Lydia McLeod (“LM”) and Bridget Makepeace (“BM”) of RICS
Mr Merricks CBE Remit (in abbreviated terms)
It is important to emphasise that my remit covers only the standard of service provided by RICS. I judge standards of service against ordinary standards of customer service that can reasonably be expected of professional bodies: these include promptness and timeliness, consistency, clarity of communication, courtesy and respect; and adherence to proper procedures.
Therefore in this case I have confined myself to the question of whether level of service provided to Mr Antino was reasonable.
I (Mr Merricks) will assess the service provided to Mr Antino in relation to promptness and timeliness, consistency, clarity of communication, courtesy and respect; and adherence to proper procedures.
Promptness and timeliness
LM handled the complaint in a timely fashion, responding promptly to PA’s correspondence – until 28 June when she provided an update to PA and promised him further updates. There was then a significant gap until 26 July when PA felt it reasonable to ask for an update.
A more serious delay occurred between 10 August (LM’s final contact with PA), and 3 November. During this time there was no contact with PA to update him.
I will assess the service provided to Mr Antino in relation to promptness, consistency, clarity of communication, courtesy and respect; and adherence to proper procedures.
Promptness and timeliness
There was a gap in communication between the time of LM’s last email on 4 October and the time on 7 November when BM took up the file and wrote to PA. Otherwise the case proceeded with reasonable promptness of communication.
Consistency and Adherence to proper procedures
As BM identified, LM had not adhered to a proper procedure in failing to gather any evidence to substantiate the allegation that PA had failed to reply to correspondence. This was indeed a substantive failing and BM apologised for it.
I am unaware that LM’s request to PA to keep confidential information provided by Mr and Mrs Critchley was part of any proper procedure. There is no obligation on a person who is the subject of a complaint to keep confidential information provided to that person in support of allegations made against him or her, and as that is the case, such confidentiality should not be requested. PA protested about it and received no response to his protests. The issue was simply ignored by both BM and CH.
A person who objects to a request made by RICS during a regulatory investigation is entitled to be told whether and if so on what grounds the original request was justified, or if it was not, why the request was made in the first place. That was also a failing.
I have identified some service failings in my review of these two linked investigations.
5 February 2018
Irony RICS Regulate Professional Standards
RICS did not provide appropriate professional services when seeking to investigate a false and malicious complaint. If a member acted in such a way, he would be subject to disciplinary proceedings, yet the very people who determine members conduct are not accountable when they fail to achieve professional standards.
In 2017 a Mr and Mrs Critchley made a complaint to the RICS about Philip Antino, alleging that he had not written to their surveyor Mr Marchant, and that Philip Antino had unnecessarily delayed or refused to correspond with Mr Marchant.
For those of you that are familiar with Philip Antino you would know that he is one of the most conscientious and efficient surveyors and always responds to correspondence.
The complaint was passed to Mrs Lydia McLeod of the RICS complaints team, Mrs McLeod did nothing other than write to Mr Antino setting out the complaint and alleging various breaches of the RICS rules.
Mrs McLeod did not ask for any proof or corroborating evidence from Mr and Mrs Critchley. Mr Antino has never written to, corresponded with, spoken to the Critchley’s and only met their surveyor Mr Marchant on one occasion in May 2017, which lasted 6 minutes with Mr Antino’s client ordering Mr Marchant to leave. There was an agreement that Mr Marchant would be given access to Mr Antino’s clients property for him to take measurements in relation to an allegation by the Critchley’s that the boundary had been moved by Mr Antino’s clients.
Upon receipt of the complaint Mr Antino immediately wrote to Mrs McLeod (by email) asking her to provide any kind of evidence in support of the allegations raised by the Critchley’s. In Mr Antino’s view Mrs McLeod had been derelict in exercising her duty of care towards Mr Antino by forgetting or simply not asking the Critchley’s for evidence that supported the allegation.
Undeterred she proceeded to write to Mr Antino in the most strictest terms making all sorts of wild accusations that there were grounds for a disciplinary hearing in breach of RICS rules.
Mr Antino wrote in the strictest terms asking again for evidence and none was provided. Mrs McLeod was then replaced by Mrs Bridget Makepeace, another member of the RICS regulatory team. Mrs Makepeace immediately recognised (to her credit) that Mrs McLeod had failed to identify any reasonable grounds to justify opening an investigation into the allegations, and apologised on behalf of Mrs McLeod and then said she was closing the file.
Mr Antino was quite aggrieved by this, clearly recognising a breach of his human rights under Article 3 that the RICS were treating him in an inhumane manner. To write to a professional threatening all sorts of allegations and breaches of rules when there was not one shred of evidence disclosed or even requested by the RICS investigating officer (Lydia McLeod) was tantamount to mental torture.
Mrs McLeod’s apology appeared to be the conclusion of the RICS involvement. Mr Antino made a formal complaint about Mrs McLeod, it was referred to another team member who said quite simply that the service had not been to the standard that Mr Antino was entitled to receive from the RICS and they apologised on behalf of RICS and that was the end of the matter.
Mrs McLeod has not offered an apology during or since.
Mr Antino undeterred wanted the matter referred to another party and it went before Mr Walter Merricks CBE.
Now the irony of this situation is that the RICS regulatory team are there to ensure that members of the RICS demonstrate and comply with the appropriate professional standards, and if they do not, they bring proceedings and issue fines and costs against the member.
When the RICS regulatory team fail to demonstrate the duty of care and/or the appropriate level of service that they are required to provide, especially when purporting to be a regulating body, and wrongly, mischievously and negligently write to members without undertaking the basic checks to establish if there is any evidence to support an allegation made by a member of the public, that they simply walk away from this having given an apology.
The RICS should lead by example, when they make a mistake through negligence or a breach of their own standards then the person that has done that in this case Mrs Lydia McLeod, and as it turns out Mrs Bridget Makepeace as recognised by Mr Merricks should be fined, suspended from work, ordered to pay from their own pocket compensation to the surveyor who they have grievously harmed through their malicious and wrongful communications.