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CHARTERED SURVEYORS ANNOUNCE BIG ADVANCE IN CLIENT PROTECTION

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The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has introduced a wide-ranging package of reforms that will prov...
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has introduced a wide-ranging package of reforms that will provide chartered surveyors' clients with a clearer and more efficient complaints handling system. Key elements of the package were approved overwhelmingly in a vote of the 70,000-strong RICS membership last November, and became effective on approval from the Privy Council on 24 June.

Designed to encourage chartered surveyors to be more systematic and open in the way they handle client complaints, the package includes the following:

- chartered surveyors in private practice will be required by the RICS to establish an in-house complaints handling procedure which, where both parties agree to it, will include external mediation; and for complaints arising over instructions received after 1 September, chartered surveyors will be obliged to accept arbitration if the complainant opts to use it;

- a strengthening of the RICS disciplinary system, including a new power whereby members found in breach of the RICS rules of conduct could be fined up to£5,000;

- the presence of a lay person (someone who is not a chartered surveyor) on RICS disciplinary boards.

RICS president Peter McKendrick, said:

'The volume of surveying services provided to clients by chartered surveyors is vast, and only a tiny proportion goes wrong. But by making these changes to our rules this profession is showing its absolute support and determination for an open, fair and impartial system for dealing with problems that arise.

'The dissatisfied client should always first seek a solution to the complaint with his or her surveyor who will follow the complaints procedure laid out under the new regulations. If the client remains unhappy he or she will now have the option of taking the matter to independent arbitration.

'We are confident that with this new system in place, chartered surveyors' clients will be able to address complaints more easily and, where a complaint is not resolved by the firm, the expense of going to court may be removed by going through the alternative route of arbitration. And by requiring RICS members to deal with their own complaints, the new system will further underline the importance of client satisfaction.'

Notes

1. The new client protection package has been developed in two ways: some changes required alteration to the RICS Royal Charter itself, for which members voted overwhelmingly in an extraordinary general meeting in November 1997; other changes could have been made within the existing rules by the RICS's ruling General Council alone, but member endorsement was sought and given.

2. Compulsory arbitration will, for insurance purposes, be introduced on 1st September 1998. In the meantime, the RICS is urging chartered surveyors to use the existing - voluntary - arbitration scheme. Prospective clients can secure further peace of mind by making sure that their contract contains a clause on the use of arbitration.

3. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has 90,000 members: 70,000 qualified chartered surveyors and 20,000 students and probationers. They practise throughout the world in six property markets: commercial property, construction, land use planning, minerals, residential and rural.

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