Drainage misconnections: RICS professional guidance
17 October 2014
Graham Ellis looks at what the RICS Surveys of residential property guidance note and Home Surveys practice notes say about drainage misconnections
The Surveys of residential property guidance note sets out a protocol (that specifically refers to drains) for undertaking different levels of survey services either in the surveyor's or company's own format, or as a standard RICS Home Survey service.
The surveyor does not perform or comment on design calculations, or test the service installations or appliances in any way. At all levels, inspection chamber covers in common areas of flats are not lifted. Additionally:
Survey level 1
Survey level 2
Survey level 3
Inspecting and reporting on drains is therefore an accepted element of a Home Survey service. Although the guidance note does not specifically refer to misconnected drains, surveyors are strongly advised to take heed – especially those undertaking Home Survey services governed by mandatory practice notes.
Home Survey levels
Condition report (CR), survey level 1
This is the most basic service. Surveyors should check the description of service in the standard terms of engagement.
As stated in the guidance note, the description of service asserts that 'inspection chamber covers to the underground drainage system are not lifted'. However, a client is told that 'if a surveyor suspects a problem, he or she should recommend a further investigation'. Surveyors must be mindful that a misconnected drain might be detected from a visual above ground inspection, which is scoped out in the checklist G6 Drainage in the CR practice note, as follows:
'Chamber covers are not lifted nor drainage systems tested. This element includes:
Although there is no specific mention of misconnected drains, this checklist is not exhaustive and if the surveyor sees or suspects a problem within the agreed limitations of the inspection carried out, he or she is advised to flag it up as a condition rating 3 and recommend further investigation.
HomeBuyer Report, survey level 2
A more in-depth service than the CR. One major difference is that the surveyor is expected to lift inspection chamber covers. This more extensive inspection might reveal more clues about any misconnected drains at the property.
Surveyors are advised to understand the slightly varied requirements of the description of service, which, like the CR, form part of the standard terms of engagement.
In the description of service, again a client is told that 'if a surveyor suspects a problem, he or she should recommend a further investigation'. Surveyors must be mindful that a misconnected drain might be detected from a visual above ground inspection scoped out in the checklist, under G6 Drainage:
'Chambers (except in the case of flats) are visually inspected from ground level where it is safe and reasonable for the surveyor to lift the cover(s). Neither the drains nor drainage systems are tested. This element includes:
Unlike the CR, misconnected drains are mentioned in the checklist. If the surveyor sees or suspects a problem within the agreed limitations of the inspection then it should be flagged up as a condition rating 3 and further investigation recommended.
Building Survey: survey level 3
The most thorough and intensive service. A higher level of inspection and reporting is required by the surveyor as outlined in the description of service and terms of engagement.
A significant difference is that the client is told that 'the surveyor makes enquiries about contamination or other environmental issues' and also that 'if a surveyor suspects a problem, he or she should recommend a further investigation'.
This will be based on a more in-depth inspection as scoped out in the checklist G6 Drainage in the BS practice note:
'The surveyor opens all reasonably accessible, lightweight inspection chamber covers within the curtilage of the property. The assumed routes of the drain runs and their general condition are reported based on a visual inspection. Where a water supply is available and turned on, the surveyor may also run water through the system as part of the inspection.
The surveyor must attempt to identify the means of foul and surface water disposal. There have been recent changes to legislation with which the surveyor should be familiar before undertaking the inspection. This element includes:
• other types – soakaway, reed beds, composting toilets
If the property has a private drainage system, the surveyor considers the following:
The checklist specifically mentions misconnected drains so it should be flagged up as a condition rating 3 and further investigation recommended.
Surveyors are advised to give proper consideration to checking for misconnected drains within the agreed level of service, and report accordingly. Doing so promotes the usefulness of the chartered surveyor in the home moving and living cycle, while underlining the value to clients of having their own survey done and being made aware of any future unforeseen expenditure on remedial works, or worse.
Graham Ellis is RICS Associate Director, Residential