is all too easy to sit around a table and focus on the cosmetics at the cost of neglecting the bigger structural issues. Painting a hallway is easy whereas repairing a valley gutter can be complex and hugely expensive.

A survey on a flat will focus on the property itself and will report on all the usual internal elements. However, it will also report on the external building fabric around the part of the building which incorporates that property.

In other words, the report will look at walls, roofs, chimneys etc in order that, as a purchaser, you can be made fully aware of what is wrong with building. This will enable you to be determine any pending repair items to the main building fabric for which you could potentially be liable to contribute.

When you buy a flat, you should be asked to contribute by way of a monthly service charge.

This figure should be proportionate to the size, age and complexity of the building and will enable the management company to accrue a sinking fund for any pending repairs to the building. The cost of re-roofing a period building could run into several tens of thousands of pounds and if there is no accrued sinking fund, there is a risk that as a flat owner, that could be a knock on the door when a cash-call is required.

In essence, surveys on flats are vital.

As a buyer, you should not be lulled into the sense of false security that someone else is managing the building effectively. It is important that you are made aware of any pending issues with the greater building in order that you can ensure that there is a planned maintenance programme in place for these works, and, more importantly that adequate funds are available to rectify the defects before your legal completion and before you inherit a potential liability.

This content was produced for us by Giles Cooper of Certus Property Consultants.