From Ian Vicary MRICS FISVA, Chairman of ISVA Council
Further to the ISVA alert on 12th February 2021, I am pleased to say that the updated, RICS compliant, ISVA HomeSurvey and ISVA BuildingSurvey report templates, supporting documents for Level 2 and 3 surveys and an explanatory note are now all available for download from the Members’ Area of the ISVA website (login required).
It is imperative that all surveyors carrying out residential surveys use documents and templates compliant with the RICS HSS. Before using the new ISVA documents, members are strongly advised to read the new RICS requirements for themselves. The updated RICS HSS documents must be used from 1st September 2021 – we are currently in a transition period for converting over to the new templates.
In producing these documents, the ISVA working group thoroughly reviewed the RICS Home survey standard professional statement 1st edition, November 2019. My thanks go to everyone who participated in this work and, in particular the principal contributors Ian Vicary, Jason Williams, Martin Brown, Barry Butler, David Carver and Julia Grasske of Wessex Surveyors.
Further to this, legal advisers DAC Beachcroft LLP were commissioned to review the draft documents with reference to the RICS Home survey standard professional statement 1st edition, November 2019; the RICS professional standards and guidance, UK, risk, liability and insurance in valuation work, 2nd edition, January 2018; and the RICS Home survey standard, 1st edition, UK, RICS professional statement, terms of engagement.
Enquiries raised with DAC Beachcroft included:
- whether it is legally possible to request only one signature from the potential client on the engagement letter. Their response was that this is acceptable as long as it is clear that the client is, by that one signature, also accepting the Terms of Engagement with Scope of Works document – they consider the engagement letter achieves this.
- could the cancellation rights section be simplified? This has been done by DAC Beachcroft, as set out in the engagement letter.
- the ‘traffic light’ system. DAC Beachcroft felt that the proposed prioritisation of defects within the report template (i.e., Urgent Matters, Matters for Further Investigation and Maintenance and Other Issues) does conform to RICS guidance. Paragraph 4 of the HSS confirms that presentation of the report is a matter for an individual members’ approach, as long as it conforms to good practice in report production and to the required principles. DAC Beachcroft inserted an Overall Summary heading as a reminder to members that they also need to complete the Overall Summary section as well as commenting on the prioritised defects.
- in order to strengthen our remit and clarify our limitations the working group pulled through detail from the Terms of Engagement and Scope of Works into the report template, including what the surveyor will and will not do, in the form of ‘reminders’ at the beginning of each section. DAC Beachcroft felt that this was helpful to the client.
- some sections of the Terms of Engagement are considered bespoke to members, e.g., members may decide not to provide a valuation, estimated repair costs or estimated rebuilding costs – these are considered additional services. DAC Beachcroft confirmed that these services are additional items. Paragraph 1.2 of the HSS makes it clear that a valuation is not mandatory.
This legal review provides credibility and reliability to the documents and will hopefully encourage more members to use the approved documents going forwards rather than their own – the more members using the approved documents the stronger the organisation and its services will become.
ISVA strongly advises that members do not alter the documents. The exceptions to this are the blue highlighted areas which are for personalising the templates and the yellow highlighted areas which are inserted as examples or notes for surveyors and which can be used, edited or removed as required. If a member does make any alterations, it is at their own risk. There will be parts of the documents that are unpopular, but these are included as a direct result of the new RICS guidance – one example of this can be found in Section 4.3.2 of the guidance note – there is now considered to be little difference between level 2 and level 3. Furthermore, as per Appendix A – A2, it seems that at level 2 “although it is concise, the report does include advice about repairs and any ongoing maintenance issues”.
It is important that members record any limitations and circumstances of inspection – some elements are not always visible/accessible or safe to inspect or operate. This section in the report will prove important to complete comprehensively.
We have received further advice from DAC Beachcroft on the following:
- Exclusions re Engagement Letters. It seems we can exclude outbuildings, paddocks etc., but refer to the document“Comment on Exclusions from Engagement Letter” for details.
- Financial Liability Limitation. This is a measure of “reasonableness” and, as a guide, a minimum of £250,000 up to the upper limit of your PI indemnity for each and every claim but refer to the document “Comment on Limit of Liability” for details.
- Data protection implications of taking photographs. Refer to the document “Comment on Data Protection Implications of Photographic Records” for details.
In summary, the new ISVA documents have been made as flexible and user-friendly as the constraints of the new HSS standard allows – members can continue to use their own frequently-used phrases and texts.
As advised previously, the new ISVA Survey Reports are being made available for use under Licence, the Licence being granted on an individual basis and the fee being included in the membership subscription. An updated Licence application is now available for download from the Members’ Area of the ISVA website. This should be completed and returned to the ISVA Office firstname.lastname@example.org. All new templates and documents are password-protected Word.xls files and the unlocking password will be issued on granting of the Licence.
Once again, my thanks go to everyone who gave up their time to contribute to this major piece of work and I hope that it will prove to be a valuable asset to the ISVA.
12 March 2021