Terms of Engagement

The RICS Home Survey Service, which includes the RICS Condition Report, RICS Homebuyer Report & RICS Building Survey includes:

  • an inspection of the property (see ‘The inspection’);
  • a report based on the inspection (see ‘The report’).

The surveyor who provides the RICS Home Survey Service aims to give you professional advice to help you to:

  • make an informed decision on whether to go ahead with buying the property;
  • make an informed decision on what is a reasonable price to pay for the property (Homebuyer Report Only);
  • take account of any repairs or replacements the property needs; and
  • consider what further advice you should take before committing to purchase the property.

1.1 The inspection

The surveyor inspects the inside and outside of the main building and all permanent outbuildings, but does not force or open up the fabric. This means that the surveyor does not take up carpets, floor coverings or floorboards, move furniture, remove the contents of cupboards, roof spaces, etc., remove secured panels and/or hatches or undo electrical fittings. If necessary, the surveyor carries out parts of the inspection when standing at ground level from public property next door where accessible. The surveyor does not gain access to areas that are considered dangerous, over 3m high or where keys have not been provided.

The surveyor may use equipment such as a damp-meter, binoculars and torch, and may use a ladder for flat roofs and for hatches no more than 3 metres above level ground (outside) or floor surfaces (inside) if it is safe to do so.

The surveyor may gain access to lofts if it is safe to do so, such as walking on boarded areas, if he deems this safe to do so. The surveyor will not walk on ceiling joists or access lofts that have stored goods. Where possible the surveyor will endeavour to carry out a heads up inspection from the top of a ladder.

Services to the property

Services are generally hidden within the construction of the property. This means that only the visible parts of the available services can be inspected, and the surveyor does not carry out specialist tests and is not qualified to do so, although he will pass comment and provide general recommendations or advise further investigations. The visual inspection cannot assess the efficiency or safety of electrical, gas or other energy sources; plumbing, heating or drainage installations (or whether they meet current regulations); or the inside condition of any chimney, boiler or other flue.

Outside the property

The surveyor inspects the condition of boundary walls, fences, permanent outbuildings and areas in common (shared) use. To inspect these areas, the surveyor walks around the grounds and any neighbouring public property where access can be obtained.

Buildings with swimming pools and sports facilities are also treated as permanent outbuildings, but the surveyor does not report on the leisure facilities, such as the pool itself and its equipment, landscaping and other facilities (for example, tennis courts and temporary outbuildings).


When inspecting flats, the surveyor assesses the general condition of outside surfaces of the building, as well as its access areas (for example, shared hallways and staircases). The surveyor inspects roof spaces only if they are accessible from within the property. The surveyor does not inspect drains, lifts, fire alarms and security systems.

Dangerous materials, contamination and environmental issues

The surveyor does not make any enquiries about contamination or other environmental dangers. However, if the surveyor suspects a problem, he or she should recommend a further investigation.

The surveyor may assume that no harmful or dangerous materials have been used in the construction, and does not have a duty to justify making this assumption. However, if the inspection shows that these materials have been used, the surveyor must report this and ask for further instructions.

The surveyor does not carry out an asbestos inspection and does not act as an asbestos inspector when inspecting properties that may fall within the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. With flats, the surveyor assumes that there is a ‘dutyholder’ (as defined in the regulations), and that in place are an asbestos register and an effective management plan which does not present a significant risk to health or need any immediate payment. The surveyor does not consult the dutyholder.

The report

The surveyor produces a report of the inspection for you to use, but cannot accept any liability if it is used by anyone else. If you decide not to act on the advice in the report, you do this at your own risk. The report focuses on matters that, in the surveyor’s opinion, may affect the value of the property if they are not addressed.

The report is in a standard format and includes the following sections:

  • Introduction to the report
  • About the inspection
  • Overall opinion and summary of the condition ratings
  • About the property
  • Outside the property
  • Inside the property
  • Services
  • Grounds (including shared areas for flats)
  • Issues for your legal advisers
  • Risks
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Surveyor’s declaration
  • What to do now
  • Description of the RICS Building Survey Service
  • Typical house diagram

Condition ratings

The surveyor gives condition ratings to the main parts (the ‘elements’) of the main building, garage and some outside elements. The condition ratings are described as follows.

Condition rating 3 – defects that are serious and/or need to be repaired, replaced or investigated urgently.

Condition rating 2 – defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be either serious or urgent. The property must be maintained in the normal way.

Condition rating 1 – no repair is currently needed. The property must be maintained in the normal way.

NI – not inspected.

The surveyor notes in the report if it was not possible to check any parts of the property that the inspection would normally cover. If the surveyor is concerned about these parts, the report tells you about any further investigations that are needed.

The surveyor does not report on the cost of any work to put right defects or make recommendations on how these repairs should be carried out. However, there is general advice in the ‘What to do now’ section at the end of the report.


The surveyor has not prepared the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) as part of the RICS Homebuyer Service for the property. If the surveyor has seen the current EPC, he or she will present the energy-efficiency and environmental impact ratings in his report. The surveyor does not check the ratings and cannot comment on their accuracy.

Issues for legal advisors

The surveyor does not act as ‘the legal adviser’ and does not comment on any legal documents. If, during the inspection, the surveyor identifies issues that your legal advisers may need to investigate further, the surveyor may refer to these in the report (for example, check whether there is a warranty covering replacement windows or an NHBC warranty if this has not expired).

This report has been prepared by a surveyor (‘the Employee’) on behalf of a firm or company of surveyors (‘the Employer’). The statements and opinions expressed in this report are expressed on behalf of the Employer, who accepts full responsibility for these.

Without prejudice and separately to the above, the Employee will have no personal liability in respect of any statements and opinions contained in this report, which shall at all times remain the sole responsibility of the Employer to the exclusion of the Employee.

In the case of sole practitioners, the surveyor may sign the report in his or her own name unless the surveyor operates as a sole trader limited liability company.

To the extent that any part of this notification is a restriction of liability within the meaning of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 it does not apply to death or personal injury resulting from negligence.


This section summarises defects and issues that present a risk to the building or grounds, or a safety risk to people. These may have been reported and condition rated against more than one part of the property or may be of a more general nature, having existed for some time and which cannot reasonably be changed.

If the property is leasehold, the surveyor may give you general advice and details of questions you should ask your legal advisers.

Energy Efficiency

This section summarises advise and issues that present a possible improvements to energy efficiency of the property.

The surveyor gives an opinion on the standard of insulation, lighting, heating and ventilation. Recommendations provided are advisory and not legislative and are not a requirement to upgrade areas that are below current standards. If some of these areas are affecting other elements of the property, they will be covered under the relevant sections.

Market Value (RICS Homebuyer or stand alone valuation only)

The RICS Building Survey does not contain a ‘Market Value’

However, we are able to provide a separate stand alone ‘Market Valuation’ which is based on the basic RICS Homebuyer Report valuation. An additional fee is applicable in this instance. Please contact us for further information and advice.

The surveyor gives an opinion on both the Market Value of the property and the reinstatement cost at the time of the inspection (see the ‘Reinstatement cost’ section).

‘Market Value’ is the estimated amount for which a property should exchange on the date of the valuation between a willing buyer and a willing seller, in an arm’s length transaction after the property was properly marketed wherein the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.

When deciding on the Market Value, the surveyor also makes the following assumptions.

The materials, construction, services, fixtures and fittings, and so on  The surveyor assumes that:

  • an inspection of those parts that have not yet been inspected would not identify significant defects or cause the surveyor to alter the valuation.
  • no dangerous or damaging materials or building techniques have been used in the property.
  • there is no contamination in or from the ground, and the ground has not been used as landfill.
  • the property is connected to, and has the right to use, the mains services mentioned in the report.
  • the valuation does not take account of any furnishings, removable fittings and sales incentives of any description.

Legal matters

  • the property is sold with ‘vacant possession’ (your legal advisers can give you more information on this term).
  • the condition of the property, or the purpose that the property is or will be used for, does not break any laws.
  • no particularly troublesome or unusual restrictions apply to the property, that the property is not affected by problems which would be revealed by the usual legal enquiries and that all necessary planning and Building Regulations permissions (including permission to make alterations) have been obtained and any works undertaken comply with such permissions.
  • the property has the right to use the mains services on normal terms, and that the sewers, mains services and roads giving access to the property have been ‘adopted’ (that is, they are under local-authority, not private, control).

The surveyor reports any more assumptions that have been made or found not to apply.

If the property is leasehold, the general advice referred to earlier explains what other assumptions the surveyor has made.

Reinstatement cost

Reinstatement cost is the cost of rebuilding an average home of the type and style inspected to its existing standard using modern materials and techniques and in line with current Building Regulations and other legal requirements.

This includes the cost of rebuilding any garage, boundary or retaining walls and permanent outbuildings, and clearing the site. It also includes professional fees, but does not include VAT (except on fees).

The reinstatement cost helps you decide on the amount of buildings insurance cover you will need for the property.

1.3 Standard terms of engagement

The service – the surveyor provides the standard RICS Condition Report, RICS Homebuyer Report or RICS Building Survey Service (‘the service’) described in the unless you and the surveyor agree in writing before the inspection that the surveyor will provide extra services. Any extra service will require separate terms of engagement to be entered into with the surveyor.

Examples of extra services include:

  • costing of repairs;
  • schedules of works;
  • supervision of works;
  • re-inspection;
  • detailed specific issue reports; and
  • market valuation (after repairs).

The surveyor – the service is to be provided by an AssocRICS, MRICS or FRICS member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who has the skills, knowledge and experience to survey, value and report on the property.

Before the inspection – you tell the surveyor if there is already an agreed or proposed price for the property, and if you have any particular concerns (such as plans for extension or other structural concerns) about the property.

Terms of payment – you agree to pay the surveyor’s fee and any other charges agreed in writing.

Cancelling this contract – you are entitled to cancel this contract by giving notice to the surveyor’s office at any time before the day of the inspection. The surveyor does not provide the service (and reports this to you as soon as possible) if, after arriving at the property, the surveyor decides that:

  • he or she lacks enough specialist knowledge of the method of construction used to build the property; or
  • it would be in your best interests to have a homebuyer report, rather than the RICS Building Survey Service or vice versa he will inform you.

If you cancel this contract, the surveyor will be due a fee which is based on the following conditions:

  1. 24hrs prior to attending the property to undertake the survey – 0%
  2. Later than 24hrs or on arriving at the property or carrying out a survey – 50%
  3. On arriving at the property and providing a verbal report to the customer – 75%
  4. On completion of b) & c) above and the written report – 100%

The surveyor also has the right to cancel this contract if it is found that the fees selected for the appropriate service are incorrect. You will be notified prior to the inspection and given the opportunity to address the issue. If the surveyor has attend the property and you no longer wish for the instruction to take place a charge of 50% of the fee will be charged.

Liability – the report is provided for your use, and the surveyor cannot accept responsibility if it is used, or relied upon, by anyone else.

1.4 Complaints handling procedure

The surveyor will have a complaints handling procedure and will give you a copy if you ask.

Note: These terms form part of the contract between you and the surveyor.

This report is for use in England, Wales, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. It is not for use in Scotland or Northern Ireland.


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