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Surveying Expertise

by Mr Peter G Tobin
Chartered Surveyor & Registered Arbitrator
(More about Mr Tobin)

Chartered Surveyors

‘Real estate’ is a diverse and wide-ranging area of expertise. It covers the spectrum of the built and agricultural environments. Confusion arises because the generic term Surveyor applies to many of the disparate disciplines in the field.

The principal professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), awards the title Chartered Surveyor to its members. But this fails to indicate in what area of expertise the member practices. RICS has tried to clarify this confusion by permitting members to describe themselves as Chartered General Practice Surveyor, Chartered Commercial Property Surveyor, Chartered Building Surveyor, Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Chartered Land Surveyor, Chartered Environmental Surveyor or Chartered Town Planning Surveyor, etc., but few use this additional designation. So experience is that instructing solicitors are often confused as to the appropriate expert to instruct.


A General Practice Valuation Surveyor deals with all or part of the spectrum of issues related to urban property. This might include valuation, estate agency, property management, the development process, and building defects and contracts relating to small structures. Typical instructions could include:

  • negligent valuation or conveyancing advice
  • disputes in landlord/tenant relationships
  • problems relating to service charges, leasehold reform, housing disrepair liability and damages
  • negligent advice on selling or letting property
  • disputed rents or values
  • the effect of restrictive covenants
  • neighbour disputes relating to property and rights to light
  • compensation for compulsory purchase of real estate and business loss, etc.

All these issues have to a greater or lesser extent value implications, and the General Practice Surveyor has an intimate knowledge of his specialised market. Note that no surveyor can be an expert on the whole market, so those instructing should seek someone who has either nationwide knowledge of a particular class of specialised property (e.g. hotels and leisure facilities) or knowledge of a discrete geographical location.

The Rural Practice Surveyor works over a similar broad spectrum but concentrates on rural estates and agricultural and forestry property.

The Building Surveyor’s expertise is in construction and building contracts, falling short of the specialist knowledge of the structural engineer or architect. Building Surveyors can advise on complex maintenance issues, structural defects and building disputes. Typically these relate to:

  • contractor’s inadequate service or
  • liability for dilapidations as between landlord and tenant
  • the effect of building failures
  • cost of buildings in use

Remember that if seeking an expert to advise on a case of negligence in a building survey, the court will expect to receive evidence from a surveyor of a similar discipline to the alleged culprit, and not someone with the more extensive knowledge of an engineer. However, if the relief granted by the court relates to market value, further evidence from a Valuation Surveyor may be required as well. So, before confirming instructions, it is necessary to consider carefully whether the court will allow more than one expert; if not, the market must be researched to find if a single surveyor has the necessary dual experience to provide the evidence required.

Where answers are required to complex questions of building contract or costs, evidence should emanate from a Quantity Surveyor. These disputes are generally dealt with by specialist lawyers.

Economic issues relating to town planning or compulsory acquisition may be the province of either Planning or Valuation Surveyors, depending upon their particular experience. Except in small-scale development, evidence for planning appeals is more appropriate from Town Planning Surveyors.

Useful addresses

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), 12 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE. Tel: 0870 333 1600

RICS maintains a list of approved experts in its various disciplines.

Likely qualifications

Other than the RICS qualification, you might come across FAAV (Fellow Association of Agricultural Valuers) which is unlikely to be held without RICS, but it indicates experience in this sector of the profession. Residential estate agents may be members of National Association of Estate Agents (FNAEA) or Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), indicating adherence to codes of conduct rather than academic knowledge. There are several Estate Agents Ombudsman schemes who adjudicate disputes between (residential) clients and firms, as well as Chartered Institute of Arbitrators ( who maintains a panel of qualified arbitrators (FCIArb) who adjudicate disputes between clients and Chartered Surveyors.

by Mr Peter G Tobin
Chartered Surveyor & Registered Arbitrator
(More about Mr Tobin)


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