Making Residential Building Surveys more consumer-friendly

Construction / 26 June 2019

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is planning to introduce compulsory benchmark standards for all types of ‘condition-based’ residential property surveys.  The aim is to ensure that RICS members who carry out building surveys of people’s homes do so in a consistent manner and to the highest professional standards.  Also, since many homebuyers are not necessarily aware of the importance of commissioning a survey before making what might be the most expensive purchase of their lives, the RICS proposals are intended to help clear up consumer confusion about the different types of survey available – and how they differ from valuations.  Homeowners and buyers need to be confident that the survey they are paying for meets their needs and is produced in language which is easy to understand.

The proposed ‘RICS Home Survey Standard’ will take the form of a Professional Statement, specifying the standards expected at each of the three well-established levels of home survey.  For example, for property inspections, the suggested benchmarking standards for checking the condition of the windows, roof, drains etc. will vary according to the level of survey commissioned.

The Professional Statement also sets out the minimum requirements for a surveyor’s terms of engagement and lists the key items that every building survey report should contain.

An example of the need for consistent standards came in a recent headline-hitting case about surveyor’s negligence and Japanese knotweed: Ryb v Conways Chartered Surveyors.  In that case, Mr Ryb (who was visually-impaired) commissioned a Level 3 (i.e. the most comprehensive) building survey when buying his ground floor flat and garden in Highgate.  The surveyor inspected the flat and reported it as being a worthwhile investment.  Unfortunately, the surveyor failed to spot the Japanese knotweed growing in the garden.  An expert report confirmed that some of the knotweed had been present for over three years and should have been evident to a reasonably competent surveyor on inspection.  The judge was highly critical of the surveyor, who had taken no photographs, drawn no pictures nor taken any measurements to back up his Level 3 report.  Mr Ryb was awarded £50,000 in damages.

The RICS has asked the general public and those in the residential property industry to give their views on the proposed benchmark standards to be set.  You can read, download, and respond to the proposals here. There are different questionnaires to complete depending whether you are an industry professional or a member of the public.

If you are a surveyor who regularly carries out residential building surveys, or a consumer who has been on the receiving end of a home survey, you may want to comment on the proposals.

The consultation closes on Monday 29 July 2019.

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