New guidance note for building surveys of residential property

Structural Survey

ISSN: 0263-080X

Article publication date: 1 July 2004



Hoxley, M. (2004), "New guidance note for building surveys of residential property", Structural Survey, Vol. 22 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New guidance note for building surveys of residential property

New guidance note for building surveys of residential property

It will not have escaped the attention of those undertaking residential building surveys that the document that they need to consider as their “bible” has been revised. The RICS guidance note: building surveys of residential property, first issued in 1996 has been replaced by the 2nd edition with effect from March 2004 (RICS, 2004). It is of course to this document that any legal advisor would first refer in the unfortunate event of an allegation of professional negligence against a surveyor. The new version has been completely rewritten, in line with other recently issued RICS guidance notes, in very clear English to make it easily accessible to both surveyors and their clients (and of course the client's lawyers).

I do not propose to discuss the content of the guidance note in great detail – since to do so might lead to this editorial being waved around in a court of law, a prospect that neither your editor nor your publisher would relish. However, a cursory comparison of the two editions is enlightening. The new note has 42 pages compared with the 20 of the original and I estimate that there are at least twice as many words in the second edition. The list of equipment the surveyor is supposed to take with him or her is currently 21 items long (there were 11 items previously) and in addition the new note refers to another 11 pieces of equipment that may be required where additional services are offered. These additional items include some specifically excluded from the original note – a boroscope and a metal detector. As far as equipment is concerned, the guidance has caught up with current practice in similar survey work as reported in a paper in an earlier issue of this journal (Coday and Hoxley, 2001). One interesting change concerns the length of the ladder the surveyor is required to carry. In 1996, this needed to be capable of reaching a height of 3.0 m while at present the guidance simply says “3 metre ladder” (which would of course not reach a height of 3.0 m).

The section of the guidance note dealing with the suggested contents of the report is much more explicit and detailed than earlier. This may have the effect of standardising reports as more and more surveyors strive to comply with the recommendations of the guidance. Other reports that surveyors complete (such as the Homebuyer Report and the proposed Home Condition Report) are of a standard format and the greater explicitness of this guidance may well lead to building survey reports becoming more standard than hitherto. Another similarity of the proposed format and the Homebuyers and HCR is that a section entitled “overall assessment” is recommended. This should include an overall opinion, areas of concern, summary of repairs, cost guidelines and further investigation. To surveyors used to carrying out Homebuyers surveys this proposed change should not present a challenge but for many surveyors who chose not to undertake the economy service, a change of reporting style or emphasis may be required.

The new guidance note includes example conditions of engagement and once again these are much longer and more detailed than those in the 1996 version. All surveyors carrying out house building surveys will no doubt wish to rush out and buy the guidance note (£20 to RICS members and £30 to non-members). After reading it many surveyors may agree with this observer, that not only have the goal-posts moved but they have also got wider!

Mike Hoxley


Coday, A. and Hoxley, M. (2001), “The portable test equipment being used for commercial building surveys”, Structural Survey, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 173-84.

RICS (2004), Building Surveys of Residential Property, 2nd ed., RICS Books.

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