Building inspectors frequently get asked to inspect commercial property prior to purchase - a wise request for investment protection because there are many risks, and many of them are hidden. So what do we look for?

Obviously, we look at property condition. That includes structural stability and any evidence of cracking or foundation weakness. This then is followed by looking for ingress of moisture and existence of dampness. One of the most common problems in commercial buildings is leaking box gutters that have never been properly constructed and frequently have no overflows or have not been maintained.

We then turn our mind to evidence of internal or external modifications and additions looking for illegal construction. Just imagine the liabilities you could face by operating a business in premises where there is illegal construction and someone gets injured or killed.

Then there is sheer occupant stupidity. I once inspected large office where externally opening doors had chains and padlocks “for security.” However, had there been a power failure during a fire, the only escape doors – auto doors at front – may have been shut and fatality was highly probable. Many times, I have found escape routes blocked by pallets or other obstructions as well as escape doors illegally modified (“for security”) fitted with deadbolts.

This then leads to statutory requirements for the maintenance of essential services such as fire services, emergency lighting, paths of exit and the like.

More often than not, the buildings I inspect either have no essential service inspection regime or inspections are out of date. I frequently find inspection tags two to five years out of date on fire extinguishers or hose reels.


In addition to reporting on property condition and illegal structures, I also always recommend that the maintenance of essential services be brought up to date and logged as required prior to the property settlement. Frequently, that is a lot of expense for the owner that otherwise would be borne by the purchaser. I also recommend that in addition to essential services maintenance, there is also maintained and rehearsed emergency and evacuation plan.

Reporting on the property condition is just one side of the story, the other is expert advice about what is required to repair, fix and maintain with off the cuff estimate to assist in decision about the property purchase.

The property you are buying will often require modifications for your requirements. This is where expert advice in addition to building condition report is essential.

The overriding issue is that if you are a property owner, you have a duty of care to provide compliant building in satisfaction of OH&S laws.

Protecting your investment is contingent on protecting, safety, health and amenity of the occupants in line with legal obligations or you could walk the plank.