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Disciplinary Panel Hearings

25 SEP. 2008

Mr Phillip Norris - 24 September 2008

Case of
Phillip Norris [ 1167348 ], SW18

on
24 September 2008

at
At the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators, 12 Bloomsbury Square, London


Charges

 The formal charges before 04 June 2007 are:

Complaint 1:  Mr F

1. In January 2007 in the course of carrying out work relating to a party wall at 3 Kings Road, Wimbledon, you acted in a manner likely to compromise or impair compliance with the Party Wall Act 1996  Contrary to Rule 3(2)(d) of the Rules of Conduct 2004

2.  In January 2007 you did not provide written notification to your clients Mr and Mrs F of the terms on which you were to act nor did you inform your clients in writing that a copy of your complaints handling procedure was available on request Contrary to Rule 8(1) of the Rules of Conduct 2004

3. In January 2007 you failed to consider that a conflict may arise between the interests of your clients Mr and Mrs F and Mr and Mrs D and whether you could continue to act for either or both of those clients; and you continued to act for both clients without having complied with the requirements Contrary to Rule 19 of the Rules of Conduct 2004

Complaint 2:  Miss L

4. In January 2007 in the course of carrying out work relating to a party wall at 54 Pitcairn Road, Mitcham, you acted in a manner likely to compromise or impair compliance with the Party Wall Act 1996 Contrary to Rule 3(2)(d) of the Rules of Conduct 2004

Complaint 3: Mr L

5. On or about 28 February 2006 you did not provide written notification to your client Mr L of the terms on which you were to act nor did you inform your client in writing that a copy of your complaints handling procedure was available on request Contrary to Rule 8(1) of the Rules of Conduct 2004

 6. On or about 18 January 2007 you failed to make your complaints handling procedure available to your client Mr L in response to his request for it Contrary to Rule 11(5) of the Rules of Conduct 2004 an e-mail dated 01 October 2008 Contrary to Rule 15 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007.

The formal charges after 04 June 2007 are:

 Complaint 1:  Mr M

7. In August and September 2007 Philip Norris Chartered Surveyor (the firm) failed to carry out its professional work with due skill, care and diligence and with proper regard for the technical standards expected of it in that the firm misapplied the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996 to a structure at 139 Manor Drive North, Worcester Park, Surrey Contrary to Rule 4 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007

8. That between 03 October 2007 and 25 March 2008 Philip Norris Chartered Surveyor (the firm) failed to co-operate fully with RICS staff investigating a complaint against the firm in that the firm did not respond substantively to letters dated 03 October, 18 October, 02 November 2007 and 19 February, 06 March and 25 March 2008 Contrary to Rule 15 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007

Determination

Findings with Reasons

Mr Norris, the Institution expects a certain level of conduct from all its members and for members to act in the best interests of their clients, whoever they may be, and in accordance the various rules and practice statements.

The Panel has listened carefully to all the evidence and submissions provided, and has considered the papers presented in detail. 

Whilst we note the details of the rebuttals of the various charges against Mr Norris, the Panel has grave concerns about the member’s apparent lack of understanding of the Institution’s Rules of Conduct, his interpretation of the Party Wall Act 1996 and the RICS guidance note: Party Wall Legislation and Procedure. 

Whilst there are 8 charges before us, there are common threads throughout: poor interpretation of the Party Wall Act; acting for clients where there are clear conflicts of interest; failure to refer to the existence of a complaints handling procedure, and to provide a copy when requested to do so.  In addition, it is also clear that Mr Norris failed to co-operate with the Institution.  We also note the findings of the courts in respect of the M case. 

After due consideration and on the balance of probabilities, the Panel therefore finds as follows.  In respect of the charges against the firm Phillip Norris Chartered Surveyors, Charge 1: that in August and September 2007 Phillip Norris Chartered Surveyor (the Firm) failed to carry out his professional work with due care, skill and diligence with proper regard to the technical standards expected of it, in that the Firm misapplied the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996 to a structure at 139 Manor Drive North, Worcester Park, Surrey, contrary to rule 4 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007; we find the charge proved. 

Charge 2: that between 3 October 2007 and 25 March 2008 Phillip Norris Chartered Surveyor (the Firm) failed to co-operate fully with RICS staff investigating a complaint against the Firm, in that the Firm did not respond substantively to letters dated 03 October, 18 October, 02 November 2007 and 19 February, 6 March, 25 March 2008, contrary to Rule 15 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007; we find the charge proved.

In respect of the charges against the member Phillip Norris, charge 1: in January 2007 in the course of carrying out work relating to a party wall at 03 Kings Road, Wimbledon, you acted in a manner likely to compromise or impair compliance with the Party Wall Act 1996, contrary to Rule 3(2)(d) of the Rules of Conduct, 2004; we find the charge proved. 

Charge 2: in January 2007 you did not provide written notification to your clients, Mr and Mrs F, of the terms on which you were to act, nor did you inform your clients in writing that a copy of your complaints handling procedure was available on request, contrary to Rule 8(1) of the Rules of Conduct 2004; we find the charge proved. 

Charge 3: in January 2007 you failed to consider that a conflict may arise between the interests of your clients, Mr and Mrs F, and a Mr and Mrs D, and whether you could continue to act for either or both of those clients; and you continued to act for both clients without having complied with the requirements, contrary to Rule 19 of the Rules of Conduct 2004; we find the charge proved.

Charge 4: in January 2007 in the course of carrying out work relating to a party wall at 54 Pitcairn Road, Mitcham, you acted in a manner likely to compromise or impair compliance with the Party Wall Act 1996, contrary to Rule 3(2)(d) of the Rules of Conduct 2004; we find the charge proved. 

Charge 5: on or about 28 February 2006 you did not provide written notification to your client, Mr L, of the terms on which you were to act, nor did you inform your client in writing that a copy of your complaints handling procedure was available on request, contrary to Rule 8(1) of the Rules of Conduct 2004; we find the charge proved. 

Charge 6: on or about 18 January 2007 you failed to make your complaints handling procedure available to your client, Mr  L, in response to his request for it, contrary to Rule 11(5) of the Rules of Conduct 2004; we find the charge proved.

Those are the findings of this Panel.

Determination on Penalty

Mr Norris, the Institution takes the public interest extremely seriously and any acts by members or member firms that affect that interest bring both the Institution and its members into disrepute. 

The Panel have noted and taken into consideration that the breaches involved elements of wrongdoing on the part of both yourself and your Firm with a risk of loss or damages to your clients, members of the general public. 

Despite the member’s alleged level of experience, the breaches have occurred over a period of time and appear to have been repeated on several occasions.  The Panel has considered the alleged mitigating factors but noted that the member and the Firm have not taken any steps to rectify the breaches and to avoid future repetition.  The member has not taken responsibility for either himself or his Firm and even after being advised of the Panel findings has not expressed any regret.  In addition there has been no evidence of willingness to assist the RICS.

Mr Norris, your actions demonstrate a lack of integrity and a substantive failure to act in the interests of your clients. 

Having taken all this into consideration, and with a view to the principle of proportionality, it is the Panel’s view that the RICS need to demonstrate to society and to other members and firms that it takes firm action to protect the public interest and to promote regulatory compliance.  The Panel therefore imposes the following penalties.  In respect of the firm, on charge 1, that the Firm Phillip Norris Chartered Surveyors should be removed from registration regulated by the RICS.  On charge 2, the Firm, Phillip Norris Chartered Surveyors, be reprimanded for its conduct.  In respect of the member, on charge 1, that the member should be expelled from membership of the RICS.  On charge 2, that the member should be reprimanded.  Charge 3, reprimanded.  Charge 4, that the member should be expelled.  Charge 5, the member should be reprimanded.  Charge 6, that the member should be reprimanded. 

Determination on Publication and Costs

Publication
We also require that the findings of this Panel should be published on the Web, RICS bulletin and in the local newspaper to each area where the firm has offices. 

Costs
Having regard to the penalties given, the Panel has decided not to impose any financial penalty.  However we award the costs of the Institution in the sum of £6,040.97.

Before we inform you of the right to appeal, the Panel would also like to express its concern regarding some of the comments that the member has made in respect of its clients, which the Panel considered to be offensive and objectionable. 

The decision of the Panel will take immediate effect and will be confirmed in writing. 

You have the right to appeal the Panel’s decision and any appeal must be made within 28 days from today.