Think carefully about whether your firm can deliver what the client needs. This can prevent you from:
Consider the following questions before accepting an assignment.
If you think you shouldn’t accept the instructions after considering these questions (for instance, because you aren’t suitably experienced in this area of surveying practice), explain why you are unable to proceed and consider suggesting other firms who may be able to help.
Good terms of engagement can help to avoid later misunderstandings with your client. They ensure that both the client and firm are clear about:
Before accepting an instruction, make sure the client understands which services you are providing and any limitations to these. For some types of client services, it can be helpful to have a standard sales pack, including standard terms of engagement, that you can send to clients early in the contracting process.
The firm and RICS member (or other responsible person) should, as a minimum, set out clearly, and agree in writing with the client, the essential matters which constitute the client’s instructions. Terms of engagement are a written record of the agreement between the client and the firm, in order to avoid doubt and confusion. They should be held with the working papers. For some types of work there are RICS technical standards that set mandatory requirements for terms of engagement; for example, for valuation work (see RICS Valuation – Global Standards).
For a model framework for terms of engagement, see Appendix A. It has been designed to be readily adaptable to the particular case and type of work, and includes reminders:
It can be helpful to produce a checklist of the matters you will need to include in the terms of engagement which can then be used when taking instructions from clients.
For each piece of work, remember to check that the standard terms are accurate and suitable, even if you have standard clauses that you often use or service level agreement for clients for whom you do a lot of work.
You may need to carry out checks on your client’s identity in order to comply with:
Carrying out identity checks is particularly important where your work has higher risks relating to money laundering.
If for any reason your due diligence leads to a decision that you should not accept the work, consider how to inform the prospective client of this. You may not be able to give full information. You do not have to give a reason for turning down work but some firms have found it helpful to have a stock reply which is honest without disclosing inappropriate matters; for example, it may be true that the firm’s insurers would not be comfortable with you taking on the work.
An important element for clients is:
Clarity about these matters is important in building and maintaining trust with your clients, particularly if you are dealing with a consumer or a small company who may not have experience about what to expect.
You may have a price list for straightforward work which is relatively repetitive and where fees are easy to predict. Providing this publicly (e.g. on your website) or at an early stage to prospective clients can help them to see you as trustworthy and open and may encourage them to choose your firm.
You might propose a fixed fee or an hourly rate, or some other charging structure. Whatever structure you propose, it is a good idea to provide an estimate of the cost for your services. This should include information about:
Remember to communicate to the client any changes to the fee estimate as soon as possible – the final invoice for your services should never come as a surprise.
If you receive or pay any fees to introducers, commissions, referral fees or anything similar, be transparent with clients about these payments.