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Hot Topic Highlight – RICS Practice Alert for Residential Home Surveys

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we are raising awareness of the recent RICS Practice Alert for residential home surveys. This is essential reading and knowledge for any residential surveyors providing RICS Home Surveys (survey levels one, two and three).

Why has a Practice Alert been issued?

RICS confirm that they have received an increasing number of consumer complaints in relation to the quality of Home Surveys.

As a result, RICS have issued this Practice Alert to ensure that RICS Regulated Firms, Members and AssocRICS/APC candidates are aware of the requirements of the Home Survey Standard and RICS Rules of Conduct. This specifically relates to our professional and ethical obligations to the public, who are the end users of this type of service.

Prospective home purchasers (i.e., consumers or the general public) rely on the advice in Home Surveys when making a purchase decision, so it is imperative that they are produced diligently, accurately and with integrity.

This is also a cornerstone of every single one of the five RICS Rules of Conduct. You can read more about these here.

What does the Practice Alert say?

RICS have structured the alert around a number of key areas:

  • Client understanding and Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)

  • Qualifications and experience of the instructed surveyor

  • Knowledge of the local area

  • RICS template use

  • Applying the RICS Rules of Conduct

The Practice Alert echoes what the Home Survey itself says, so we recommend that all surveyors familiarise themselves with the original document as well.

Client understanding and Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)

Before agreeing instructions to undertake a Home Survey, the surveyor should speak with the client to ensure that they are instructing the correct survey level and understand the service that it being provided.

This requires a thorough understanding of the client’s needs so they can make an informed decision on their survey choice. The RICS produce various supporting documents (Appendices to the Home Survey Standard) which could be shared with the client by email or post to follow up an initial phone call.

This includes the fee basis, terms of engagement, limitations, scope of inspection, report format and method of delivery. This is covered in Sections 2.4-2.6 of the Home Survey Standard.

Before undertaking ANY work, the surveyor must have issued terms of engagement to the client, which must then be signed and held on file.

The surveyor must also ensure that they are covered by adequate PII to undertake the work in question. You can check this with your firm’s PII broker and by visiting the RICS website.

Qualifications and experience of the instructed surveyor

If you are undertaking a Home Survey, then you must be sufficiently qualified, experienced and competent to do so. This is covered in Section 2.2 of the Home Survey Standard.

Being sufficiently qualified means being AssocRICS, MRICS or FRICS and a member of the RICS Valuer Registration Scheme if a survey level 2 with valuation is being provided. You can read more about relevant qualifications here.

Being experienced and competent to undertake the required work is a judgement for you (and your firm); have you undertaken similar work before and can you diligently provide the required service?

If you do not have the required experience or knowledge, then you should acknowledge your limitations. You could decline the work or, if you are a qualified Member, then you could work with another more suitably experienced or knowledgeable Member to overcome your limitations.

If you are a trainee surveyor, a student or mentoring a qualified Member, then you can assist or shadow inspections, desktop research and report writing. However, you must be supervised by a RICS Member at all times.

It is the overall professional and ethical responsibility of this Member to ensure that the final survey is of the required standard, as they will be signing it off.

It is not acceptable for a student or trainee to provide a report unsupervised, with the Member simply providing a ‘sign off’. This goes against everything written into the Rules of Conduct and the Home Survey Standard. If you are asked to do this, then please read on for the speaking out section at the end of this blog article.

Knowledge of the local area

Following on from above, if you are instructed to undertake a Home Survey of a property, then you must be familiar with it’s type, construction, locality and so forth. This could include non-traditional construction, a property suffering from subsidence, a historic building or a leasehold property. Section 2.3 of the Home Survey Standard provides further context.

Survey levels two and three, in particular, may require specialist technical knowledge for certain properties. If you do not feel that you have this, then please read the section above for guidance on what you can do.

Being mentored or supervised when supervising a new property type or scenario for the first time can be a great way to expand your surveying experience and knowledge. It is not just a case of ‘trying’ to do the work – you need to ensure you have a plan to carry out the work under the supervision of a sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable Member. In time, you will then be able to build your own experience and knowledge to undertake new areas of work on your own.

If in doubt, however – always decline the work, particularly if you are under time pressure to deliver a Home Survey report to a client.

If you would like to discuss mentoring or auditing of live instructions, then please head to our Audit Services page.

RICS template use

A Home Survey Licence must be purchased by a RICS Regulated Firm or Member who provides RICS branded Home Surveys. This is irrespective of the reporting format or template.

Section 4 of the Home Survey Standard provides comprehensive guidance on reporting requirements.

Reports should be based on the surveyor’s inspection and findings. They should be written in a factual, clear and relevant manner and the use of any standard phrases applied with care and diligence.

Surveyors should also avoid blanket recommendations of further investigations. A good quality inspection should produce good quality findings, where analysed appropriately by the surveyor. Only after this logical process has been carried out can the surveyor then make appropriate recommendations, including further investigations if necessary.

Applying the RICS Rules of Conduct

Finally, RICS Firms and Members MUST use their moral compass to provide high quality, ethical and professional surveying services.

The basic premise, in our view, is always to be a good human being. Do what is right, follow your gut and be proud of what you do as a surveyor.

If you feel any of this is in doubt, then we recommend that you take time to review your surveying practices and take steps to improve your service quality, experience and knowledge.

Our collective surveying reputation is built on integrity, trust, competence and diligence. Do what is right to help the surveying community to maintain and build on this.

The public are not usually experienced surveyors or highly knowledgeable about the properties that they are purchasing. Residential surveyors are, therefore, there to ‘hold their hands’ during some of the most important and expensive purchase decisions they will ever make.

To do anything but provide the highest standard of professional service is in simple terms, wrong – being both highly unethical and professional.

What happens if I am concerned about Home Survey services provided by another surveyor or my firm?

RICS place a duty on Members to speak up, i.e. to report concerning practices or behaviours of other Members. This could be anything which your gut tells you is not ethical or professional, such as an unqualified surveyor being asked to provide a Home Survey unsupervised. Speaking up helps to protect the public and the reputation of the surveying profession.

You can read more about how to speak up and what happens next on the RICS website.

If you are ever put in a compromised position or need to speak to someone, then we highly recommend seeking the support of LionHeart.

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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