Directors of residential management companies often ask whether it is really necessary to use a chartered building surveyor when undertaking a major works project. Would you be better off dealing with maintenance on your own and asking building contractors to manage works projects?
Certainly, you can ask different building contractors to quote for the works. But without a detailed specification, two different contractors might provide two very different estimates, based on their interpretation of the works required. This will not likely satisfy the requirements of the Section 20 consultation which requires quotes on a like-for-like basis.
Moreover, contractors are not able to offer the strategic, long-term view that a building surveyor brings to such projects. A surveyor is there to advise you what will be the best for you and your building now and into the future.
A surveyor’s first job is to ensure that you get the project moving in a way that maximises your chances of success. He or she will obtain tenders through a formal process (ensuring no carelessness or collusion), and will then be able to assess and review them for you before making a recommendation for appointing a contractor. That recommendation will be based on a combination of factors where cost is an important but not exclusive element. The surveyor would also be able to call on an approved list of tried and tested contractors who would be guaranteed to give your works the right treatment and approach.
The surveyor’s next step would be to set-up and “administer” a formal building contract. In some cases, he or she would also identify areas where specialist contractors need to be hired to perform specific project tasks. All that work takes place before the project begins, but it will provide you with complete reassurance that it will start with everything in place to be completed on time, on budget, and in a way that fits with your vision for the long-term benefit of the property.
Fundamentally, a building surveyor is a trained expert in maintenance and repair. Of course, there won’t be much of either required in the months after the works take place. Your new windows will look great, your door will shut quietly, your gutters will not leak. But what next? A surveyor will ask some crucial questions with an eye to the future. For example, why did you need to change the windows? Were the windows beyond economic repair? Was there any evidence of damp? Were there drafts? If so, you need to know why. Otherwise, it is very likely that your new windows and doors will suffer the same problems.
A good surveyor will also make recommendations for “works to reduce the ongoing maintenance regime”. Examples could be the installation of leadwork cappings to provide added protection to masonry and reduce the rate of deterioration. Such works are often “optional” and the surveyor would provide advice on the costs for this work so that a decision could be taken prior to works starting.
A surveyor will also be able to ensure that estimates are realistic, your budget is realistic, and you are receiving the best value in terms of work and materials.
Henry Grant is a Senior Building Surveyor at Earl Kendrick Associates Limited