Raising standards with Rics

RicsDubai Land Department became the world’s first government agency to announce support for the International Property Measurement Standards last year. Its officials are pictured here with Rob Jackson, Director, Middle East and North Africa, Rics, and his team l Image Credit: Dubai Land Department

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) is a regulatory organization that provides qualifications to land, construction and property professionals.

By becoming a Rics member, real estate professionals can enhance their reputation with a globally recognised

qualification that is respected by investors and governments across the world.

Rob Jackson, Middle East and North Africa Director, who also sits on Rics’ Global Operations Board, says the organisation provides meticulous and ongoing assessments of members to ensure that its exacting standards are met.

“We assess all aspects of land, property and construction. At the moment, we have 20 different pathways through which our members can enter the organisation and therefore our quality assurance standards cover a wide range of disciplines.”

Rics uses three main areas of quality assurance to assess its members covering technical, professional and ethical competencies. “Our members are individuals and therefore each individual is assessed through a rigorous process to make sure they have the correct competencies,” Jackson says.

He explains that members must meet these standards before they can be considered chartered. “For example, if we have a real estate valuer, we will make sure that they demonstrate the appropriate level of competency through written case studies, interviews and other methods of assessment.”

Once membership is granted, Rics continues to regularly assess its members, ensuring against complacency or declining standards. “Once individuals have been accepted and become Chartered Surveyors or Chartered Members, the learning never stops. Professions continuously grow and technology and standards change. Therefore we insist that all our members undertake 20 hours of continuous professional development a year, irrespective of age, experience or what discipline they work in,” Jackson adds.

Global presence

Founded in London in 1868, Rics now has more than 150,000 members and operates in nearly 150 countries across the world.

“As a global organisation, we operate in all of the major property markets in the world,” Jackson says.

Does Rics make special allowances for its members operating in the Middle East? “The world has become a smaller place and professionals working in certain areas, especially construction, have become far more mobile,” he says. “You’ll see one of our members working in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and then the Middle East. Therefore it is paramount that we have consistent global practices.

“In emerging markets, we try to target the less qualified. Obviously we have a lot of members in both Qatar and the UAE and we would like to say that once someone has become a chartered member then they have demonstrated an equivalent set of competencies to their chartered colleagues.

“We work with organisations to look at improvement of skills. We have a level of membership below Chartered called the AssocRics [associate qualification]. This targets less experienced professionals but it starts them on the pathway where they are learning competencies. It’s relevant, not in the UAE, but in other GCC countries where nationalisation has become mandatory.

Perks of membership

Aside from Rics’ professional endorsement, membership can be essential for securing finance from some international banks whose internal risk policies stipulate the necessity of a Rics qualification. There is a directory of members on Rics’ website, where individuals can search under professions and geographical regions to get in touch with them.

“We insist that our members carry out their CPD [continuous professional development], and if any member doesn’t record their CPD, they are subject to disciplinary action,” Jackson says.

Individuals can also highlight malpractice by existing members, which Rics will then investigate. “If we get customer complaints or concerns through whistle-blowing, which involves irregular or non-compliant member activity, then our Regulation team will investigate through a combination of various methods such as desk-based reviews, visiting members and taking files from the member’s offices,” he adds.

“It happens on a frequent basis that our Regulation team gets called in. Generally, complaints arise from members not following technical standards.”

If members aren’t complying with the standards, Rics takes disciplinary measures against them, which can be both damaging and embarrassing. In most instances, members are not aware of their infringements and are happy to work with the organisation to rectify any misdemeanours, but on the rare occasion that an individual is wilfully non-compliant, their membership can be revoked. Jackson says it is a public process. “It is published on our website and written about in local newspapers, so there are major deterrents to members losing their chartered status.”

Wider influence

Assessing members is only part of Rics’ mandate. The organisation also works with governments and industry heavyweights on wide-ranging issues, including legislative improvements, professional training and conflict resolution.

Rics’ influence is illustrated by its success — with backing from The World Bank — in persuading the Dubai Government to adopt the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS), standardising the way real estate is measured per square foot. But Jackson still sees room for improvement and refinements to existing legislation.

“While Rics has made sure that our house is in order, what we need to do is to get the [UAE] government to start a mandate that all valuation activities in the UAE are done to international valuation standards,” he says.

“It is something that the Saudi government is working on, and it is a potential area for significant [economic] risk. We are in discussions with the UAE Government and institutions with regard to valuation practices. “We are not there yet, and to me, that is the number one area of risk our organisation sees in the marketplace.”

Call for change

Despite the property market regulations that have come into effect following the economic crisis, Jackson sees scope for improvement in the UAE’s construction industry, particularly when it comes to attracting longer-term foreign investment.

“There’s an index that JLL produces — a Global Real Estate Transparency Index — and it plots different markets,” he says.

“The index shows the number of real estate transactions that are done against the respective markets, and there’s a strong correlation that when markets become more transparent then they witness much more investor activity. So to take that argument one step further, by adopting more rules and regulations, you become more transparent — that drives confidence and that confidence encourages more institutional investment.”

Jackson believes Dubai’s commercial property rental index, where properties are valued according to their size and location, can benefit from revisions, helping the market attract established overseas investment.

“We feel that with some modification the commercial sector could become more attractive to institutional investors,” he says. “The current rental index could be inhibiting the attractiveness of the market. The index is based on geographical areas of Dubai and that doesn’t allow differentiation of grade of property and normal market dynamics.

“In certain zones in Dubai, if I’m an international investor and I know that I have a really big global organisation  wanting to move into the emirate, the rental index precludes me from earning the top amount for a property, even if I have a client who may be prepared to pay that.”

Initially introduced to regulate excessive speculation and artificial price inflation, Jackson concedes that the index fulfilled its purpose during the boom years but believes the system works better for residential real estate, not commercial property where more refinement is required.

Dispute resolution

Another area of focus for the organisation in Dubai is conflict resolution. “We do training, mediation, arbitration and adjudication for professionals who are working in the built environment,” Jackson says. “We are working with organisations such as the Dubai Government and DIFC to offer dispute arbitration and expert witness services to the public, using accredited professionals.

“At the moment, if a member of the public has a dispute, they go to litigation. There will be a 14- or 15-month wait before you get a court hearing. People fall out and there are lots of costs. Rics’ Alternative Dispute Resolution is a much cheaper, quicker and more satisfactory way of resolving disputes,” he adds.

Source: Peter Feely, Special to Property Weekly


For Rent


View more properties

For Sale


View more properties