RICS Article Series – Article 2
In this series of articles, we explain the procedure for disciplinary investigations against chartered surveyors.
Further to our previous article which provided an overview of the RICS' disciplinary process, we explain the first stage of a disciplinary investigation against a surveyor: "the investigation stage".
Complaints about a RICS Regulated Member or Firm's service and/or conduct should initially be made directly to the Regulated Member. A complaints procedure should be in place to attempt to resolve the procedure. If they are not resolved to the complainant's satisfaction, or there is a need for the complainant to remain anonymous, complaints can be made directly to the RICS professional standards team.
There are a number of ways in which an investigation may be triggered. While most complaints will come from members of the public, Regulated Members are under a duty to report other Regulated Members whom they reasonably believe may have breached RICS standards (byelaw B5.2.1(c) of the Royal charter and bye-laws). In addition to this, RICS may identify areas of concern on a regulatory review visit and refer this internally for investigation.
Upon receipt of the complaint, RICS will consider the evidence available in order to establish whether the actions complained of are likely to amount to professional misconduct. If not, no further steps will be taken, and the surveyor is unlikely to be told of the complaint.
However, if the RICS conclude there is a possibility of misconduct, the Regulated Member will be contacted and given a chance to respond to the allegations made against them. The information provided will be used to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken.
In some serious cases, the RICS may decide to temporarily suspend or restrict a Regulated Member's registration while carrying out the investigation. Examples of serious offences include trading without appropriate PI insurance, deficits in a firm's client account which are not remedied promptly, and allegations of fraud.
In addition to the above, the RICS will only advance its investigation if it is satisfied that the evidence provided in support of the complaint is sufficient to meet the threshold outlined in Rule 5 of the Regulatory Tribunal Rules, namely that "there is a realistic prospect of establishing that the Regulated Member is liable to disciplinary action." To satisfy the "realistic prospect test", RICS must be satisfied that the allegations if proven would amount to professional misconduct – that is to say that they are either serious and/ or repeated breaches of the code of conduct.
If the RICS is satisfied that the "realistic prospect test" has been met, it will decide whether to take disciplinary action. The potential next steps for the RICS would be:
- The award of a fixed penalty – this would take the form of a fine for minor breaches of RICS rules;
- A Regulatory Compliance Order – this would impose conditions or requirements which a regulated member would have to comply with over a fixed period of time. However, these Orders can only be imposed with the written consent of the Regulated Member. Examples of conditions include undergoing training and developing new operating procedures. Failure to comply with the order may result in further disciplinary action being taken; or
- A referral to a Single Member of the Regulatory Tribunal or to a Disciplinary Panel. We will consider the implications of this form of action in more detail in the next article in the series.
Please look out for our next article which discusses Referrals to a Single Member of the Regulatory Tribunal or to a Disciplinary Panel in more detail. If, in the meantime, you receive any indication of a complaint or notice that you may be subject to an investigation by the RICS, please do not hesitate to contact one of the RPC team.