A clear major works project brief

The importance of a clear and definitive brief at the start of any major works project should never be underestimated.

Briefs that are lacking in detail can lead to implications and assumptions on both sides later on and subsequent changes can often lead to delays, increased costs and dissatisfied freeholder and leaseholders. All of this can be avoided by having a clear brief that all parties are signed up to from the start.

What makes a good brief?
By way of an example, if a programme of external/internal repairs and redecorations are required


to a managed block, the buildings surveyor should be given as much information and detail about the property as possible to assist in the preparation of the specification. This should Include:

Detailed Scope of works:
Clear direction of what elements of the building and/or estate to be included within the works are required, and this should correlate with the information included within the managing agent's notice of intention under the Section 20 process.

Capex Plan:
If a previous capital expenditure plan for the block has been prepared and particularly signed off by the board then this should be provided to the surveyor prior to a fee being agreed for the works. This will allow the surveyor a good insight to the expected works and a budget value of these works, and they can quote fees based on this budget cost.

Background/Historic Information:
Any information relating to previous works, temporary repairs undertaken, damp and water ingress problems and any other issues that may have a bearing on the scope of works currently being instructed. Reports previously prepared by other surveyors /engineers, should be passed over for consideration.

Health and Safety file:
A Health and Safety file should be held for the property by the property manager in accordance with the CDM Regulations 2015. This should detail previous major works undertaken, materials used, and any inherent health and safety issues within the building. This should be passed to the surveyor upon appointment.

Asbestos report and other health and safety reports:
This will allow the surveyor to be made aware of any hazardous materials/issues can be identified at an early stage. These may need to be dealt with prior to works commencing. This will also highlight any Health and Safety works that should be included in the scope of works/specification being prepared by the surveyor.

Fire Risk Assessment:
Especially important for projects of internal repairs and decorations which are to included works to fire alarms and emergency lighting.  This will allow the surveyor to correctly specify any alarm system and how this is to be linked with flat systems if they exist.

One fundamental piece of information which is often overlooked is that of a typical lease. It is especially Important as it allows the surveyor to denote areas of demise such as balconies, roof terraces but most importantly the demise of windows and the repairing obligations of the freeholder/leaseholder.

Realistic timescales should be set out at the Initial stages of any project, taking into consideration Section 20 consultation periods, collection of funds etc. so neither party has unrealistic expectations of when works will be on site. The surveyor should be able to provide a simple programme which can be circulated to the directors/freeholder.

How is this achieved?
There should be open communication channels between the surveyor, property manager/freeholder and board members by way of a meeting on site to discuss issues relating to the building, which can then be followed up by issuing a written brief/instruction.

Once the brief has been issued, the final step is for the surveyor to confirm their instructions, level of fees and terms of business in writing, detailing the service to be provided together with those that are not, specifically identifying:

  • The fee that has been agreed for this role and the basis of how the fee is to be charged, including any stage payments;
  • The terms and conditions and confirmation on how the appointment may be terminated;
  • The complaints/dispute resolution procedure;
  • The level of professional indemnity insurance cover;
  • ​The extent of the surveyor's authority as contract administrator with regard to expenditure of contingency/provisional sums and advice on additional/unforeseen works;
  • Level of inspections and frequency of site meetings.

The property manager/freeholder should then acknowledge receipt and agreement before the surveyor undertakes any works.

Daniel Legg, Director at Ingleton Wood LLP

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