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Guidance for professionals

Guidance for professionals

We know many firms and professionals continue to face evolving challenges through the pandemic and will have questions about how restrictions affect how they can operate. We are continuing to monitor developments, seek clarity from governments and signpost useful guidance and ways to seek further help.

National COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns

All of the specific information and guidance outlined on this page should be used in conjunction with any additional measures imposed as a result of regional lockdowns and restrictions.
Professionals should therefore check the very latest guidance published by relevant governments at the below pages:

Summary of national measures

  • RICS has been working closely with Government to ensure that where appropriate, professional surveying services can continue, in a safe and secure manner.

    As a result, the Government has made it clear that:

    • The housing market can remain open
    • People can still move to a new house
    • Valuations and home inspections can continue
    • Tradespeople can enter people’s homes so long as they adhere to the guidance on working in homes
    • Estate & Letting Agents can remain open
    • Construction sites can and should continue

    For non-domestic properties where a physical inspection or visit is required, this can take place. All activities must be carried out in accordance with existing government guidelines.

    RICS will continue to work with the Government and update the profession regularly through our communication channels.

    RICS would advise that if a surveyor is undertaking work that requires crossing a national border within the UK, they should take evidence to confirm there is a valid reason for this.

    (Last reviewed 27th April 2021)

  • Scotland moves beyond Level 0 on Monday 9 August 2021. See the most recent announcement in full here
     

    This means that most legal restrictions, including on social gatherings and physical distancing, will come to an end. However, face coverings remain mandated in indoor public settings. Test and trace also continues to operate but close contacts will now be able to avoid self-isolating if they have received both jabs and a negative PCR test.

    The Government continues to advise working from home where possible, and encouraged a gradual return where it is beneficial to the employees and businesses. See Scottish Government guidance on the return to offices here.
     

    Under the latest guidance:

    • The housing market can remain open
    • People can still move to a new house
    • Valuations and home inspections can continue
    • Tradespeople can enter people’s homes so long as they adhere to the guidance on working in homes
    • Estate & Letting Agents can remain open
    • Construction sites can and should continue

    Further details can be found here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance on moving home

    New and updated guidance for employers can be found here: Scottish Government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19.

    RICS' summary of the latest guidance on returning to workplaces in Scotland can be found here

    RICS will continue to work with the Scottish Government and update the profession regularly through our communication channels.

    (Last updated 03 August 2021)

  • The Welsh Government have announced recent changes to restrictions in Wales which has eased limitations put on the housing market.

    Under the latest guidance:

    • The housing market can remain open
    • People can still move to a new house
    • Valuations and home inspections can continue, including the shadowing of trainee professionals
    • Tradespeople can enter people’s homes so long as they adhere to the guidance on working in homes
    • Estate & Letting Agents can remain open, including Show Homes & Sale Offices
    • Construction sites can and should continue

    RICS will continue to work with the Welsh Government and update the profession regularly through our communication channels.

    RICS would advise that if a surveyor is undertaking work that requires crossing a national border within the UK, they should take evidence to confirm there is a valid reason for this.

    (Last reviewed 27th April 2021)

  • The Northern Ireland Executive have announced several big changes which come into force 30th April 2021. With the recent announcements, under the latest guidance:

    • The housing market can remain open
    • People can still move to a new house
    • Valuations and home inspections can continue
    • Tradespeople can enter people’s homes so long as they adhere to the guidance on working in homes
    • Estate & Letting Agents can open (from 30th April)
    • Construction sites can and should continue

    RICS will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Executive and update the profession regularly through our communication channels.

    RICS would advise that if a surveyor is undertaking work that requires crossing between other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland, they should take evidence to confirm there is a valid reason for this.

    (Last reviewed 27th April 2021)

The following guidance addresses key concerns and risks we have identified. We will continue to monitor developments and find ways to give guidance, signpost useful resources and flag ways to seek further help related to finances and wellbeing.

Professional guidance

  • We understand that regulated firms may have concerns about how COVID-19 impacts the processes and controls they have in place to comply with money laundering regulations, including requirements within the Countering bribery and corruption money laundering and terrorist financing professional statement (February 2019)

    To support firms, we have created COVID-19 anti-money laundering guidance for firms to alert firms to the additional anti-money laundering (AML) and corruptions risks they may face during this unprecedented time and identify some options available to maintain appropriate controls. The guidance provides general advice for all regulated firms globally about compliance with the RICS professional statement. It does not provide legal advice on specific obligations for firms carrying out regulated activities. Firms may need to seek advice from a legal professional or contact their AML supervisor if they are concerned about compliance with legal obligations.

    (Last updated 15 September 2020)

  • RICS is closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation with a view to supporting firms holding client money during these unprecedented and challenging times. It is important to protect the security of client money - as firms seek to maintain their business operations. The effects of COVID-19 may give rise to increased risk to client money as key staff are off sick, or may have increased personal financial pressures, as fraudsters look to exploit the current situation.

    We continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure that markets continue to operate as effectively as possible.

    Our review accountants have suggested that taking the following steps will help firms preserve the security of client money:

    Check if your business procedures are documented and easily available to key staff
    Where firms’ staff are unable to work due to illness and/or advice to self-isolate, there may be a need for other staff members to perform different tasks to cover for such absence and enable key business activity to continue. In such situations, clear, documented guidance and procedures will help to mitigate the enhanced risks of non-compliance created by such absence. We suggest you ask staff now to check that procedures for their area are up to date and ensure that all key staff know where to find procedures easily, that will help if someone has to take sick leave..

    Work out where the greatest risk of fraud and error is and focus on those areas
    Where normal staffing levels cannot be maintained, we acknowledge the added challenge faced by firms in ensuring that a suitable segregation of duties is in place regarding client money accounting. In such situations, a risk-based approach is encouraged, ensuring that segregation is maintained for functions deemed to be most susceptible to fraud and error. Where possible, an enhanced level of monitoring should be applied by firm principal(s) / senior management during this time of increased risk. We acknowledge that there will be increased risk to the security of client money arising from potential financial hardship likely to be experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic by both firms and individuals. Use this knowledge in your risk assessment to identify the most important controls and checks and establish how you can continue them even if people are working from home, or principals are off sick.

    Look out for online fraudsters
    Sadly, we know that online fraudsters may try to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Warn staff to be suspicious of any request to change payee details or make unexpected payments, particularly e mail requests, even if the e mail appears to come from a colleague within the firm. Remind them to put a second check in place for all such requests, preferably by calling the payee or client.

    Be vigilant generally online and be aware before clicking on any coronavirus-related links or attachments you receive via your email or messaging apps. Do not be tricked by legitimate-looking branding on messages you receive. Cybercriminals will also often use language with a sense of urgency, so be alert. Apply best practice by typing hyperlinks into your web browser. Do not enter your credentials on third party sites unless you are 100% sure you are on the correct site.

    Set priorities for record keeping
    Where most / all staff responsible for client money accounting may be working remotely from home, the maintenance of adequate and timely record keeping, including reconciliations, in relation to client monies is likely to present an additional challenge. Distinguish between essential record keeping required to be always maintained and other areas which could be backfilled from a paper trail at a later date. Include instructions to staff relating to all such temporary measures in the firm’s policies and procedures documentation to ensure clarity and consistency..

    See if you can reduce payments and receipts by cash and cheque
    In an environment where both firms and individuals are required to minimise travel and personal interaction, the handling and banking of cash and cheques is increasingly problematic. Consider contacting clients who would normally pay by cash or cheque to ask them to pay electronically and ensure they have the correct details to do so. Also contact any suppliers you would normally pay by cash or cheque to get the information needed to make these payments electronically

    Ensure that client money is protected in the event of an insolvency
    Complying with the mandatory requirements set out in the professional statement is important to protect client money from creditors in the unfortunate event of an insolvency. There are three particular elements that demonstrate that money in a client account does not belong to the firm and these must be prioritised:-

    • ensuring that the bank operating conditions are confirmed in writing and meet the requirements in paragraph 2.2.1
    • preventing monies in the client money account being used for purposes other than those stipulated or agreed to by the client in compliance with paragraph 2.2.4
    • maintaining records of the payments in and out of the client money account so that clients and the amounts belonging to those clients are able to be immediately identified in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 2.2.5

    (Last updated 11 January 2021)

  • This guidance and information should be used in conjunction with any additional measures imposed as a result of regional restrictions.

    Visiting workplaces
    Workplaces should follow government guidance on working safely during coronavirus.

    Face coverings
    There are different rules for the use of face coverings across the UK. The following links set out rules across the UK.

    England

    Northern Ireland  

    Scotland

    Wales

    Additional Government advice for England on face coverings

    Supplementary Government advice on face coverings has been provided for England where the majority of COVID 19 restrictions have been removed. While the requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

    The Government has also published advice for employers who still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. That advice states that the way to manage the risks to those affected by their business is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. Working Safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

    • cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly.
    • identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow.
    • ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue.
    • communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.

    Working in homes

    RICS has published guidance for members on carrying out inspections in client/consumer homes. The guidance covers England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and sets out principles that can be applied for all RICS professionals working directly in the homes. The guides are available here.

    Communicating with clients and residents
    You should set out in writing to clients and residents how your usual approach may change in light of COVID-19 disruption and how they can continue to contact you. You should also keep written records of all conversations relating to any changes to services. Visits must not be carried out at properties where the occupants are in self-isolation

    Gas safety inspections and repairs
    Information on gas safety inspections and repairs can be found here

    (Last reviewed 5 August 2021)

  • Code of practice for commercial property
    On 19 June Government has published a code of practice to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together to protect viable businesses. It underlines the scale of the economic impact of COVID-19 on the sector, and the need for clear leadership, engagement and transparency. Read the full guidance.

    Service charges
    COVID-19 is having a very significant effect on the commercial property sector and this is having an impact on the occupiers’ ability to pay service charges as well as the landlords’ and their agents’ ability to continue to provide essential services to ensure buildings are safe and secure.

    In May, RICS produced this paper which sets out to discuss how the principles of the RICS Code of practice for service charges in commercial property might be interpreted during this crisis. It is intended to encourage all parties to work collaboratively to find solutions together and assure all that RICS is here to provide support and responses that are proportionate and appropriate for this situation. This paper should not be taken as formal RICS guidance or best practice.

    (Last reviewed 3 November 2020)

  • Construction sites will generally remain open and therefore employers should ensure that employees are able to follow UK government guidelines for England (this link also contains further details for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). If for any reason the activity cannot be continued safely, it should not take place. The Construction Leadership Council has issued new Site Operating Procedures to align with the guidelines.

    Contracts
    Where there may have been impacts on construction contracts, useful guidance has been provided by Build UK here.

    Government advice
    Making buildings safe including progressing with remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding remains a priority. This and other useful information about the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry from the UK government can be found here.

    Construction Leadership Council Roadmap to recovery
    In June, the CLC published a Construction Roadmap to Recovery document . The task force is engaging with Government to test how the plans proposals might be delivered.

    HSE e-bulletin
    The HSE website is regularly updated with useful information and guidance related to the current COVID-19 situation. Check the HSE website for these updates and to sign up to their free e-bulletin.

    Interim valuations
    For monthly payments, RICS guidance would normally be to carry out a site inspection to produce an interim valuation. Where this is not possible because of government advice, a more approximate value may be accepted by both contracting parties, verified by recent site photographs (and other evidence), by drones, or by BIM assessment. It may also be possible for the contract to be changed to stage payments which are more verifiable. In any case, both contracting parties would need to accept the limitations imposed by the exceptional situation in writing following explanation of the options and risks.

    (Last reviewed 8 January 2021)

  • Information from the President of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber)
    The President of the Upper Tribunal, Lands Chamber has issued the attached guidance to explain to users how the Tribunal intends to conduct business during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    The guidance emphasises that the Tribunal will do as much as they can to keep decision making and dispute resolution going during the current restrictions.  If a decision can be made fairly on the basis of written material, it will be.

    The Tribunal will listen to what parties have to say about how their cases are resolved before making decisions about the route to be taken.

    Because of its size, the Tribunal hopes to be able to adopt a customised approach to each of their cases, and in the next few weeks they will be contacting parties to invite their views on cases which are already listed.  In the immediate short-term staff absences may affect the access judges working remotely are able to have to case files, but they are working to resolve those issues.  The President is confident that they will have the support of our professional users, and they may expect the same patience and understanding from us.

    www.judiciary.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-and-guidance/

    www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020_03_24_-UT-Lands-Chamber-Covid-19-Presidential-Guidance-final_.pdf

    (Last updated 1 April 2020)

  • This guidance and information should be used in conjunction with any additional measures imposed as a result of regional lockdowns and restrictions.

    House moves

    Face coverings
    There are different rules for the use of face coverings across the UK. The following links set out rules across the UK.

    England

    Northern Ireland  

    Scotland

    Wales

    Additional Government advice for England on face coverings

    Supplementary Government advice on face coverings has been provided for England where the majority of COVID 19 restrictions have been removed. While the requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

    The Government has also published advice for employers who still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. That advice states that the way to manage the risks to those affected by their business is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. Working Safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

    • cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly.
    • identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow.
    • ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue.
    • communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.
    •  

    Working in homes

    RICS has published guidance for members on carrying out inspections in client/consumer homes. The guidance covers England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and sets out principles that can be applied for all RICS professionals working directly in the homes. The guides are available here.

    Tenancy deposits
    The Tenancy Deposit Scheme has outlined guidance on issues affecting deposits here

    Renting and property management
    Guidelines for tenants, landlords, letting agents, managing agents and local authorities from the UK Government for England can be found here. This includes links to specific requirements for Scotland and Wales.

    Right to Rent checks
    The UK Government has temporarily adjusted Right to Rent checks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, to make it easier for landlords to carry them out. The changes made are in place until 31st August 2021.

    • checks can currently be carried out over video calls
    • tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
    • landlords should use the Landlord Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the accepted documents

    Checks continue to be necessary and must be carried out using the prescribed documents set out in Landlords Guide to Right to Rent or the online right to rent checking service. It remains an offence to knowingly rent to a person who does not have the right to rent in the UK.

    Gas safety inspections and repairs
    Information on gas safety inspections and repairs can be found here

    (Last reviewed 5 August 2021)

  • Guidance for providers of telecommunications infrastructure in England during the COVID-19 outbreak issued by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is available to read on the DCMS Digital Connectivity Portal.

    The key part of the guidance that affects surveyors is reproduced below:

    Agreements between landlords and telecommunications network providers

    Maintaining the integrity of our communications networks is of paramount importance to sustain the increasing demands being placed on them. Landowners and occupiers of land who have entered into agreements with providers of telecommunications networks should continue to meet their obligations under those agreements.

    This particularly applies to any contractual obligations to provide access to sites to inspect, maintain, adjust, repair or upgrade electronic communications equipment. It is vital that such access is provided for emergency repairs, routine maintenance and critical upgrades, under existing contractual arrangements. For unoccupied properties landowners should consider putting in place steps to help facilitate the access by operators.

    (Last updated 3 November 2020)

  • Regulations for virtual planning meetings issues
    The government has issued the regulations required for English local authorities to hold public meetings virtually, by phone or video link, during the COVID-19 lockdown.

    The regulations follow the Coronavirus Act 2020, which received royal assent on 25 March. 

    It makes provisions for ‘persons to attend, speak at, vote in, or otherwise participate in, local authority meetings without all of the persons, or without any of the persons, being together in the same place’.

    Ordinarily, the 1972 Local Government Act requires councillors to be present to decide applications, but the act and regulations override this during the pandemic. The regulations come into effect on 4 April 2020.

    The regulations can be found here.

    * The regulations apply to county councils, district councils, combined authorities, parish councils, joint committees constituted to be a local planning authority, fire and rescue authorities and national park authorities.

    The latest planning updates from the UK Government can be found here.

    Other useful planning updates can be found on the Planning Inspectorate page

    (Last updated 19 May 2020)


    New laws to extend homes upwards and revitalise town centres

    Government has signalled its intention to ‘build, build, build’ more housing and a number of policy changes have been announced which members should be aware of. The Secretary of State also appeared before the Commons Select Committee and indicated there were further reforms to be released.

    The new rules, which will come into effect by September, will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes and commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive our high streets and town centres.

    MHCLG also has just published research on the quality of housing resulting from converting offices under the Permitted Development Rights (PDR). Following research that RICS published on the subject in 2018 and which received considerable publicity, MHCLG commissioned the same researchers to undertake more extensive research to better understand how the PDR policy worked.

    More information on the planning announcement can be found here.

    (Last updated 26 July 2020)

    Further guidance
    Guidance has been given on various aspects of the planning system in letters to chief planning officers of local planning authorities. These can be found and downloaded here.

    (Last reviewed 22 October 2020)

  • The insurance market has implemented contingency plans and the market continues to remain open for business.

    However, RICS is aware of the wider issues in the PII market and for all RICS regulated firms we recommend that you build in additional time for the negotiation of your renewal with the insurance provider and for documentation to be issued.

    Where an RICS regulated firm is unable to obtain PII cover, please contact RICS at regulation@rics.org at your earliest opportunity.

    RICS continues to work with the UK government and the insurance industry to ensure the continued availability of adequate, appropriate and affordable PII cover.

    Please share your insight

    We are running a request for professional indemnity insurance (PII) information from regulated firms to gain insights into current market conditions and feed into our work on developing a sustainable PII solution. Read more. 

    Last reviewed 15 September 2020

  • Our regulatory activities play a key role in delivering confidence to the public and provide assurance around our standards. We will continue to deliver our regulatory services using our remote working technology capabilities and are working on providing a range of enhanced digital services at this challenging time.

    This will include the provision of information via webinars, training videos and self-assessment tools to provide assurance-led services digitally, holding Regulatory Tribunal hearings using remote technology and access to technical support and advice wherever required.

    We are confident that we can continue to ensure that RICS professional standards are being upheld.

    We appreciate that RICS regulated firms and members of the profession are experiencing significant business and operational challenges at present and we are committed to adopting a flexible, supportive and proportionate approach to our activities. In particular, some members and firms will be facing or are at risk of bankruptcy or insolvency. It is important that members and firms seek help and advice as soon as possible. Members and firms should also inform RICS as soon as possible if they become insolvent. We will seek assurance that creditors have been dealt with appropriately and firms have been closed properly, following the steps in the guidance for SMEs considering closure. If this assurance can be given, RICS is unlikely to take disciplinary action.

    Other businesses are facing similar challenges and may be in the same situation. There are sources of support available, which, for surveyors would include Lionheart.

    (Last updated 11 January 2021)

  • For professionals operating in the rural sector, the latest information for rural businesses can be found here.

    (Last reviewed 3 November 2020)

  • The effects of the COVID-19 virus will affect the work carried out by RICS Regulated Members in a variety of ways, with varying impacts. The exact consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak are unknown but inspecting property may become difficult either through a firm’s own internal procedures, government imposed restrictions or unwillingness of occupants to grant access. Access to evidential data such as comparables may also be less freely available.

    Read more on the Valuation Practice Alert

    It may also be useful for valuers to refer to our regularly updated material uncertainty forums page. The Material Valuation Uncertainty Leaders Forum was setup by RICS to consider the unique events relating to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on valuation assignments, with a focus on financial reporting and measures for the accurate and consistent reporting of material uncertainty. It comprises a group of expert valuers covering a wide range of asset classes and specialisms.

    RICS have recently issued a new ‘Beyond COVID’ guide on valuation approaches. This document helps RICS members valuing real estate in the aftermath of COVID-19 where transaction evidence is limited.

    (Last updated 11 January 2021)

  • The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has disrupted daily business activity for all, but we know that small businesses may find it particularly difficult to understand how to adapt and remain resilient in such a rapidly changing situation. We are committed to supporting you to navigate these challenges.

    RICS has delivered an update on the approach for SMEs, information to address specific concerns, and relevant guidance and resources. This supplements the range of guidance we have already published in response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

    Guidance for SMEs

  • Furlough scheme extended
    The UK government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) until 31 March 2021. It was previously due to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme.

    The government is updating its information and guidance on the scheme which can be found here  

    Additional business support
    The UK Government has provided guidance to assist employers and business, which can be found here. Within the website, the specific guidance on business support can be found on this page.

    A full range of business support measures have also been made available to UK business and employees. These are outlined on this website and you can find specific financial support for your business on this website.

    Other information
    The increase in people working from home presents potential risks to data from the perspective of cybercrime and privacy issues covered by GDPR. Guidance to help you navigate this unprecedented time can be found here:

    The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued new guidelines on how they intend to respond during the COVID-19 outbreak - these are available here.

    (Last updated 9 November 2020)

  • In these unprecedented times, RICS professionals are reminded of the support available to them through the profession’s benevolent fund, LionHeart.

    LionHeart’s support services continue as normal with telephone/ online support and advice, access to legal helpline, and professional counselling. Financial support may also be available for those facing extreme hardship in the current circumstances.

    For more information about LionHeart’s services please visit the website www.lionheart.org.uk and for more specific information about how LionHeart can support you during these unprecedented times here

    Free webinars to support your wellbeing
    LionHeart is offering a series of free wellbeing webinars to support RICS professionals at this difficult time. Find details and book your place here