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External Wall Fire Review Process

RICS issues Practice Alerts, such as this, from time to time.

This is an important component of RICS’ regulatory role, which includes guiding the profession, and ensuring work undertaken by RICS Members and Registered Firms complies with RICS’ Rules of Conduct.

This Practice Alert relates to the RICS, UK Finance and BSA External Wall Fire Review Process (EWS) launched on 16 December 2019. As a newly introduced process, and as one of interest to the wider public, we wanted to emphasise some of the technical aspects, and as such the importance of RICS Members and Registered firms ensuring they are competent to undertake this work before doing so. RICS Members and Registered Firms operating in this area are reminded of their professional obligations, under Rule 4 within RICS Rules of Conduct for Firms and RICS Rules of conduct for members, to possess the necessary competency in this specialist field*.

Those involved in the EWS process must have sufficient expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall and attachments, and whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly if completing Option A of the Form, in addition, for Option B, expertise in the assessment of the fire risk presented by external wall materials.

We advise Registered Firms to contact their insurance broker when taking on new areas of activity to ensure it will not impact their ability to maintain adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance cover under Rule 9.

*A firm shall carry out its professional work with due skill, care and diligence and with proper regard for the technical standards expected of it.
Members shall carry out their professional work with due care, skill and diligence and have proper regard for the technical standard expected of them.

This is the response we have received from Simon Marsh, Director of Fraser Miller Limited:

“The new RICS External Fire Wall Review Process should not be undertaken by Chartered Surveyors without prior agreement from their insurer.

Our advice after speaking with the RICS Approved Insurers we work with is that these reviews should not be undertaken.  The reason for this is that the majority of RICS Approved Insurers will not provide terms to Surveyors who perform such work.  External Fire Wall protection has become a political football and the risks to Surveyors of not being able to obtain insurance are so great that avoidance is the best advice we can give. Should matters change and insurance become more widely available for such reports we will review our advice then.”

Tom Littler BSc, FRICS of  Isherwoods Chartered Surveyors, ISVA Council Member comments:

“Simon refers to a “political” dimension here, and I wonder whether simply relying upon the EWS assessment when undertaking a Level 2 or 3 residential property survey would prove to be sufficient protection from a PII claim in the event that the EWS certifier was found subsequently to be under or uninsured.

Some careful consideration of existing T&Cs by members may be required to ensure that it is agreed with the client in the form of a specific contract term that the Surveyor/ Valuer may rely solely upon the EWS Certificate rather than carry out their own assessment of the suitability and safety of exterior cladding on the subject flat located in a high rise building.

Whether that would pass the Unfair Contract Terms Act provisions remains to be seen, but we should be doing something to try and manage our PII risk fairly. Alternatively,  I suppose we could decline the instruction.”

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