Working within the London housing industry, especially refurbishment of rental properties, we are often shocked at the general condition of some of the flats we see. We have seen flats that have apparently been 'recently refurbished' - in other words, the walls were painted and a new laminate floor was laid. This 'surface decoration' is a common technique that property owners use before renting or selling a property. However, this is on a par with giving your beaten up, 30 year old car that stalls at every set of traffic lights a new paint job and new car seats: at first glance, it looks good; but, if you were to delve deeper, you would probably find a number of faults.

This got us thinking: "why do we have to MOT our cars every year but a house can remain unmaintained for 20 years or more without any legal consequences"? Building maintenance is a real concern, especially shared buildings where negligence of one flat could easily have a negative impact on the other flats in the building. For example, if a flat on the first floor of a building is unmaintained, a faulty electrical system could start a fire that could spread to the other flats, a leak could formulate from old pipes and cause water damage to the flat below and many more hazards.

Ardesia Design is developing a service that would give your investment or home a 'health check'. We believe that buildings that adhere to a 'fabric first' approach to refurbishment and maintenance are the ones that will require the least maintenance throughout the years.

An MOT would include:
- Identifying the general condition of the property
- Checking any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
- Identifying urgent problems that need inspecting by a specialist
- Checking the level of insulation
- Checking the level of damp-proofing
- Checking the condition of plumbing / drainage
- Checking the condition of the floor, floor joists, walls and ceiling
- Advising on the use of space
- Advising on the finishes and fittings (whether they require updating)
- Advising on possible costs of repairs
- Advising on the value of the property on the open market

Additionally, the MOT package comes with and Electrical Installation Condition Report from an NICEIC approved contractor, a Gas Safety Certificate and a boiler service by a Gas Safe registered plumber and an EPC certificate.

Therefore, a 'Property MOT' would be not only useful but advisable to both investors and landlords alike.

When selling a property, the only document that the seller must supply by law is an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), which costs around £50 and gives a rating of the property's energy efficiency, from a rating between A (low running costs) to G (high running costs). The EPC does not make any comments on the condition of the property. For the seller, this is probably quite an easy deal. However, a good condition MOT report could give you a marketing stance when valuing your property.

The short answer is no. There is no legal requirement to run any checks on the quality of the flat when buying or selling a house/flat, although it's very usual for buyers to organise a Surveyor to run a check on the general condition of the building and to note any structural or other problems with the property.
Even if the surveyor was to find serious structural problems with the roof of the building, this would not prevent the property from being sold (although it might help the buyer to negotiate a better price).

However, buying a house without a proper survey is like buying a car without an MOT. However, if you are buying to refurbish or to rent, you might need to know a bit more on the condition of your property, how this can be improved, how it affects the value of your property and most importantly, the cost of repairs or refurbishing.

Most developers or investors who come to use have already bought the property (so a surveyor has already done a general check), yet when we visit the site for the first time, they have no idea on the current condition of utilities (electrical system, boiler, plumbing), the level of insulation or the quality of existing building materials (wooden floor, sound proofing, tanking). Regarding the refurbishment works, clients often have a budget in mind but no clear concept of expectation versus what is realistically achievable with their budget.

This is especially important if your refurbishment budget is strict. If you could know from the onset what items are the highest priority to repair (boiler, electrical system), what items could add value to your investment (under floor heating, new kitchen and bathrooms, changing the layout by removing a wall) and how much you would be likely to spend in refurbishment costs, you would already be in a position to better understand what you can achieve for your budget. This would also put you in a good position to manage your money and to start negotiations with a contractor for the works (although we would advise employing a professional to manage the process).

As a landlord, the condition of your property could have implications on the amount of money spent on maintenance during a tenancy. Although painting the walls might make the flat look 'pretty' and attract tenants, once tenants move in and notice leaks and problems with the heating they will quickly alert the landlord of issues than need to be fixed. Regular maintenance as opposed to leaving problems to develop until they become apparent is advisable and responsible and could save money in the long term. A small drip could cost £100 to fix today but could cost thousands of pounds if the leak developed and caused a downpour of water damage to the flat below.

Making small repairs like upgrading the boiler and changing the sanitary ware could help you achieve a higher rental valuation for your property but whenever possible, we would advise landlords that a more extensive refurbishment will have an impact not only on the rental valuation but could save you on ongoing maintenance costs and also improve the satisfaction of your tenants. This could include upgrading the utilities (plumbing and electric), improving the insulation under the floorboards, refurbishing the windows, renewing the bathrooms and improving the waterproofing of the bathrooms and fitting a new kitchen. Regular maintenance on the utilities would prevent, rather than 'cure' any future problems. Furthermore, rather than just fixing the things that seem important on the surface, an MOT would help you to rate the 'problems' by urgency and to prioritise the problems that would have the most negative impact if left unresolved - giving you more control on your costs.