Buying a property for any purpose involves some element of risk, both commercially and safety- related. The due diligence process will usually identify and highlight problematic issues, such as the physical condition of the structure, possible contamination, life safety systems, accessibility issues, presence of asbestos, lead paint and mould etc. The process involves several strands of knowledge and expertise, and ultimately an overall assessment will be made. Where construction works are planned, the project team will carry out surveys, both to assess existing issues and plan for the future. Trying to assess potential difficulties when a building remains occupied creates additional difficulties, particularly where there are time constraints involved.
One of the difficulties associated with the process is the lack of information available for previously completed works. Getting hold of the right documentation can be difficult. Since 1996 most completed construction projects should have a Safety File prepared, which effectively is an operations and maintenance manual for future users, designers and contractors. This is a legal document and there are legal responsibilities involved, both in its preparation and its availability. There should also be a dedicated Health and Safety section, outlining ‘residual risks’ associated with the property and its future use.