Standards matter; of this there is little dispute, but when it comes to the development and management of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure, standards are vital to safety, economic sustainability, and health. As a professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) exists to define and regulate the standards of the sector and its members, including charted surveyors (with the designation MRICS or FRICS). Given the remit of RICS, it is fair to say the scope of standards, for which they are responsible, is vast, encompassing :
- Conduct – money laundering, bribery, corruption, conflicts of interest, rules of conduct, client money, and ethics
- Sector standards – building surveying, construction, dispute resolution, land, real estate, and valuation.
- Qualifications – consistency and accreditation
It is fair to say, RICS possesses a large regulatory reach, and, as such, has the resources and systems necessary to deal with complex disciplinary matters , including an independent regulatory board, a conduct and appeal committee, investigatory capacity, and structured defined disciplinary process.
What to do if you are suspected of misconduct by RICS?
According to RICS, they do not take disciplinary action in response to all complaints raised by fellow professionals, members of the public, or authorities. In order to determine if disciplinary action should be taken, RICS follows its own guidelines, which takes into account the evidence available, the prospect of establishing liability, and the seriousness of the alleged misconduct. However, RICS is not immune to making errors of judgement during the disciplinary process, and have in some cases, had their own decisions overturned in the Courts.
Seek expert legal guidance
If you have received formal notification that as a regulated member of RICS, a complaint against you has been lodged and the matter is being investigated, it is important to take the matter seriously and seek professional legal support from the outset. By assessing your case and the evidence available, against the RICS disciplinary rules, a Solicitor specialising in regulation and disciplinary law will be able to confirm if they have followed their own guidance and processes, whether you have a case to answer, and the likely penalty you may face. Furthermore, to assist with legal costs, many professional indemnity insurance policies include cover for representation costs for disciplinary hearings. It is, therefore, recommended that you also speak to your insurance provider to confirm the level of cover and what they will require of you to defend your position.
Collate evidence and supporting documentation
If you have been accused of misconduct of any type, it is important that you start collating all of the evidence which can be used to defend your case. This may be in any form, including emails, correspondence, photos, voicemails, and technical documentation. In addition, if there is a possibility that your actions (or inactions) may constitute misconduct, any evidence of your attempt to prevent any recurrence of wrong-doing or resolve matters should be filed and provided to your Solicitor. This may be sufficient to offset the act of misconduct in the eyes of the disciplinary panel, or at least to reduce any potential sanction against you.
Comply with RICS at all times
Even if you believe you have no case to answer, it is vital you respond and comply with RICS in a professional, full, and timely manner at all times. It is understandable that facing allegations which may damage your career can be worrying and stressful, however, full cooperation with the RICS disciplinary team will hold you in positive stead.
What is the RICS sanctions policy?
According to the RICS sanctions policy , there are three classes of sanction which a RICS disciplinary hearing may impose:
- A fixed penalty – these are cautions and/or a fines payable for a breach of the rules of conduct relating to the completion of CPD duties, and the provision of information to RICS.
- Consent orders – a formal written agreement requiring the member (by mutual agreement) to a) refrain from certain actions within a specified timeframe, and b) to pay a fine or costs
- Penalties issued by the RICS disciplinary and appeals panels – for more serious cases which are heard by the disciplinary panel, members may be at risk of caution, reprimand, undertakings as to future conduct, fines, conditions on continued membership of RICS, or expulsion
Expulsion, maybe considered if the member is found to have carried out the following actions:
- Gross, persistent or willful failure to comply with an RICS rule of conduct
- Fraud, dishonesty or a lack of integrity
- Conviction of a serious criminal offence (this may lead to a custodial sentence)
- Gross incompetence or recklessness in relation to the conduct or management of professional activities
- Persistent and/or serious failure to co-operate with RICS
- Breach of a required undertaking previously given to RICS, or failure to give an undertaking without reasonable excuse
- Deliberate discrimination
- Gross mismanagement of finances
- Misappropriation of client money
As can be seen, the range of actions which may lead to expulsion are extremely broad, ranging from a failure to follow the rules to a serious criminal offence. It is for this reason that when assessing your case, we will review whether RICS is treating your alleged misconduct in a manner which is proportional to the act itself and advise accordingly.
Receiving a letter from your professional body relating to alleged misconduct can be deeply worrying, not least because it risks placing your career in jeopardy. By engaging the services of a Solicitor specialising in regulatory and disciplinary law, you can be assured that your case will have the best possible outcome, and in the meantime, the weight of the matter can be removed from your shoulders, and placed on to a legal professional who knows how the RICS disciplinary process works.
If you are a Chartered Surveyor the subject of investigation or disciplinary proceedings by RICS, we can help you. Below are a couple of reviews from surveyor clients, following a hearing before the Professional Conduct Committee, “Impressed would be an understatement to your handling of this case. Your advocacy was the highest level I have seen. Your professional approach and preparation was thorough to the point that the other side could only agree with every point you had to make. The outcome could not have been achieved without you. I have no hesitation in fully recommending you in matters of this kind and I thank you for being there for me”.
“Instructing Jon to act for me has preserved my career and was the best decision I could have possibly made. From the off, Jon never failed to manage my expectations fairly and accurately. I appreciated his candid and frank manner as well as his expert ability to demystify every complex correspondence quickly and with the utmost professionalism. He identified the key issues with ease and the command of the process and ability to navigate me through it was an invaluable support. He did all of this with an approachability and refreshing humanity.
In the final stages, his compelling summary of the key facts to the Panel, expertly and professionally prepared and delivered with clinical accuracy, secured me the very best possible outcome and my family and I will forever be grateful to him personally for this.
I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Jon to others – I simply couldn’t have afforded not to have him on my side”.
We have been helping professionals with professional disciplinary investigations and regulatory hearings for over 20 years. If you have any questions regarding this article, please call us on 0151 909 2380 or complete our Free Online Enquiry and I will soon be in touch.