Grappling with professional dilemas and justifying your actions

This article focuses on the mandatory competency associated with ethics and the RICS code of conduct – Conduct Rules, Ethics and Professional Practice (M005). The competency covers a wide range of issues associated with how you should conduct yourself as a chartered surveyor, and a candidate is required to have a detailed knowledge of this competency to level 3.

This competency is often covered by the chairman of the APC assessment panel and generally covers a wide range of subject matters including the RICS Code of Conduct, RICS Rules and Regulations and other professional dilemmas that a candidate may face.

This competency covers issues that quantity surveyors deal with regularly and therefore you will be expected to understand and respond in detail.

Level 1

Competency at Level 1 includes ‘demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the role and significance of RICS and its functions. Also an appreciation of your personal professional role and society’s expectations of professional practice and RICS code of conduct and conduct regulations, including the general principals of law and the legal system, as applicable in your country of practice’.

Prior to undertaking the APC assessment you must read and become familiar with the RICS code of conduct and rules and regulations.

Question How do the RICS ensure that standards and quality are maintained in terms of both the conduct and advice provided by chartered surveyors?

Answer You must be familiar with the latest RICS Rules of Conduct published in June 2007. In particular you need to be familiar with the nine core values:

• Interpretation

• Service of Documents

• Integrity

• Competence

• Service

• Lifelong Learning

• Solvency

• Information to RICS

• Co-operation

You should also be familiar with the fact that the RICS publish rules of conduct for firms who operate as chartered surveying businesses.

Question You may also be asked a follow up question asking you to give your opinion on why the RICS have rules and codes of conduct.

Answer You need to be prepared to express your own opinion and views and demonstrate to the panel that you have an opinion on what purpose the rules and codes of conduct have. Remember there is no right or wrong answer (or standard answer) – it is simply your opinion. However it does need to be thought through, structured and sensible. Clearly issues to cover would revolve around standardisation and consistency of service and approach, maintaining professional standards and governance and regulation.

Level 2

Competency at level 2 involves ‘Provide evidence of practical application in your area of practice, being able to justify actions at all times and demonstrate personal commitment to the rules of conduct, ethics and RICS nine core values’.

As stated in previous articles this means demonstrating a working knowledge.

Question If a client was prepared to pay you in advance for services you or your company was providing, how would you ensure that this was dealt with?

Answer Here you will need to demonstrate a working knowledge / understanding of the RICS rules associated with handling clients money and accounting. You will need to discuss the following:

• Setting up a separate client account which is properly named and clearly identifiable.

• Providing the client with a statement of the account once it has been set up.

• Informing and agreeing with the client on how and when monies will be drawn from the account.

• Prior to drawing monies sending the client a statement of how much will be drawn clearly identifying the services undertaken and fees to be drawn.

• Once the draw has been made sending the client a revised statement of account.

• Once the services are complete providing the client with a complete reconciliation of the account and all drawdowns.

• Ensuring that everything is auditable and completely transparent.

Question If you were going to set up your own business and operate as a chartered surveyor, what insurances would you need to put in place?

Answer The key issue here is professional indemnity insurance. You will need to be familiar with the regulations associated with PII and understand that as a Chartered Surveyor you cannot operate without have professional indemnity insurance in place. Professional Indemnity Insurance is very important so you will need to understand this in detail. In addition to this you may want to mention that should you have your own office premises then you would need buildings insurances and you would also potentially need to take out both employers liability insurance and third party liability insurances as well.

In addition to the above you should also be ready for a follow up question on professional indemnity insurance regarding run off periods. You should be familiar with the RICS requirements here which is a minimum of 6 years.

Level 3

Competency at level 3 involves ‘Provide evidence of application of the above in your area of practice in the context of advising clients’.

Here you should be able to apply your knowledge to practical situations that you have encountered in your working life.

Question Can you advise on what a conflict of interest is and how you would deal with it?

Answer An example of this would be where you may be asked to undertake work on behalf of a contractor but another part of the business is already working for the client on the same project.

In these circumstances you would need to explain the situation to your prospective client and then politely decline the opportunity.

Try and relate your answer to your working experience gained to date – you may already have experienced such a situation which you could talk about.

Question A junior surveyor working in your team incorrectly over certifies on an interim valuation – what do you do?

Answer The first thing to do is to check the facts and make sure an over certification has actually taken place. Assuming it has, then you need to actually check whether the valuation has been processed of not. If it has not then withdraw it and re-certify. If the valuation has been paid, then you need to remember it is an interim certification and assuming it is not the final certificate then financially matters can be rectified next month. However you will still need to talk to the client, explain the situation, and also ensure that sufficient preventative measures are put in place to stop this happening again in the future. The client may be unhappy, but you must be able to demonstrate that you have recognised the problem and have dealt with it. You will also need to talk to the main contractor to explain the situation so that he understands what the course of action is at the next interim valuation.

The key issue to remember with this subject is read and be familiar with the RICS rules and regulations and codes of conduct