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Opinion: Mistakes Were Made

opinion regulation
Sign saying, mistakes were made, learn from them.

I have been reflecting recently on what it means to rehabilitate professionally and how surveyors feel about surveyors who don't follow the rules.  

As any professional knows, no matter how qualified we are, we might find ourselves winging it on some level, particularly at the start of our careers or businesses. On the one hand, I understand everyone has the right to move on from past mistakes - we all have them, from dodgy perms and Sweater Shop jumpers in the early nineties to our behaviours and actions as we mature in our lives, work and relationships. Now we know we do better, and our peers, role models and employers can help us do that.  However, it is not the same for surveyors who run their businesses, often isolated with a less-than-ideal support network.


Sometimes mistakes are made, and surveyors are disciplined, suspended or expelled. Anyone who has ever attended or participated in a regulatory tribunal knows it is not for the faint-hearted, and you should go into it with full legal advice and support - do speak to Lionheart if you find yourself in this situation.

RICS is required to publish the outcome of its regulatory decisions, but only for a short time.  This explains why sometimes it is only possible to find the details of a case with a bit of digging. There are no published numbers on the types and volumes of complaints or disciplinaries, how long it takes to resolve them, or if there are any trends such as location, levels of membership, or years of experience. As a result, we don't know how good or bad things are, just what we see, hear and experience.

There are rules on how RICS Regulatory Tribunal decisions are made, how appeals are considered, and what someone must do to be readmitted to the membership. But when someone is suspended, how do we know their behaviours and practices have changed at the end of the suspension period?

The Naughty Step

I am unaware of any mandate that requires someone to refresh their training or increase their CPD requirement, nor can I find any process, mechanism for audit or even a requirement to keep a closer eye on things. This is where the regulation of surveyors feels out of sync with how surveyors operate within their businesses and surveying sectors. For example, if a claim or a conduct matter results in a penalty from the employer, the individual might be penalised, but they will often be supported to do better, learn, and train. There is a duty of care to the employee.  

Suppose a surveyor has a fraud conviction, even a spent one. In that case, they are unlikely to be able to carry out mortgage valuations due to the risk due to the lender, yet this is not required as part of the Valuers Registration Scheme (VRS), which is required by all those doing secured lending.

The same goes for a surveyor charged with assault against a woman. Most lenders and larger firms require a DBS check, which the surveyor would fail. Yet they can be readmitted on appeal.

What about employees taking their firms to employment tribunals? Many are settled with NDAs; some are published and available to all. In these cases, employees' working conditions and expectations are quite revealing. 

And what of consumers who, due to poor service and bad advice, resort to complaining to the RICS? How many and how serious does it need to be before action is taken to protect the public? 

However damaging the consequences might feel to the individual, to many of us, the level of discipline feels lacking and is more like time out on the naughty step. While those who are suspended brood, I notice a trend of cooking up a cunning plan to get into ‘training’ surveyors and it makes me very uncomfortable. 


Those Who Can’t, Teach

Becuase that is how I found myself pondering the point of sanctions and regulation over an extended bank holiday weekend after I received a barrage of unpleasant and upsetting emails and messages from an individual unhappy with a post in The Surveyor Hub questioning the individual's latest endeavours. The post was a screenshot of a message sent unsolicited to many surveyors. The comments were mainly of disbelief and a warning for due diligence.

Notable disciplinary cases in recent years have resulted in surveyors who, I imagine sensing a problem, promptly set themselves up in business selling ‘get qualified quick’ and ‘get rich running a surveying business empire’ programmes to generate an income while they could not practice as a surveyor. Often targeting the most vulnerable and inexperienced, they are not transparent in their offerings and are creative in explaining their business journeys.

And there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. 

There is no requirement that those offering training or mentoring meet a minimum standard, nor is there a register of approved training providers. These surveyors are also not considered practising, so they cannot be regulated. After being promised success in all its forms, some people have lost thousands of pounds, only to discover that there is no silver bullet to a surveying qualification or a successful business.

Yet those of us who train and share our wealth of experience and learning with others—often following a lengthy professional career—are not recognised for our value. Without surveyors providing these services, there would not be the surveyors we have.



I have many. 

How do you earn a living if you cannot practice as a surveyor because you have been suspended or expelled?  If you intend to remain a member, you must follow the RICS rules. Does suspension help anyone in any way?

Should there be better accountability for non-practising surveyors? Does improving the quality of learning and support also enhance the quality of surveying, and if so, should we pay more attention to it? 

Is it right that when someone makes a mistake, they are not required to learn how to avoid making that mistake again?

Should any disciplinary outcome be more considered when there is a high risk of fraud involving property and money? Should more conditions be placed on individuals and their scope of work? Has there ever been a recent review of disciplinary investigations and outcomes?

Why is there no transparency in validating a surveyor's professional membership when they qualify and achieve different membership levels? This information would be helpful and should be a source of pride. 

Should disciplinary outcomes be visible for longer and provide more explanation? Why are past disciplinary decisions removed after some time? Who set the time limit, and is it appropriate to the severity of the cases? How are appeal decisions on cases relating to criminal activity decided, and do members have a say?

I suspect the answers lie somewhere between whether it’s a GDPR thing, the law, and it’s always been that way.



I don’t know the answers to these questions, but after my recent experience and reflection, I came to this conclusion. 

If you do not follow rules designed to support and protect, then send unsolicited messages with business opportunities, it is likely to be met with some scepticism and you cannot complain about people's reactions. They have a right to express it and shouldn't be threatened for doing so. People buy from people they know, like and trust. If someone continues a pattern of behaviour following a disciplinary, what is the point of a suspension?  

In my many years of experience in complaints and claims, I know there is nothing a surveyor cannot recover from, but a line does need to be drawn, and we, as members, should have a say in that. How our profession is regulated is a conversation people want to have because when we do, it can also create the opportunity for us all to do better. Our profession really does deserve better representation, and it starts with better measures and support to help us succeed, not just discipline us when things go wrong. Members should be familiar with the RICS Rules of Conduct, especially Rule 4, and you can find examples on the website.

This makes the news of vacancies for the RICS Regulatory Tribunal timely, and I urge you to consider applying.


Enjoy this article? You might also like The Role of Surveying in the Home Buying Process.

Find this content helpful? I'd love to hear your suggestions and recommendations. If you found this article helpful, please share it and show your support by leaving me a Google review, or you can Buy Me a Coffee. Being a small business just like you, it makes all the difference.

Marion Ellis
Founder of Love Surveying, The Surveyor Hub and Women in Surveying
Coach, Mentor and Business Consultant for Surveyors


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