This is not an exhaustive or a complete subject. It is likely to change over time, with edits, additions and deletions, and is simply a collection of my thoughts based on many years of experience. You should follow your instincts, and you must always seek your own professional advice.
Investigation of moisture and its effects on traditional buildings : principles and competences, 1st Edition, September 2022 (JPS 2022)
This ground-breaking document launched on 22nd Sept. 2022. It is a collaborative document from RICS, Historic England and the PCA and it has been additionally supported and adopted by Cadw, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic Environment Division Northern Ireland, SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) and IHBC (Institute of Historic Building Conservation).
You are welcome to watch my introduction video where I give some background to the document.
You are also welcome to watch the video messages from the collaborating organisations here.
I am the Chair of the RICS Building Conservation Steering Group. In 2017, I took the decision to try to find a way to finally deal with the unnecessary and inappropriate damage that has been caused to old, historic and Listed Buildings by remedial ‘damp-proofing’ and reports from mortgage valuers and residential surveyors that misdiagnosed apparent moisture ‘problems’ that need to be ‘fixed’. I’m not the first to try to do this but perhaps it was a case of ‘right place, right time’.
Let me make one thing absolutely clear. Traditional buildings are not the same as modern buildings. They should not be expected to perform in the same way. An observation of moisture in a traditional building should not be immediately determined to be a ‘problem’ that requires fixing.
Further, it is a legal requirement that any physical change or alteration to a Listed Building can only take place after prior Listed Building Consent has been granted. It is extremely unlikely that Listed Building Consent would now be granted for remedial ‘damp-proofing’. Lessons have been learned from the decades of damage caused to our historic building. It is, therefore, pointless for a surveyor or contractor to recommend an alteration that would never be given Consent.
It is time for a new approach.
The new JPS 2022
This new document has been produced as a collaborative project and has involved 80-100 people during its writing. It is truly a result of a team effort and is an agreed consensus.
There are no names or authors mentioned in the document. This is deliberate and is not an omission.
For the first time ever, the industry has come together and has agreed on these principles and competences. Following the document from start to finish will lead to a raising of professional standards and it will lead towards greater consumer confidence. Most importantly, it should see an end to inappropriate work done to traditional buildings.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen with a willingness and a motivation from multiple directions. If we can educate the younger and early-career surveyors then it will become second nature and nothing to question.
At the point of purchase, but not solely at this time, consumers are under a lot of stress and pressure. Dealing with mortgage lenders and professional advisors can be fraught with worry on following rules and procedures, not knowing what to do and not being able to recognise between sales tactics and impartial advice. For decades, the scenario has often been that a mortgage valuer or surveyor has made a comment about ‘rising damp’ which then is followed by a recommendation to get an inspection by a ‘damp specialist’. The subsequent inspection will invariably lead to a diagnosis of ‘rising damp’ and a quote for remedial damp-proofing work, usually costing a considerable sum of money. The work, when done, almost always leads to causing more permanent damage to the building that it is alleged to fix.
This scenario has been replicated in tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of times.
The new JPS 2022 will change this routine and now, for the first time, consumers are provided with the power to say no.
JPS 2022 clearly states the agreed set of principles and competences that should be followed by anyone who undertakes an inspection of a traditional building, for any purpose. By following this document, taking the ‘whole building’ approach, looking for the source of any excessive moisture (if it is even determined to be excessive) and not focusing solely on the observations or symptoms then the outcome for the consumer, and the building, should be clearer and more appropriate.
If a surveyor fails to follow the JPS 2022, the consumer should firstly query why this is the case and ask for the report to done again and also request it should follow the JPS 2022. The content of the report should be expected to justify any recommendations made and it should, ideally, lead to an approach which is sensitive to the long-term life of the building. Short-term cosmetic aims are not going to be acceptable. Ultimately, the consumer can make a complaint against an RICS member or RICS regulated firm should the issue remain unresolved.
If a contractor fails to follow the JPS 2022, the consumer should firstly query why this is the case and ask for the report to done again and also request it should follow the JPS 2022. The content of the report should be expected to justify any recommendations made and it should, ideally, lead to an approach which is sensitive to the long-term life of the building. Short-term cosmetic aims are not going to be acceptable. Ultimately, the consumer can make a complaint against a PCA member should the issue remain unresolved.
In the event of a dispute over alleged professional negligence, the JPS 2022 can be taken into account by the Ombudsman, Courts and other dispute resolution services.
The Challenges Ahead
We know that there is a section of the ‘trades’ that rely on providing free ‘timber and damp’ reports. My advice to consumers is to avoid these services. It will lead to the provision of a quotation and not the provision of unbiased professional impartial advice. JPS 2022 expects a professional diagnosis of moisture, not a few minutes with a ‘damp meter’. Consumers should expect to pay for a professional service and they should check that the company will follow JPS 2022 before paying the fee and before accepting the report that is produced.
We know that there are some surveying companies who carry out large numbers of surveys for reasonably low fees. This high volume workload will typically be using a generic template report because it is almost entirely populated with standard phrases and only requires minimal edits for the subject property. The surveyors work on weekly targets and the quality of the advice given and reporting is not a priority. My advice to consumers is to do your research first. Don’t assume that all RICS, AssocRICS or RPSA surveyors are the same. The RICS Home Survey Standard 2019 provides mandatory requirements for all RICS members and RICS regulated firms. Level 2 and Level 3 reports are expected to be detailed, thorough, impartial and should not contain lists of ‘further investigations’. If your report is vague and does not demonstrate that the surveyor has provided a professional diagnosis, rather than a simple observation that you can see for yourself, then reject the report and complain to the surveyor making it clear that you want advice which complies with JPS 2022. The best report format will be one that is individually designed and written by the surveyor.
Update..: February 2023
In December 2022 I recorded a Podcast for RICS which discussed the JPS 2022 and its use in practice by surveyors. You can listen to the Podcast, for free, from this link..:
Disclaimer: Anything posted in this Blog is for general information only and it is not in any way intended to provide any advice, legal or otherwise, on any general or specific matter that you can rely on. You should always seek your own legal and surveying advice.