Should surveyors share survey findings publicly?

Should surveyors share survey findings publicly?

Two of the key responsibilities of surveyors are to adhere to professional standards, and provide accurate, trustworthy and expert-led reports. But while there are strict and clear guidelines surrounding the type of information that surveyors give to clients, there’s been little discussion about whether surveyors can share some of these findings publicly afterwards. For example, can and should photographs of home defects or detailed discussions of property issues be used on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook? And what about a surveyor’s website or advertising materials? As surveyors, we need to question both the legal and ethical responsibilities we have to our clients, as well as the potential repercussions of sharing information or survey findings are. From a surveyors’ legal duty to act confidentially, to potential for misinterpretation, damage to property reputation and so on, here are 5 things to consider when sharing survey findings (as well as best practice on how to do so professionally).

1. Surveyors have an ethical responsibility to uphold confidentiality

As professionals bound by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), surveyors must adhere to strict ethical guidelines that include maintaining client confidentiality. The RICS ethical standards clearly state that surveyors should not disclose information about an assignment or client without explicit permission, except where disclosure is required by law. Sharing detailed findings of a property survey on social media can constitute a breach of these confidentiality clauses. It goes against the RICS rules of conduct, as it violates the surveyor-client relationship.

This raises significant concerns, particularly because the information shared might include sensitive data about a property that could affect its perception in the market.

2. Social media snapshots don’t give the full picture

sharing social media posts of client surveys

If you’re creating a social media post about a recent survey you’ve done, you’re more than likely condensing the information into a concise, maybe catchy, summary for readers. Social media posts are typically short, but even if you go into some length, you’re not going to be providing all the information and complete survey report. Therefore, the social media post is likely to lack the depth necessary to offer a complete picture of property issues. Photographs or snippets of reports generally won’t be able to cover the full context or extent of any issues found.

In providing partial information, social media posts can potentially lead to misinterpretations about the condition of a property. This could lead potential buyers or other parties to overestimate – or maybe underestimate – the severity of a defect, which could consequently impact property value.

3. If information is not accurate, it may harm a surveyor’s reputation

There’s also a risk of harming the surveyor’s professional reputation too. Experienced surveyors tend to lean on their knowledge and skills to be able to identify issues or potential issues in properties. But there are occasions where we might get it wrong. With some house problems, there can be multiple causes, and we might identify the wrong one for example. And if we’re publicising information that’s inaccurate, it’s not only damaging to clients, but also to our own reputation and professionalism.

4. Sharing details of defects can negatively impact a property’s reputation

Sharing details of defects can negatively impact a property's reputation

Sharing details of defects can have dire consequences for a property’s reputation. Publicly discussing specific flaws or issues can create a stigma around the property, potentially deterring future buyers or lessees. This becomes especially problematic when such information is disseminated on social media platforms, where it can reach a broad audience, including individuals who might have otherwise considered the property. Furthermore, lots of prospective buyers conduct thorough online research before making purchasing decisions. So if negative information about defects or issues is readily available online, it can significantly hinder the property’s ability to attract buyers or secure tenants.

This is amplified when the issues presented seem severe or costly to rectify, further diminishing the property’s appeal and marketability. As a result, maintaining confidentiality regarding property defects is essential to safeguarding its reputation and market value in the real estate industry

5. Publicly sharing information may lead to legal ramifications and professional negligence

By sharing details of a survey publicly, surveyors might expose themselves to legal action from various parties. For instance, if a property’s defects are publicly shared, sellers might claim that the surveyor’s actions have led to a decrease in property value or lost sale opportunities. This in turn can lead to potential claims for damages. Additionally, if the information is incorrect or misleading, the surveyor might face claims of defamation or professional negligence.

This also extends to claims from individuals who might purchase a property based on information shared on social media, only to discover that the reality differs significantly from what was depicted online. In such cases, the surveyor might be held liable for misrepresentation, even if unintentionally, which can result in serious professional and legal consequences. So by sharing your findings on social media, you’re making yourself vulnerable to potential lawsuits if any discrepancies are found.

How can surveyors share information appropriately?

How can surveyors share information appropriately?

It’s understandable why surveyors like myself would want to share survey findings. It showcases the type of work we do and how we’re able to help our clients, helping people decide how to choose a surveyor. However, it’s crucially important we uphold ethical standards and professionalism both during the time we’re working with clients and afterwards. So how can we share information while still being professional? Here are a few recommendations on how to share information appropriately as a surveyor that doesn’t betray our legal and ethical responsibilities.

  1. Obtain consent – always obtain explicit consent from clients before sharing any survey findings or information about the property. This means telling them what information you’re going to share (which images, details) and arguably the caption or snippet too.
  2. Anonymise data or findings – when sharing case studies or examples of survey work, ensure that any identifying information about the client or property is anonymised to maintain confidentiality. This means not mentioning the client’s name, address of the property, or any specific characteristics about the client or property that can be identifiable.
  3. Generalise the information – instead of sharing specific details about individual properties, generalise the post to highlight trends or common issues observed during surveys. For example, you could talk about the instances of finding mould in properties or common issues, rather than a particular survey report of a property. This will probably help you avoid presenting inaccurate content too, which as mentioned – can be damaging to your own rep.
  4. Educational content – if you’re stuck for ideas on social media content, you could create educational content that discusses common survey findings, industry best practices, and tips for property owners without disclosing confidential information. This still showcases your expertise and area of knowledge, without crossing legal boundaries.
  5. Follow regulatory standards – always adhere to regulatory standards and guidelines set by professional bodies like RICS to ensure ethical conduct in sharing information. You can often access forums or guides and blogs that help with queries to make sure you’re sticking to the guidelines.
  6. Seek legal advice – if you’re unsure, seek legal advice to understand the potential ramifications of sharing specific survey details in a public forum. It’s better in this case to avoid posting or sharing if you’re not sure than doing it and finding out later.

Given these implications, it is advisable for surveyors to exercise caution when considering sharing any information related to their surveys on social media. Social media can definitely be a powerful for promoting professional services and sharing general insights into the field of property surveying, but make sure you use it to your advantage (which means using it in a way that protects yourself, your client and potential buyers).

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