Survey level three: RICS Building Survey
General description of level three service
This level of service is for people who are seeking a professional opinion about the condition of a property and is based on a detailed assessment. Therefore, the inspection is more extensive than for other levels of service and the surveyor will spend a considerable time at the property.
Choose this report if dealing with a large, older or run-down property, a building that is unusual or altered, or if you’re planning major works. It costs more than the other RICS reports because it gives detailed information about the structure and fabric of the property. This service includes:
• a detailed visual inspection of the building, its services and the grounds and is more extensive than a survey level two
• Concealed areas normally opened or used by the occupiers are inspected if it is safe to do so (typical examples include roof spaces, basements and cellars)
• Although the services are not tested, they are observed in normal operation – in other words, they are switched on or off and/or operated where the occupier has given permission and it is safe to do so.
The report objectively describes the form of construction and materials used for different parts of the property. It describes the condition and provides an assessment of the relative importance of the defects/problems. Additionally, it should:
• describe the identifiable risk of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected
• propose the most probable cause(s) of the defects based on the inspection
• outline the likely scope of any appropriate remedial work and explain the likely consequences of non-repair; and
• make general recommendations in respect of the priority and likely timescale for necessary work.
The surveyor may also be able to provide an estimate of costs for identified repairs if agreed with you in advance.
This level of service will suit any domestic residential property in any condition.
The level three inspection
The extent of an inspection will depend on a range of specific circumstances (including health and safety considerations).
When inspecting flats, the surveyor assesses the general condition of the outside surfaces of the building, as well as its access and communal areas (for example, shared hallways and staircases that lead directly to the subject flat) and roof spaces, but only if they are accessible from within and owned by the subject flat. The surveyor does not inspect drains, lifts, fire alarms and security systems.
External wall systems are not inspected. If the surveyor has specific concerns about these items, further investigation will be recommended before making a legal commitment to purchase.
Dangerous materials, contamination and environmental issues
The surveyor does not make any enquiries about contamination or other environmental dangers.
The surveyor assumes that no harmful or dangerous materials have been used in the construction, and does not have a duty to justify making this assumption. However, if the inspection shows that such materials have been used, the surveyor will report this.
The surveyor does not carry out an asbestos inspection and does not act as an asbestos inspector when inspecting properties that may fall within The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (‘CAR 2012’). However, the report will properly emphasise the suspected presence of asbestos containing materials if the inspection identifies that possibility.
With flats, the surveyor assumes that there is a ‘dutyholder’ (as defined in CAR 2012), and that there is an asbestos register and an effective management plan in place, which does not present a significant risk to health or need any immediate payment. The surveyor does not consult the dutyholder.
Inspection includes opening of windows only where permission has been given, any keys/ locks are available, and it is safe to do so. Where the inspection of windows is restricted, the surveyor will inform the client.
In a level three inspection, the surveyor will attempt to open all windows, where possible. .
The surveyor will carry out an inspection of roof spaces that are not more than three metres above floor level using a ladder if it is safe and reasonable to do so.
The surveyor will enter the roof space if it is accessible and visually inspect the roof structure with particular attention paid to those parts vulnerable to deterioration and damage.
Although the surveyor will not move thermal insulation, the surveyor will lift small corners if the surveyor considers it safe so its thickness, type and the nature of the underlying ceiling can be identified and assessed.
Where the surveyor has the permission of the owner, the surveyor will move a small number of lightweight possessions so a more thorough inspection can take place.
In recent years, the lofts of many homes have been insulated with thick layers of thermal insulation. Usually, it is not safe to move across this material and this may restrict what the surveyor can look at in the roof space.
The surveyor will closely inspect the surfaces of exposed floors and I will lift the corners of any loose and unfitted carpets and other floor coverings where practicable.
The surveyor will assess all floors for excessive deflection by a ‘heel-drop’ test.
Where the boards are lifted, the surveyor will look in the space beneath by way of an inverted ‘head and shoulder’ inspection (either physically or using appropriate equipment). If it is safe to do so, the surveyor will enter the under-floor area to carry out a more thorough inspection as long as the access panel is big enough, the space beneath the floor is deep enough, and it is safe to do so.
Furniture and occupiers’ possessions
The surveyor will move lightweight, easily moveable, non-fitted items where practicable, safe and where the
owner/occupier gives permission.
Services (for example, heating and hot and cold water)
The surveyor will not perform or comment on design calculations, or test the service installations or appliances but will observe their normal operation in everyday use. This usually means:
operating lights and extract fans where appropriate and if the electrical power is on at the time at the time of the survey (It may have been turned off by others for safety reasons).
asking the owner/occupier to switch on the heating appliances/system.
where the survey considers it appropriate to the assessment of the service system, turning on water taps, filling and emptying sinks, baths, bidets and basins, and flushing toilets to observe the performance of visible pipework where the water is turned on at the time of the survey.
lifting accessible inspection chamber covers (where it is safe to do so), identifying the nature of the connections and observing water flow where a water supply is available. On dry days, this may involve pouring water into open gullies so drainage layouts can be identified.
The surveyor will advise you that further tests and inspections will be required if the owner/occupier (if present) does not provide evidence of appropriate installation and/or maintenance, or the client requires assurance as to their condition, capability and safety.
The surveyor will carry out a thorough visual inspection of the grounds, and, where necessary and appropriate, from adjoining public property.
The assessment will include such external features as retaining walls, gardens, drives, paths, terraces, patios, steps, hard-standings, dropped kerbs, gates, trees, boundary walls, fences, non-permanent outbuildings, rights of way, and so on.
The inspection will also include the inside and outside of all permanent outbuildings not attached to the main dwelling. This includes garages, summer houses, substantial greenhouses, follies and leisure buildings, but not the leisure facilities inside, for example swimming pools, saunas, fitness gyms, and so on.
Specific defective features and other matters associated with the grounds can be costly to resolve and may affect your purchase decision. Consequently, the surveyor will fully account for these. Examples include assessing retaining walls in danger of collapsing, deeply sunken paths or driveways, dilapidated boundary walls or fences and the legal and insurance implications.
The level three report
The report will reflect the thoroughness and detail of the investigation and will:
• describe the form of construction and materials used for each part of the building in detail and outline their performance characteristics. This is especially important for older and historic buildings
• describe obvious defects and state the identifiable risk of those that may be hidden
• outline remedial options and, if it is considered it to be significant, explain the likely consequences if the repairs not being done
• propose a timescale for the necessary work including recommendations for further investigation prior to commitment to purchase (only where appropriate and necessary)
• discuss future maintenance of the property and identify those elements that may result in more frequent and/ or more costly maintenance and repairs than would normally be expected
• identify the nature of risks of the parts that have not been inspected.
The surveyor gives condition ratings to the main parts (the ‘elements’) of the main building, garage and some outside elements. The condition ratings are described as follows:
• R – Documents we may suggest you request before you sign contracts.
• Condition rating 3 – Defects that are serious and/or need to be repaired, replaced or investigated urgently. Failure to do so could risk serious safety issues or severe long-term damage to your property. Written quotations for repairs should be obtained prior to legal commitment to purchase.
• Condition rating 2 – Defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be either serious or urgent. The property must be maintained in the normal way.
• Condition rating 1 – No repair is currently needed. The property must be maintained in the normal way.
• NI – Elements not inspected.
The surveyor notes in the report if it was not possible to check any parts of the property that the inspection would normally cover. If the surveyor is concerned about these parts, the report tells you about any further investigations that are needed.
A full description of the RICS Home Survey - Level 3 can be found on the RICS website here.