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Support and guidance for SMEs

Support and guidance for SMEs

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has disrupted daily business activity for all, but we know that small businesses may find it particularly difficult to understand how to adapt and remain resilient in such a rapidly changing situation. We are committed to supporting you to navigate these challenges.

Below is an update on the approach you can expect from RICS, information to address specific concerns, and relevant guidance and resources. This supplements the range of guidance we have already published in response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. 

Our approach for SMEs regulated by RICS in light of COVID-19

In times of uncertainty, it is vitally important that as a profession, we deliver confidence to the public, clients, investors, markets and governments. That is why our commitment to regulation and upholding professional standards remains as consistent and resilient as ever, while also ensuring that we support our regulated members as much as possible through difficult times. We adopt a risk-based approach, which is balanced and proportionate to a firm’s size, scope and complexity, and accounts for the current unprecedented operating conditions.

Regulatory Review Visits

Following commencement of the Covid-19 lockdown, in recognition of the associated practical and logistical difficulties, we took the decision to temporarily suspend all routine Valuer Registration, Client Money and DPB regulatory review visits (RRVs), both on-site and remote. In light of the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions and our continued engagement with regulated firms, we anticipate the resumption of routine review activity early in the second half of 2020.

(Last updated 10 July 2020)

Engaging with businesses on regulatory activity

During this difficult time, we have looked at how best we can engage with firms around the world on regulation and will continue to innovate to support them. For instance, in China we have set up a ‘WeChat’ group which allows our regulation team to interact with and support members in real time.

Our teams are also creating a comprehensive user manual for the registration portal in Chinese and versions in other languages will be developed in the coming weeks.

RICS professional subscription renewals

If you are having any financial difficulty renewing your subscription, please contact us. RICS already has a policy on subscription concessions which can be viewed here. In light of COVID-19, concessions will remain open.

Business resilience for sole principal firms 

RICS published additional advice and template documents to help sole principals put arrangements in place to safeguard their business continuity should they unfortunately become unwell during this crisis, or at any time in the future. The documents are available here.

Advice for candidates working for SMEs

We understand that many candidates working for smaller companies facing financial pressure as a result of COVID-19 will be understandably anxious about their futures and professional development. 

We can confirm that all candidates will continue to have access to the Assessment Resource Centre. If you are completing APC structured training, remember any relevant work experience you have gained since you enrolled on the APC will be valid and will still count towards your minimum 400/200 days requirement.
If you have to defer your assessment during this period, you will be given a 6- month extension on the validity of your case study(ies) for example from 24 months to 30.

This also applies to any apprentices who have applied for their assessment. 

We know that this may be an unsettling time if the firm you are working for is no longer trading and for further support, we encourage you to engage with Lionheart an independent charity for RICS professionals and candidates globally, which offers free and confidential advice, financial support, professional counselling, and legal advice in certain jurisdictions.

Using digital communications platforms

With many people now working remotely, the resilience of communications networks and applications used by firms will be tested, and it will no doubt be a particular concern for smaller firms that do not have access to the expert support of IT teams. It is important that firms choose their online meeting software carefully and you may wish to consider GDPR compliance, online security, and familiarity with the particular platform as you do so.

RICS has set up an Insight Community on the Yammer platform for RICS professionals and related industries to connect, stay up-to-date, share insight, knowledge and best practice.

To join the Insight Community please email digicommunities@rics.org

Our approach for SMEs facing insolvency and closure

We know this may be a difficult time for all businesses, and particularly challenging for smaller businesses that do not have the same resources or access to information as larger firms in our industry. Some may be facing insolvency or closure.

We have received many requests for guidance and have developed detailed guidance for businesses to support them on business continuity measures or winding down of their businesses. This covers the steps that a firm will need to take to close in an orderly way and highlights the support that is available.

If the principals of an RICS regulated firm believe that the firm may become insolvent or may be insolvent, it is vital that the principals seek help and advice as a priority. Other businesses are facing similar challenges and may be in the same situation. There are sources of support available, which, for surveyors would include Lionheart. The principals should also inform RICS as soon as possible and be open and transparent with us. RICS Regulation will give appropriate acknowledgment to the impact of the increasingly restrictive measures being put in place on society in general and business. This context will be considered in regulatory cases, along with mitigating and aggravating factors, when assessing seriousness and any regulatory outcome. RICS will seek assurance that the firm has been closed properly, following the steps in the guidance, and that creditors have been dealt with appropriately. If the firm is able to provide this assurance, it is unlikely that RICS will need to take disciplinary action.

Guidance for SMEs facing insolvency and closure 

Professional Indemnity Insurance

When you close your firm, whether temporarily or permanently, you must ensure that all previous work is covered by appropriate and adequate professional indemnity cover.

If the closure is permanent contact your broker to discuss obtaining run off cover. Run-off cover is necessary because of the way professional indemnity operates. This is on a 'claims made' basis rather than 'losses occurring' basis. This means the responsibility for paying the claim lies with the insurer on cover when the claim is made (or the insurer is notified of circumstances that may give rise to a claim), which will not necessarily be the insurer on cover when the alleged negligence took place.

To support firms with run-off requirements, RICS amended their minimum policy wording for Professional Indemnity in April 2019 to include mandatory run-off cover for consumer clients for 6 years. No premium payment will be required to trigger this. Firms can obtain run-off for longer periods than six years, or with higher cover levels, if they deem that adequate and appropriate. Firms should consider what run off cover for commercial claims would be adequate and appropriate. Your insurer may charge an additional premium for covering commercial clients.

RICS also recently made changes to the Assigned Risk Pool (ARP) to include a run-off pool. This allows firms that cannot reasonably secure run-off for commercial claims on the open market an additional option to gain cover.”

Last updated 3 June 2020