What Is A Chartered Surveyor?

If you’ve been researching property, looking to buy, rent, extend or otherwise acquire or modify a building then there’s a good chance you’ll have come across the term ‘chartered surveyor’.

You may be wondering whether or not you need one and what the difference is between a chartered surveyor and a non-chartered surveyor.

What is a Surveyor?

A surveyor, simply put, is someone that has an in-depth knowledge of buildings, land and the environment within which a building has been constructed. They are a sort of building and land analyst, able to check and scrutinise a building and the land it’s built on for any issues.

They also work alongside other professionals in the building and construction industry such as architects, town planners, ecologists and engineers. Surveyors provide expert advice on various aspects of buildings and land and can liaise with clients, developers and local or national authorities.

What is a Chartered Surveyor?

So what is a chartered surveyor?

Since surveyors advise on aspects of buildings, land and construction that involve large monetary investments and the safety of occupants, they carry a great deal of responsibility to follow a rigorous, structured and fair process. To provide a suitably high rigorous level training and a circle of reporting, responsibility and professional development, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) was set up in 1868. A chartered surveyor is one that belongs legally to this institute.

Chartered professions in the UK are professions that require a certain level of officially recognised skill and ability, judged by personal professional contributions, exams and regular reporting of work to a centralised regulatory body. They are there to guarantee the quality of a professional procedure or service. This comes with many benefits.

When you work with a chartered surveyor, you are able to report any complaints directly to RICS who will investigate them independently. Chartered surveyors also hold Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) which can protect your property if you experience damage, loss or other issues resulting from the advice or actions of a chartered surveyor.

The RICS have also designed the procedure for most surveys carried out in the UK, including the HomeBuyer’s survey and Building Survey. This means chartered surveyors are adhering to a procedure that has been developed by the industry itself – a procedure that they are very well-versed in by the time they gain their charter.

The Benefits of a Using Chartered Surveyor

Must attain a high level of professional skill, knowledge and experience before obtaining their charter

This ensures that chartered surveyors carry with them a high level of skill and experience. Of course, chartered surveyors do also carry different specialisms, but their level of general knowledge on surveying should be of a relatively equal and high standard.

Skilled in RICS procedures and relevant UK law

This means chartered surveyors understand RICS procedures and surveys. This covers not only the building survey itself but also the legality of any advice given and the usefulness of the report when negotiating with sellers and the council or local authorities in case of obtaining planning permission.

Access to the complaints procedure

Chartered surveyors are governed by the RICS itself who deal with complaints objectively and fairly. Chartered surveyors cannot disappear in the event of a dispute.

Hold Public Indemnity Insurance (PII)

In the event of a dispute, you can be sure that chartered surveyors hold PII that can pay out if a client or customer loses money as a result of their advice.

When Do I Need a Surveyor?

The most common use of a surveyor would be to assess a building ahead of its purchase. This is when most people may need to look for a surveyor. It is not a legal requirement to get a survey but it is highly advisable in almost every situation, even if you’re planning on purchasing a newbuild home.

Surveyors are not only relevant to home purchases, but also to the purchase of commercial property and land. There are actually a few different types of surveyors, such as environmental surveyors, geomatics surveyors, rural surveyors, planning and development surveyors, and mineral and waste surveyors.

Building Surveys

Basic surveys provide insights on the building and land and any issues that might need repair or attention in the coming years. Even for newbuilds, a Condition Report or HomeBuyer’s survey might mention trees in the garden or outside that may pose a risk to the house, the chance of damp rising through the foundations from a nearby river or floodplain and any potential structural weaknesses in the property. In fact, you would be surprised at what a surveyor can find on even the most modern newbuild house!

For older homes and especially when you intend on modifying them in some way, a more comprehensive Building Survey may be needed that performs a more rigorous structural investigation into the house and land.

What Happens During a Building Survey?

It firstly depends on the type of survey. There are 3 general tiers of survey for homes.

Condition Report – The cheapest kind of report, this highlights any defects and immediate issues that require repair or attention. For newbuilds, this could be dodgy or loose fittings, unsafe wiring and painting and decorating mistakes. It can cover the house and the garden. The Condition Report is very basic and doesn’t give the costs of any defects or issues, which means you can’t negotiate the building price based on the results very easily.

HomeBuyer’s Survey – This is the most popular type of survey in the UK, according to the RICS, and offers a good level of detail into the home and the land it is built on. It can identify issues with the house, garden and surrounding land and will break these down alongside time projections and potential repair costs in the future. This survey also gives buyers leverage with the seller in case a fault is found and provides general peace of mind that the property condition is as advertised. It was devised by the RICS itself.

Building Survey – This is a more comprehensive survey designed to uncover larger structural flaws, issues with the building and surrounding land and any repairs that need to be carried out immediately. Building Surveys apply to both homes and commercial property and seek to discover and itemise all possible details relevant to a property, its condition and its suitability for modification and renovation.


Chartered surveyors are part of the RICS. They must show they are experienced and possess a high level of experiential and technical expertise to join. This system also means chartered surveyors are part of a circle of reporting where they must report on their work to a central body who will check through it.

The benefits of chartered surveyors for customers and clients in need of a survey are that they can trust the skill of a chartered surveyor, and are able to report any complaints directly to RICS with the added trust that chartered surveyors must have PPI. The RICS was set up for the benefit of both the profession, the building industry and general population – it’s thoroughly worth taking advantage of.

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