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Hot Topic Highlight – Inspection (Part 2)

Updated: Mar 19

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we take a look at the Inspection technical competency. Essential reading for both AssocRICS and APC candidates following this competency.

We have split this blog into two parts, with part 1 being available to catch up on here.

Thank you to Brian Robinson, Property Elite consultant, for writing this blog.

How should I prepare for an inspection?

Whatever type of inspection you are going to do, there are some fundamentals that are common to all. Good preparation is the key!

Here are our top tips, make sure you know or check:

  • The purpose of your instruction and the outcome expected of your client

  • Relevant RICS guidance

  • Any relevant legal guidance. Two cases to think about are McGlynn v Waltham for inspection of construction work and Ryb v Conway Chartered Surveyors. The latter applies to residential surveys and indicates that a surveyor's duty of care may extend to cover the grounds of a property, as well as the property itself

  • Plans, leases and as built drawings

  • Asbestos register

  • Copies of the specification and contract drawings - do not be afraid to take with you check lists (printed or on an iPad) of relevant information

If the property is an old unoccupied industrial property, try and see if you can find out any historic uses. I once inspected a property for a property for a client. Part way through the inspection we went into what had been the first aid room to see a sign above a wooden cupboard saying, “Inject in the case of arsenic poising.” It turned out that arsenic had been used in the manufacturing process.

When inspecting the residential flats or empty properties, especially those that have been empty for some time, check where the nearest public toilet is. You cannot guarantee that the toilets are working. Also, if you are going to be on site for some time you may wish to find out where the nearest coffee shop or eating place is.

How can I stay safe when inspecting?

First, carry out a desk top risk assessment. Always consider if you need to be accompanied on the survey and what your firm’s policy is on meeting strangers. Do not undertake a survey if there is no support or back up at your office.

Look at what your company’s risk assessment says about lone working, discarded needles and squatters. There is no requirement for you to put yourself at risk of harm.

We have lots more detail on this in our surveying safely blog.

Do not forget to undertake a dynamic risk assessment when arriving on site - things may differ to what you expect. This should include an assessment of any “client” you are meeting in an empty property.

Do you have a code for alerting your office if you feel uncomfortable in inspecting property with the client? In all cases, do not enter if you do feel uncomfortable with a client.

Check your mobile phone has a signal - if not, then reassess the situation, travel back to where you have signal and discuss with your office what you are going to do. Consider rearranging the inspection if necessary. Also check you have a mobile phone signal when inside the property, as sometimes signals can be blocked.

How should I inspect?

Whatever type of inspection you carry out, your primary job is to gather the information available to you that is applicable to the reason you are inspecting. You then have information you can analyse to provide the correct advice to your client.

You must be wary against going to site with a pre-conceived idea of what you expect to see, as this can lead you to ignore evidence or just not be bothered to look closely enough.

The old adage of “if it looks right, it is right”, is a dangerous one to accept.

Damp problems are a good example of this, where surveyors have diagnosed a rising damp problem based only on damp meter readings, when the problem has been blocked cavities or bridged wall ties.

What information should I record on site?

When arriving on site, you should always record:

  • Date

  • Time

  • Weather, as this can affect what you see

The late Malcom Hollis at a one day conference told this story; his practice had been instructed to investigate water ingress problems at an office block in Bristol. He had been to site several times in the course of the investigations.

On this one day, he arrived early and went up onto the flat roof, which he and done many times before. On this day however, the angle of the sun revealed that the asphalt roof covering was uneven, something which he had not seen before. Opening up revealed that the roof had only one coat of asphalt and not the two required.

Now, because on previous visits he had recorded the time and weather, he would possibly have had a defence against a negligence claim made against his practice.

How should I record my inspection findings?

Following the verdict in the unreported case of Ryb v Conway Chartered Surveyors, the need to fully record, including photographs, what you see on an inspection and take supporting photographs is essential.

With the advent of digital photography, there is little limitation on the number of photographs you can take, unlike the days of 35mm film where cost played a part in the number taken.

In my kit bag, I use the following to record my findings:

  • Tape recorder

  • Notebook

  • Pad of A4 paper to sketch on

  • Pens

  • Pencil

  • Chalk

  • Digital camera

What additional surveys may be required?

It is quite common on inspection to recommend additional more detailed inspections using specialist equipment or techniques.

  • There are many examples of these, some of which are:

  • Thermographic surveys

  • CCTV surveys of drainage

  • Drone surveys

  • Pressure tests

How can I use drones when inspecting?

The use of drones for carrying out high level surveys is a technique growing in use. I consider that more many inspections should use these as a standard approach. I have seen the benefits in having these done where it is difficult or impossible to inspect roofs at high level.

On surveys carried out for a colleague, not only were suspect areas on hidden parts of roofs identified, but additional information which was not apparent from the ground, such as on boundary lines where adjoining properties may have encroached, were revealed.


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Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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