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Property Inspections and the Coronavirus

Tuesday, 24th March 2020 | by: Justin Burns

We’re all having to adapt to a new way of working and we’ve been endeavouring to keep things ticking over while observing Government guidance. Surveyors are in a slightly unusual position in that much of our work, such as report writing etc., can easily be done from home whereas property inspections obviously cannot.

We’ve been practising social distancing during appointments for a couple of weeks now so the additional measures that were announced by Boris Johnson last night do not change things significantly although we will now look to delay non-urgent property visits.

We’ve been adhering to the following guidance on all appointments since the start of the crisis:

  1. Travel to the property by car (this is much easier now as the roads are much quieter than normal!)
  2. Only inspect if none of the occupants are self-isolating (including those in vulnerable groups).
  3. Ensure that guidance on social distancing can be complied with.

We’re also in the process of introducing further precautions to specific areas of works including the following:

Party Wall Procedures

The Housing Minister has confirmed that work on building sites can continue so long as Public Health England’s  guidance on social distancing can be followed. It therefore follows that party wall procedures, which is one of our main areas of work, should continue on the same basis.

The main reason to visit site at the start of the process is to record a schedule the condition covering the parts of the adjoining owner’s property that are at risk from the works. We have many cases where the schedule has already been recorded so those awards can be agreed and served in the normal way.

Where each owner has appointed their own surveyor (as opposed to an Agreed Surveyor) the standard procedure would be for the two surveyors to meet on site and record the schedule of condition together but that not mandatory. The site visit can be undertaken by the adjoining owner’s surveyor alone and that would be the preference at this time. Having one less person at the property will make it easier to observe social distancing guidance (party wall surveyors are very good at estimating distances!).

The recording of the schedule of condition is only a small part of the process, particularly on larger projects, so there’s lots that can be done prior to a site visit. It’s also possible to serve a party wall award with a requirement that a schedule of condition is recorded prior to any works covered by the Act commencing.

Building Surveys and Homebuyer Reports

Whilst providing clarification on TV this morning Michael Gove said that, if possible, people should pause moving and stay in their current home. It’s therefore difficult to describe a pre-purchase survey as essential unless there are specific circumstances that make it so.

We will therefore only be undertaking inspections of this type where the property is vacant and the selling agent is happy to attend the property to provide access/lock up.

So, all in all, there’s plenty that we can still do while complying with both the letter and spirit of the latest Government guidelines. If you require advice on a surveying matter please don’t hesitate to call us. Contact details remain the same despite us all working from home –  020 8546 7211 or click here to send an email.