I have been conducting pre-purchase house surveys for a few years now and would like to
think I have come across most things some of which I have written about in previous blogs.
However quite recently I was carrying out a survey on a property only to find something that
you most definitely do not get told about in the textbooks.
The house was a typical two-story terrace, built pre-war with a single-story rear extension and
was well presented internally. I normally commence my surveys on the ground floor by
drawing the floor plan. This helps me get a feel for the property and an understanding of how
it’s been constructed as I go from room to room sketching it out and noting any major
concerns on the plan. Once this is complete, I then commence the survey properly on our
electronic device by starting with the front reception working my way through the house and
do the same on the floor above.
I have found having the same approach on every survey ensures nothing gets missed. In the distant past I have had to go back to a property because
I had forgotten to check something which was not only inconvenient but also does not reflect
well if a client queries ‘Did you check such and such?’ and I am unable to confirm. Anyway,
getting back to the survey, as I am going through the house, I noted there were a few cats
about. I quite like cats, so this did not bother me, but I did begin to wonder how many there
were. A different cat seemed to appear in nearly every room. I noted one was ginger and he
seemed to be everywhere only for me to realise there were actually two ginger ones plus at
least another four of a different variety. In my experience most pet owners will have may be
one or two cats so having six plus is a bit out of the ordinary, but I thought no more of it until
I went outside.
So having completed the inside I then normally commence outside with the front elevation
starting at roof level and working my way down. I then move on to the rear elevation and so
was the case on this particular day. As mentioned above this property had been extended at
the rear and the extension had a flat roof. Now flat roofs can very often lead to problems
simply because the roof covering has a limited life span, and it is very often never maintained.
The first time an owner knows there is a problem is when it starts leaking and by then there
could be a lot of damage to the roof structure. The difficulty for us Surveyors is we can only
do a visual inspection and it may actually look ok on the day only for it to start leaking the
minute our client moves into the property.
We then get a very disgruntled client on the phone stating ‘You know that survey you did for me well you didn’t mention that the flat roof needed
replacing and we have had a builder friend check it out and he says you should have picked it
up’. The ‘builder friend’ are the bane of Surveyors lives because they take great pleasure in
pointing out what they consider to be the inadequacies of Surveyors and yet we are unable
to correct them or defend ourselves because we never meet them. They become enigma’s
that the Vendor puts their full trust in and we in turn become the nemesis. Its ok for Mr
Builder friend as he can peel back the covering and check it out properly, we obviously cannot
do that. As a result, we tend to air on the side of caution when checking a flat roof covering
and certainly do our best to get a proper look.
On this survey, I could tell the covering was
quite old but when I got the ladder out and climbed to the top, I was surprised to find the roof was covered in cat faeces. I had to do a double take to check what I was looking at. If there
had been a couple of piles it might not have been such an unpleasant surprise but there were
numerous deposits all over the roof. The roof had a covering of stone chippings which is quite
common and is used to try and protect the felt /asphalt from solar glare. However, I can only
imagine that the cats had thought it was some kind of large outdoor litter tray and had been
doing their business and then tried to scoop up the chippings to cover the mess. This had
resulted in little piles of chippings which had soon run out, but the cats had continued to use
the roof regardless.
I am not even sure the owners knew what was going on because the roof
was not visible, it could only be viewed by going up a ladder. The question is apart from
looking a mess, can such deposits have a detrimental effect on the roof covering? Well
removing the stone chippings was certainly not going to help but as it happens the covering
was not in great condition, and I did recommend that it was replaced. So, all pet owners out
there please check where your cats are doing their number twos and all Surveyors remember
to expect the unexpected. Lastly, I don’t envy the person that got the job of recovering the
By Gareth Brookes