Douglas Ralph, CPI
Snag & Inspect
By S. Dhar
Special to Freehold
You have used your life savings on your dream house and now that it is about to be handed over, you need to be sure that the property is without any construction defects. You are about to rent an apartment and want to ensure that there are no safety concerns so that you don’t have to incur any losses later. The only thing that will save you in both cases is a thorough property inspection.
We talk to Douglas Ralph of Snag & Inspect about the common defects in new and old properties in the UAE and what needs to be done to ensure new tenants and homeowners are not handed over homes with leaking roofs and open wires.
Most common snags
The following areas are considered the most common defect-prone systems that we emphasize in our inspections:
• Bathrooms and other wet areas – Poor waterproofing practices are considered rampant within the UAE, which lead to water damage that could result in mould and moisture problems, a major health concern. Waterproofing systems are often never installed. Basement walls are damaged due to waterproofing failure.
• Electrical systems in an apartment or villa
• Fire systems in complete buildings – It is critical to ensure that all fire systems, including fire stopping systems, fire alarm, firefighting, fire doors, sprinklers and emergency/ exit light systems, are fully operational to avoid havoc in the event of fires.
• Swimming pool in villas – Some swimming pools only have a single suction water return line at the bottom of the pool. This is a dangerous condition and a code violation. A pool must have two return drain points. This is a safety risk as it could lead to entrapment and drowning if a swimmer’s body, limbs or hair becomes entrapped in a drain. The new regulations on pool alarm and barrier systems must also be considered in conducting a pool inspection for children’s safety.
To ensure maximum protection and prevent large-scale disasters, a full building condition audit/inspection during the handover process should be conducted. Building condition audits identify the defects and code violations both through visual assessment and deemed material of the building’s common area assets.
The first major safeguard to prevent fire is training security companies that work in buildings. There was an instance when we did an inspection of a building and found a major fault on the fire control panel (shown by a flashing red light). When we asked the security guard what the light meant, he said he did not know. Then we asked him how long it had been flashing. He said since the day he started working about three months ago. Again, we asked him what he did about the light; he told us he logged it in the security report. We then asked the security supervisor what they did with the report and if they informed anyone about the fault; he only commented that they only filed the report and showed us the file. This is a classic example of lack of proper training of the people who are supposed to secure the safety of residents.
Houses/villas are viewed differently. Smoke and heat detectors must be installed. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets should be installed in an easily accessible location in the kitchen area. Owners/residents should also develop an emergency preparedness and response scheme that includes an evacuation plan, a communication and disaster plan as well as conduct fire drills a couple of times a year.
Advice for those living in skyscrapers
More often than not, fire alarm systems do not work properly and go off frequently. People neither pay attention to the alarm nor evacuate assuming that it is only a false alarm, which is extremely dangerous in case of a real fire.
Improper installation of protective barriers such as handrails in balconies is also a concern that is common in older buildings. A regulation has been set to install protective barriers and safety railings that cannot be easily tampered with. Other common snag issues are waterproofing failure, commissioning of other fire building systems, electrical issues and thermal insulation.