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24 OCT 2018

RICS Regulation: Complaints and taking disciplinary action

RICS investigates RICS-qualified professionals and registered firms when we may need to take disciplinary action to protect the public interest.

Whenever we receive a complaint or conduct an investigation, there are five principles that dictate our regulatory process, these are:

  1. Proportionality: Regulating when necessary and taking actions that are appropriate and legitimate.
  2. Accountability: Able to justify any action and decision, ensuring transparency and be subjected to public scrutiny.
  3. Consistency: Ensuring a common mind set and approach to promote fairness.
  4. Targeting: Focused and unambiguous regulation based on risk.
  5. Transparency: Ensuring clear definitions, effective consultation and communication is always used.

Transparency

We maintain communications with both the complainant and the RICS professional or firm that is the subject of the complaint, including informing both of the outcome. Normally, anonymous complaints are not accepted as it is only fair that the professionals are aware of the source of the complaints. All Disciplinary Panel procedings are public.

Accountability and consistency

These are achieved through the application of consistent standards and the independent Conduct and Appeals Disciplinary Panel process, which is public.

Proportionality and targeting

Not every breach of the RICS Rules and Standards justifies an investigation — the breach must be serious. A single act or failure is unlikely to cross the threshold. RICS examines two factors. First, is the alleged breach serious enough to establish "misconduct" or "serious professional incompetence"? Second, is it in the "public interest" to investigate?

Misconduct

Not every breach is "misconduct", it must be more than a single negligent act or omission, such as:

  • failing to follow RICS’ Rules of Conduct or professional standards that, in turn, requires us to take action to protect the public or to uphold standards.
  • actions and character that threaten to damage the public's confidence in the profession.

Serious incompetence

"Serious professional incompetence" is usually not established by a single minor mistake, but by multiple examples, or a significantly serious one that threatens the public, such as:

  • several different transactions or work for different clients.
  • doing work for which the professional or firm has insufficient training or experience.
  • putting the safety of the public or public interest at risk.
  • a failing that caused, or was likely to cause, a significant loss to the public.
  • failing to implement systems to ensure that work is done safely and to the expected standards.

Public interest

The purpose of RICS’ regulatory procedures is not to punish members, firms or to provide compensation, but to act in the public interest and proportionately. Public interest considerations include:

  • protecting the public.
  • maintaining public confidence in the surveying profession.
  • maintaining proper standards of behaviour.

What happens if an investigation is not required?

If we decide not to start an investigation, we will inform the complainant in writing stating the reasons why. However, the details of the complaint and information will be kept and may be referred to if there are complaints made in the future.

When an investigation is required

We are more likely to begin an investigation if it involves:

  • dishonesty or a lack of trustworthiness/integrity.
  • deliberate acts that put the safety of the public or public interest at risk.
  • a member or firm putting their own interests, or those of a third party, before the interests of a client.
  • serious or persistent failures to meet RICS’ professional standards
  • failure to keep clients’ money safe.

Disciplinary action

Realistic prospect test

Disciplinary actions will move forward only if the evidence gathered in the investigation establishes a realistic prospect of proving that the professional or firm is liable for disciplinary action based on credible evidence establishing misconduct or serious professional incompetence.

Learn more: Rule 6, Disciplinary, registration and appeal panel rules, 1 April 2009, Version 7 with effect from 1 January 2017

Seriousness and public interest test

Because RICS does not take disciplinary action to "punish" a member or firm, a decision to take disciplinary action must be proportionate to protect the public. Relevant factors are:

  • mitigating factors (for example, whether the member or firm has acknowledged and rectified breaches, has shown insight or has taken steps to put things right, or to reduce the risk of the breach being repeated).
  • aggravating factors (for example, whether the member or firm was dishonest, demonstrated a lack of insight, or there were any similar complaints in the past).
  • the need to protect the public from incompetent or unethical practitioners.
  • the need to ensure public confidence in the profession of RICS chartered surveyors and RICS' regulation of members and firms.
  • whether a failure to take disciplinary action risks damaging public confidence.
  • whether the member or firm is still practising and the need to ensure that cases are dealt with proportionately.

Examples of cases where the seriousness and public interest test may not be met include:

  • the breach was less serious, and the member or firm has accepted full responsibility, and taken all reasonable steps to rectify the situation to the extent that RICS can be confident that repetition of the breach is unlikely eg retraining.
  • the breach was a serious act or omission but was not deliberate, had a limited impact, and no other complaints have been received.
  • the misconduct was less serious, occurred some years previously, and there have been no similar complaints since.