Home Survey Standard

RICS draft professional statement - Home Survey Standard

4 The report

4.1 General principles

The report must be property specific and:

  • be clearly presented and follow a logical structure so clients can quickly find the required information
  • be factual and unambiguous, and clearly separate fact and the RICS member's opinion
  • use non-technical terms throughout. If technical words are occasionally used, the client will find a layperson's explanation helpful
  • comply with accessibility requirements (Equality Act 2010) and
  • provide a balanced perspective of the condition of the property.

4.2 Content

The presentation of the report will be a matter of an RICS member's individual approach but should conform to good practice in report production and to the following principles:

  • clearly explain the level of service, what the client can expect to see in the report and encourage the client to ask questions of the RICS member
  • include a summary or overall opinion and
  • is structured in a way that enables the client to locate required information easily.

4.3 Level-specific reporting requirements

The nature and content of the report will vary between the different levels of service. The distinctive nature of each level is described in the following subsections.

Please note Single Survey Scotland variations apply. Refer to the RICS Property Inspection Technical Guidance for the Completion of Single Surveys.

4.3.1 Survey level one

For each element of the building, the RICS member should:

  • describe the part or element in enough detail so it can be properly identified by the client
  • describe the condition of the part or element that justifies the RICS member's judgement and
  • provide a clear and concise expression of the RICS member's professional assessment of each part or element.

This assessment should help the client gain an objective view of the condition of the property, help them make a decision and, once in ownership (if the client is a buyer), establish appropriate repair/improvement priorities. A condition rating system is one way of achieving this, although RICS members may also use their own prioritisation methodology. Whatever the choice, any system must be clearly defined in the information given to the client.

4.3.2 Survey level two

A survey level two service may follow a similar structure and format to level one. Although it will provide more information, it should still be short and to the point, avoiding irrelevant or unhelpful details and jargon. A level two report will have the following additional characteristics:

  • it should include comments where the design or materials used in the construction of a building element may result in more frequent and/or more costly maintenance and repairs than would normally be expected
  • the likely remedial work should be broadly outlined and what needs to be done by whom and by when (including a summary of legal implications of the work) should be identified
  • concise explanations of the implications of not addressing the identified problems should be given and
  • cross-references to the RICS member's overall assessment should be included.

Survey level two reports should also make it clear that the client should obtain any further advice and quotations recommended by the RICS member before they enter into a legal commitment to buy the property.

4.3.3 Survey level three

A level three service should reflect the thoroughness and detail of the investigation. It should address the following matters:

  • the form of construction and materials used for each part of the building should be described in detail, outlining any performance characteristics. This is especially important for older and historic buildings where the movement of moisture through building materials can be critical to how the building performs
  • obvious defects should be described and the identifiable risk of those that may be hidden should be stated
  • remedial options should be outlined along with, if considered to be serious, the likely consequences if the repairs are not done
  • a timescale for the necessary work should be proposed, including (where appropriate and necessary) recommendations for further investigation
  • future maintenance of the property should be discussed, identifying those elements that may result in more frequent and/or more costly maintenance and repairs than would normally be expected
  • the nature of risks of the parts that have not been inspected should be identified and
  • prioritisation of issues should be outlined.

4.4 Summary or overall opinion

The summary should be contained at the front of the report, whatever the level, and should provide a brief, simple and clear signpost that will help orientate the client before they read the whole report.

Where condition ratings or other prioritisation methods are used, this section will help place such assessments in context and give a balanced view of the property.

The overall opinion should be the last part the RICS member produces and the first part the client reads. It should be as concise as possible, not repeat descriptive detail and be property specific. It should express the RICS member's view of the main positive and negative features of the property and highlight areas of concern.

4.5 Risks to occupants

Matters that present a safety risk to occupants can be described in the main body of the report. However, RICS members may want to consider concisely listing the risks in a separate section with appropriate cross-referencing to where they appear in the main body of the report.

As these matters will reflect current research and regulation, they may change over time. An indicative list of safety hazards has been included in appendix E.

The range of identified matters will be the same for each level of service; what will vary is the explanation:

  • A level one report will identify and list the risks and give no further explanation.
  • A level two report will identify and list the risks and explain the nature of these problems.
  • A level three report will do all this and explain how the client may resolve or reduce the risk.

4.6 Legal matters

The legal adviser is responsible for checking the relevant documents but will not be familiar with the property.

The RICS member will be the 'eyes and ears' of the legal adviser and so should identify apparent and specific items and features that have possible legal implications. The report must clearly highlight these and remind the client they should bring these matters to the attention of their legal adviser. A separate legal section in the report is an effective way of achieving this.

Where appropriate, if the situation can be physically resolved, the surveyor will describe what needs to be done (for example, removing/improving unauthorised work, rebuilding a boundary wall or cutting back an overgrown hedge).

This will enable the client's legal adviser to explain in greater detail how these matters may affect ownership of the property.

4.6.1 Regulations

Typical regulatory matters will include:

  • conservation areas (especially Article 4 designation), listed building status and the need for consents
  • work done under the various 'competent persons' schemes
  • planning permission and building regulation approval for alterations and repairs, and any indemnity insurance policies for non-compliance (if known)
  • trees and any tree preservation orders
  • environmental matters, such as remediation certificates for previously contaminated sites and whether a mining report is required and
  • the use of adjacent, significant public or private developments.

4.6.2 Guarantees

Where possible, the RICS member should ask the owner/occupier if they have any guarantees/warranties for any repair and alteration work carried out. The RICS member should record relevant details. It is the legal adviser's role to confirm the validity or transferability of these documents; however known or suspected discrepancies identified by the RICS member should be highlighted. The client should be advised to ask their legal adviser on the following examples:

  • structural work such as underpinning, removal of structural elements, lateral restraint and chimney stabilisation works
  • timber and damp treatment works
  • wall ties and cavity wall tie replacement work
  • new windows and doors
  • cavity wall insulation and
  • installation and repair of service installations.

Where the certification of a new-build or converted property is available, the RICS member should try to establish the parts of the property to which this applies and verify the age of the property/conversion.

4.6.3 Other matters

The RICS member should include other features and issues that may have an impact on the property and require further investigation by the legal adviser. This will include a broad range of issues noted during the visual inspection or through the RICS member's knowledge of the locality. The following list (which is not exhaustive) illustrates this variety:

  • flying freeholds or submerged freeholds
  • evidence of multiple occupation, tenancies
  • holiday lettings
  • signs of possible trespass and rights of way
  • arrangements for private services, septic tank registration and so on
  • rights of way and maintenance/repairing liabilities for private access roads and/or footways, ownership of verges, village greens and so on
  • chancellery matters
  • other property rights including rights of light, restrictions to occupation, tenancies/vacant possession, easements, servitudes and/or wayleaves
  • boundary problems including poorly defined site boundaries, repairs of party walls, party wall agreements and works in progress on adjacent land
  • details of any building's insurance claims
  • parking permits
  • presence of protected species (for example bats, badgers and newts) and
  • Green Deal measures, feed-in tariffs and roof leases.

4.7 Providing cost advice

It is of value to some clients to receive a prioritisation of repairs and a cost estimate of recommended remedial works. Where this optional service has been offered, the RICS member must have the level of competence and technical knowledge to deliver it. They should clearly state all appropriate reservations and limitations associated with this function during the initial client enquiry and in the original terms of engagement. For example, the RICS member should explain the methodology used to calculate the estimates, tell the client the figures are for guidance only and that they should get formal, written quotations from appropriate organisations prior to a legal commitment.

4.8 Further investigations

The RICS member's knowledge of building construction and pathology will, at times, lead to a suspicion that a visible defect may affect other concealed building elements. Other times, the extent of a visible defect is not possible to ascertain within the confines of an essentially visual inspection. In either case, the RICS member must recommend that a further investigation is undertaken.

However, the RICS member must not recommend a further investigation just because a given building element is inaccessible within the confines of a normal inspection. Examples include where the covering of one roof slope cannot be seen from any reasonable vantage point, but there is no evidence of defect in the roof void. In such cases, RICS members should inform the client of the restriction and advise on the implications. The RICS member should exercise professional judgement and must not call for further investigations only to cover him or herself against future liabilities.

Where a further investigation is recommended, the RICS member should include the following information in the client's report:

  • a description of the affected element and why a further investigation is required
  • when the further investigation should be carried out (for example, before a commitment to purchase, as soon as the property is occupied or at an appropriate time in the future) and
  • a broad indication of who should carry out the further investigation (for example their qualifications, membership of a trade body, competent person scheme).

4.9 Findings of the report

4.9.1 General principles

RICS members should set aside adequate time to discuss the findings of the report.

The amount of time, and the breadth and depth of the discussions, will vary according to the level of service, the method of communication and client needs.

RICS members should accept that these exchanges are part of the service to the client and take care to make sure they meet the same professional standards. For example, RICS members can extend their liability and/or confuse the client by qualifying and expanding on the delivered report. In this respect, it is a matter of getting the right balance. The RICS member must conform to the following:

  • clearly explain the status of the discussion/exchange with the client at the beginning
  • not go beyond the scope already described in the agreed terms of engagement and
  • keep a permanent record of the exchange. This should be securely stored and accessible in compliance with current data protection legislation and regulations.

Please note Single Survey Scotland variations apply. Refer to the RICS Property Inspection Technical Guidance for the Completion of Single Surveys.

4.9.2 Service completion

Once the service is complete and post report delivery discussions with the client concluded, the RICS member should make sure the project file is properly closed. Although this will depend on the RICS member's own quality assurance procedures, it will usually involve assembling and updating all the relevant information and communications (whether hard copy and/or digital) and archiving in accordance with current practice. These should be securely stored and be available for future inspection if required. A legal liability may extend up to a maximum of 15 years, in line with Risk, liability and insurance in valuation work (2nd edition) RICS guidance note.

4.10 Software and products

RICS members and RICS regulated firms must satisfy themselves that any software used to deliver products and produce reportsis developed in accordance with this professional statement to ensure quality assurance, consistency and transparency. RICS members completing and delivering the Single Survey in Scotland, variations will apply and RICS members and regulated firms must refer to the current edition of RICS Property Inspection Technical Guidance for the Completion of Single Surveys.

4.11 Documentation storage and retention

RICS members and RICS regulated firms should manage all processes associated with the service rigorously and must:

  • keep copies of relevant correspondence (electronic, digital and/or physical) in robust backup systems
  • keep a record of all verbal discussions with the client and share a summary of these discussions when confirmation is required and
  • ensure complete and clear records are retained.

All information collected and stored must conform to current data protection legislation and regulations. The file must be securely stored and retained for up to 15 years in line with current legislation and Risk, liability and insurance in valuation work (2nd edition) RICS guidance note.