Before investing in a property, whether your interest is freehold or leasehold, you need to know whether the property is really worth the price you have agreed to pay or whether you are going to be liable for significant repair costs under a lease or tenancy agreement. Similarly, if you are going to finance the purchase through a mortgage or other loan, the lender will also want to know whether the agreed price is a realistic one. Let’s face it you wouldn’t buy a house without a survey so why buy or rent a pub without one?
Many pubcos they will offer you up their ‘schedule of condition‘, ‘schedule of dilapidations‘ or some form of short property report by way of proving the state of repair of the property. I believe that under no circumstances should one use the landlord’s report as the basis for any decision to take that pub on. It may well result in you paying for repairs that are inherent in the building at the time you take it on or undertaking repairs that the landlord is responsible for.
I would strongly recommend that you arrange a comprehensive and independent survey to give you a true report on the physical state of repair of the premises you are proposing to take on. The degree of survey or thoroughness depends on the complexity of the individual property you intend to buy or rent.
In my opinion a Structural Survey is essential as it’s a thorough inspection and check of a property and the report is produced as a result of that inspection will based on the property and your specific requirements. This type of survey can be carried out on all properties irrespective of age, construction type, altered or refurbished.
A structural surveyor checks all accessible parts of the property. It’s important that you and the surveyor work closely so that the report includes any concerns you have on the building as well as any specific areas which should be covered. The final report can be made tailor made to suit your specific needs and as such there is no fixed format for a building survey report.
A comprehensive survey will reveal whether there are major and minor defects and what implication they could have in terms of repair and structural integrity. The probable cost of repair or rectification based on prevailing prices, the condition of timber used in the building including woodworm and rot; the condition of insulation, damp-proofing and internal and external drainage; test reports on dampness of walls and floors; technical and physical specifications relating to the construction materials of the property (especially important where ‘non-standard’ building materials have been use in its construction, such as thatched roofs); a detailed description of the property including its location and recommendations on the property and any further tests or inspections needed.
The drainage, whilst considered in the main report, may require a specialist drainage survey and is well worth the money as the costs for repairing these vital services can be huge. You may also want to include an inspection of the electrical installation to ensure that the wiring of the property is safe, again, these systems can be very expensive to repair.
It is also important to note that a building survey does not usually include a monetary valuation, you can request this additional information from the surveyor for an additional fee.
It is essential to use either a reliable and experienced building surveyor or a building surveying firm. You can start your search at the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the professional body for structural surveyors. The most important thing to note is that the building surveyor is accountable and legally bound on the accuracy of the information provided. If you come across a problem which the chartered surveyor has not included, you can ask for compensation later on.
Look for a leading building surveying company specialised in preparation of detailed and accurate survey reports for commercial structures across the UK. They will have well trained and experienced surveyors who are sent to the site to record the information of physical properties of the structures. The final survey report becomes an essential step towards investing in a property with fewer risks of unexpected costs and problems.
Full structural surveys can cost many thousands of pounds but can save many times their cost in terms of repair costs for which you would not have been liable. The last survey I had done for a leasehold pub cost £8,500 but revealed over £39,000 worth of repairs, which, the landlord had to undertake before the lease could be signed. The report also formed a legally binding understanding for the landlord of “inherent faults” within the building for which I would not be responsible; this included some non-threatening structural faults such as cracks and dampness and a whole subterranean cellar system deep below the trade cellars. This meant that in the event that any or all of these inherent faults in the structure of the building affected the operation of the pub that the landlord could not pursue me for their repair.
Just as you would expect to pay attention to all the details and covenants contained within a tenancy or lease agreement, so should you pay attention to the structure and condition of a pub before you sign a tenancy agreement or lease … caveat emptor … buyer beware!
RICS have their own website and if you need to employ a chartered surveyor they provide a tool for finding one in your area:
Top Tip – when choosing a surveyor try and choose one that has experience of pubs or who has clients who are in the pub trade. If you are renting or leasing a pub make sure your chosen surveyor has experience of dealing with brewers or pubcos.