Matt Wilkie Asset Surveyor

Getting to grips with building surveying for local councils.

Matt Wilkie Asset Surveyor

Most of the problems I found with housing association and council projects seem to be annually based on routine problems.

For example heating systems with burst pipes in the winter and the problems of damp at different times of the year leading to mould and other issues. Understanding the route problems and how to resolve them makes things a lot quicker and easier to deal with on a regular basis.

For example programming boiler maintenance for the heating systems during warmer months as well as assessing pipe lagging to help insulate against cold spells that lead to burst pipes.

The majority of the rest of the work seems to be things like faulty windows which often relate to the heating systems yet again where they haven’t been used by tenants who look to save money and in turn this results in damage to the properties. Wooden windows often taking the brunt due to condensation that then causes the timber to rot.

Preventative maintenance is key to keeping things within budget and understanding the housing stock leads to less reactive calls. For example if you know that there are certain properties already programmed for replacement kitchens, bathrooms etc. many of the routine calls won’t need to be processed in the same way as someone with a unit that isn’t going to be replaced. Sometimes you will get tenants trying to push for early replacement. But as much of this type of work is pre-programmed with sometimes hundreds of replacements on an on going basis I advise “not” allowing people to jump the queue. The main reason for this is it doesn’t take long for people to tell other tenants how the got to the top of the list for a new kitchen. The next thing is you start getting a lot of calls expecting to jump the queue or get their kitchen replaced.

It can often be a fine balance of getting work done and keeping tenants at bay as a lot of the problems I found over the years are primarily down to the way tenants treat the properties or that the housing stock is old and in the process of being upgraded or demolished for replacement. Whatever the reason understanding the property portfolio will make your life as a building surveyor a lot easier. There may be from time to time “acts of god” but even so you will still have to deal with the problems that come with them such as emergency housing, pumping out flooded properties, drying the properties and then getting them totally refurbished.

I enjoy building surveying for housing associations and councils because it does have a lot of variety of work and generally I look for contracts that need some time and efficiencies to sort things out. It makes the work more varied and a challenge as I have found most roles have at least 6 months to a year backlog of work when I initially arrive. But within a short period of time you can find that the work load can be whittled down by looking at things smartly.

An example of this is locating multiple problems in the same area or household as you may find the same problem reported multiple times over a period of time, or that its an issue that affects multiple people which led to another complaint being raised by a neighbour. Being able to sift these out at the office and getting on the phone you can put a lot of fires out quickly before getting onto the work of surveying.

One of the biggest problems I found that tenants complained about was the lack of communication from surveyors. Yet a simple call, email or text is often all it needs to create a happy tenant. They don’t expect miracles but being able to say that there will be someone there this week to fix a wall rather than a job just being booked and they are still wondering what is happening. Can make all the difference between someone being happy and raising a complaint.