Lockdown inspections: Guidance from the RICS

28 May 2020. Published by Katharine Cusack, Partner and Kiran Dhoot, Associate

The RICS has issued two sets of guidance to its members focusing on physical inspections. The guidance builds on the most recent government advice regarding appropriate conduct and the timetable for lifting restrictions.

Recommendations for non-residential properties

This set of guidance relates to development sites, buildings under construction and in-use buildings. Where a physical inspection is required, this can now go ahead in line with government guidance on social distancing.  Risk assessments must address the risks around COVID-19, and professionals must ensure they have obtained a COVID-19 secure certificate prior to inspection. There are also interactive tools available from the Health and Safety Executive to support firms available here.

As before, any restrictions to the service provided by members should be agreed with the client and recorded in writing. Where possible, a disclaimer should be included in the terms and conditions regarding errors and omissions in the service provided which is solely due to limitations on inspecting or visiting relevant areas of the property. We strongly recommend that members record and communicate any such limitations.

Prior to inspection, RICS members should, among other things:

  • Secure as much information as possible from the client and/or occupier prior to the visit and as part of the pre-inspection research, including property use, occupancy, location, potential risk to occupiers and any other relevant information required for the subject property and instruction.
  • Ascertain whether there are any client/occupier/building manager expectations or requirements in relation to precautions (including PPE) to be taken and restricted areas of which they need to be aware. This is particularly important if anyone in the building is part of a vulnerable group.
  • Sanitise equipment in line with current local public health authority guidance periodically and as often as practical.

During the inspection, RICS members should, among other things:

  • Request that occupiers avoid physical contact
  • Adhere to PHE (Public Health England) guidance on cleaning hands thoroughly and use of PPE.
  • Minimise physical contact when accessing the property.

After the inspection, RICS members should, among other things:

  • Wash their hands again and sanitise equipment, disposing of any PPE
  • Note any limitations in the inspection and include a disclaimer as described above where possible.
  • Communicate the outcome of the visit appropriately in line with the agreed terms of engagement.

Recommendations on residential properties

This set of guidance relates to inspections of private residential property and follows the guidance on non-domestic properties in terms of practical steps regarding social distancing, hygiene practices and professional notes on limitations and disclaimers. However, there is no recommendation to obtain a COVID-19 secure certificate prior to inspection.

There are additional questions, more relevant to domestic home inspections, that a surveyor should consider, including:

  • Whether any pets can be kept at a distance
  • Whether any members of the household are symptomatic or members of a vulnerable category of people
  • Whether all areas can be left as open as possible e.g. doors left open for the professional and that key areas are accessible generally e.g. water, gas and electric meter and boiler locations
  • Whether the occupiers are able to vacate the building for the duration of the internal inspection

Again, it is very important that members record and communicate any restrictions they faced during their inspection.

Those who cannot work from home and who show symptoms can now apply to be tested for COVID-19. More information on testing can be found here.

The specific measures and recommendations are welcome at a time where broad advice has given rise to uncertainty as to best practices.  Copies of the full guidance notes can be found here.

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