It is very difficult to know where to draw the line in a survey of an apartment. All that is for sale is the apartment itself, whereas most of the important information regarding the apartment depends on the structure of which it forms part and the common areas which it shares with other apartment owners.
Normally the structure of the building is owned by the Owners’ Management Company, and you will only be buying the internal space, not the structural elements of the apartment. We are advised by experienced surveyors that they personally would not purchase an apartment without having had an opportunity of looking at the structure in general, and, particularly in relation to apartments in larger blocks, making an assessment of its facilities for escape in the event of fire.
An overall look at the structure will give an indication as to whether there are any signs of structural distress or damage or of likely major future expenditure – such as that the entire outside needs re-pointing or that there are problems with the roof. In apartment blocks the presence of proper fire doors on apartments and on lobbies with operational door closers, fire stopping where service pipes go through floors, smoke evacuations systems and an operational fire alarm are very important.
Solicitors do seek copies of the planning permission and evidence of compliance with building regulations, but this is not a substitute for identifying matters obvious from an inspection.