RICS – what is it all about?

RICS logo

RICS – Five Wives & One Husband (5W1H)

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The RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) is the world’s leading professional body for regulation and setting standards for the land, property and construction industry.

As an expanding global property professional body, the RICS aims to:

  • Regulate and promote the land, property and construction profession
  • Encourage and maintain the highest educational and professional standards
  • Protect clients and consumers through a strict code of ethics
  • Provide impartial advice, analysis and guidance on real estate matters

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Who?

The RICS (www.rics.org) has more than 100,000 members operating in almost 150 countries. There are also some 500 RICS accredited university degree courses with currently over 34,000 students to ensure that membership remains strong in the future.

Members are known as Chartered Surveyors, recognised by the designation after their name – FRICS (Fellow) or MRICS (Member).

When?

The RICS can trace its history as far back as 1792 when the Surveyors Club was formed in London. In its current form, the RICS was created in 1868 in the United Kingdom receiving a Royal Charter in 1881.

The RICS represents the oldest and most established professional body in the field of land, property and construction in the world.

What?

As an independent organisation, the RICS acts in the public interest setting and regulating the highest standards of competence and integrity amongst its members and providing impartial, authoritative advice on key real estate issues for business, society and governments worldwide.

RICS members specialise in all matters across the property lifecycle – from development and construction advice to valuation of assets and investments, from project management to property management and dispute resolution services across all aspects of land, property and construction – in total, there are more than 160 specialisms!

Where?

Today, the RICS has more than 100,000 members globally, with the majority of new membership growth being outside the UK.

The RICS works closely with other professional organisations around the globe to promote professional standards and has a network of offices (with over 500 staff) reaching across the world’s major and emerging economies to support the delivery of its objectives.

How?

The focus of the RICS as an organisation is firmly set on professional standards.  RICS practice standards and codes of practice are internationally renowned and regarded as a true mark of quality – a valuable asset that demonstrates to clients and the market that the advice provided adheres to the highest standards in the world. Globally, financial institutions, corporations and governments depend on the consistent and reliable level of expertise and advice on real estate that qualified RICS members provide.

The RICS publishes over 500 industry research and policy papers every year – leading real estate thinking globally. Members have access to the world’s largest online property, land and surveying library together with professional guidance and market-leading survey information.

The RICS seeks to influence governments, international organisations and key stakeholder groups around the world with the aim of developing and embedding truly international standards and creating a vibrant and sustainable land, property and construction sector.

Why?

As people, governments, banks and commercial organisations continue to demand more assurance of certified standards and ethics, attaining RICS status is the most highly regarded and recognised mark of property professionalism.

Why did I decide to join the RICS?

The RICS designation means that you are a member of the world’s pre-eminent professional organisation in real estate. By qualification, it is clear evidence that you have achieved high standards of competence and ethics in your chosen career. This provides an international passport opening doors to business, networking and career opportunities globally.

An RICS qualification provides me with unrivalled credibility and status in the market and, at the same time, provides confidence to my clients and business partners.  I carry a valuable designation after my name (FRICS); a mark that is both globally recognised and highly valued throughout the land, property and construction industry.

This gives me a competitive edge as the RICS qualification is highly regarded by clients – in fact, everyone that I come into contact with in business. It also sets me apart with employers and ensures that

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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Mediation Part II – The Opportunity for Mediation of Property and Construction Disputes in the UAE

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Is there an opportunity to develop mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process for the resolution of property and construction disputes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)?

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Mediation Part I identified the key elements to the mediation process including both the advantages and disadvantages of this approach to dispute resolution.

Mediation Part II now seeks to identify both the opportunity for and challenges facing the introduction of mediation as an ADR process in the Region.

Although these notes focus on the UAE, many of the issues addressed will be equally applicable to other locations throughout the Middle East.

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To enable the opportunity for mediation of property and construction disputes to be considered, a number of key characteristics of the UAE (and wider Middle East) market need first to be understood. These include culture (including religion), business ownership and custom, legal framework as well as market opportunity.

The UAE, like most countries in the Middle East, is a Muslim country and the majority of business must have regard, either directly or indirectly, to Shari’ah the code of conduct or religious law of Islam. Fortunately, the binding principles of Shari’ah are supportive of mediation as a process. In particular, under Shari’ah Law, parties are required to honour their agreements and to seek amicable, consensual settlement of disputes with outcomes that are fair and just. There is therefore no barrier to mediation under Shari’ah Law. On the contrary, there is support for mediation as a process for resolving disputes. This is important as any conflict with Sharia’h Law would prevent mediation being promoted at either an individual or business level.

In the UAE, business ownership and licensing requires, except in free trade zones (e.g. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)), businesses to comprise at least 51% local Emirati ownership. In some cases, this will take the form of sponsorship, providing little more than a local ‘sleeping partner’. In other cases, the local partner will take an active interest in all business matters and, in particular, key decisions. In addition, there are also a number of key ‘family businesses’ (wholly owned by Emiratis) including those controlled by the extended Royal Family in each Emirate.

At a day to day level, the majority of business in the UAE relies upon an expatriate workforce. However, in most cases, the final decision maker will be local Emirati. Arab nature is generally non confrontational with individuals actively seeking to avoid conflict in both their personal and business lives. Unfortunately, within this culture the avoidance of taking decisions is also prevalent thereby making the pace of business sometimes quite slow.  Often key decisions (including the resolution of disputes) are taken outside the normal Western business area (i.e. the office) between Emiratis in the majlis. Confidentiality and the avoidance of bad publicity are key drivers for this approach and non-Emiratis will generally not be present.

The understanding of this business framework and culture is important when seeking to promote any new business idea or approach in the UAE and particularly relevant to mediation where active involvement of the parties (with authority to settle) is a pre-requisite.

The UAE operates under a civil law jurisdiction. This is important when considering mediation as it is unlikely that the principle of “without prejudice” will apply thereby potentially leaving a party exposed in later proceedings.

The UAE also operates a legal framework comprising a federal court system which applies to five of the seven Emirates (Dubai being a notable exclusion) but which is not fully integrated into the federal judicial system. Each Emirate has its own secular and Islamic courts with all proceedings conducted solely in Arabic.

At a business level, the legal system is therefore considered to be time consuming, costly and unreliable. This provides an opportunity for mediation as an alternative to litigation.

Both Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Commercial Conciliation & Arbitration Centre) and Dubai (Dubai International Arbitration Centre) have established alternative dispute resolution offerings. Currently, these are primarily focussed on arbitration. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) – the two key professional bodies in the field of property and construction dispute resolution – are also both well established in the region. The promotion of mediation, as an alternative, will therefore be into a market that already understands the principle of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms. See also my earlier post: Arbitrating Property Disputes in the UAE

A major part of the growth in the UAE economy has been driven with the support of real estate, construction and infrastructure projects. The UAE saw a phenomenal growth in the number of such projects prior to the recent and ongoing global economic crisis. Unfortunately, this now leaves the UAE with an increasing number of disputes post crisis as parties scrutinize (often weak) legal contracts for opportunities to protect their position in a significantly weaker economic climate. The market opportunity for mediation as a confidential (this is key) dispute resolution process is immense.

In spite of the rapid growth in the real estate sector, the UAE property (and business) market remains quite immature. All business tends to operate on a two-tier basis – expatriates at one level, Emiratis (including Government) at another level. For any new initiative, separate approaches will be required for each taking into account the business and cultural differences.

So, is there an opportunity? Undoubtedly, yes! The real question is: how can the use of mediation be developed in the Region for the resolution of property and construction disputes?

Let’s see how things unfold …

Arbitrating Property Disputes in the UAE

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Arbitration is growing in popularity and now there is increasing emphasis on getting access to arbitrators who are experts in the subject matter

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Arbitration, as one form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), is growing in importance as a way to resolve property and construction disputes in the UAE. As a business community, the UAE is actively supporting arbitration as an alternative to litigation in the courts.

Using arbitrators who are experts in property and construction can reduce costs and ensure arbitral awards are based on commercial realities that the parties understand and can more readily accept.

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There is a real commitment to arbitration as an alternative to litigation in the UAE and this is evidenced by the fact the UAE is a signatory to the New York Convention on Arbitration Awards. There are clear signs too that the UAE has been rapidly improving access to arbitration by creating modern arbitration institutions and developing rules which draw on  best international practices.

Under the UAE legal system, a contract which contains an agreement to arbitrate a dispute is binding on the parties and no party can withdraw from such an agreement unilaterally. When arbitral proceedings are completed and an award has been issued, that is the end of the matter and parties may not take the same dispute on appeal to the courts.

The fact that the UAE is a member of the New York Convention on Arbitration Awards sends out a clear signal that the UAE will ensure that the courts support the decisions of arbitrators. It also reinforces the international status of awards made by arbitrators in the UAE. The Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) says that “arbitral awards made under DIAC have the same effect as final and conclusive judgments awarded by courts under the law” and “as a result of the UAE’s active participation in several regional and bilateral treaties, its arbitral awards are enforceable in many neighbouring Arab states, in addition to other countries worldwide.”

It is evident that, over the last few years, the courts have become increasingly supportive of arbitration, and are indeed leading the development of arbitration in the UAE. For example, the UAE courts have ruled that arbitration clauses are separable from the rest of a contract. This has been incorporated into the rules of UAE arbitral institutions and it means that parties cannot argue that an arbitration clause is no longer valid because the rest of the contract has been terminated. In making this ruling, the UAE courts have confirmed a principle that exists in other countries where arbitration is used viz that an arbitrator has the authority not only to determine his own jurisdiction, but also the validity of the contract which gives rise to his appointment in the first place.

Figures currently provided by DIAC reveal that the number of arbitrations taking place in Dubai has increased year on year since 2007. Interestingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the subject matter of the majority of disputes has been real estate. The increasing use of arbitration to resolve real estate disputes is crucial to business confidence in this sector and the continuing emergence of the UAE as the regional commercial centre for the Middle East.

As the number of property disputes increases, we are seeing more and more businesses choosing arbitration over slow and costly litigation. Whilst some people may argue that arbitration can be expensive, in reality it can offer a far more cost-effective and expeditious resolution than the courts. This is particularly so if the arbitrator has a great deal of experience and knowledge of the subject matter, understands the issues and arguments put forward by the parties in detail and so can deal with the arguments and evidence quickly and efficiently.

There are many other advantages to using arbitration instead of litigation. In arbitration, parties have a greater degree of freedom over the proceedings and timetable. Unlike court hearings, arbitration allows parties to resolve their disputes privately. But perhaps the most significant advantage of arbitration is the fact that parties can choose their arbitrator.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) sets, maintains and monitors high quality standards for its Members (Chartered Surveyors). The RICS is therefore able to guarantee that Chartered Surveyors who take on arbitration appointments are both experts in the subject matter of disputes and are regulated according to the highest international professional standards.

The RICS has a well-established process of training and accrediting Chartered Surveyors to be arbitrators for real estate and construction disputes. A small number of Chartered Surveyor arbitrators based in the UAE have recently been assessed and accredited by the RICS. They are the beginnings of a panel which will grow over time.

Moving forwards, the RICS will be working closely with the UAE government and courts to assist the further development and growth of arbitration in the region. The objective is to help ensure that parties will be able to easily access experienced arbitrators who have deep understanding of property and construction disputes and who can provide an internationally recognised level of cost-effective and expert arbitration.

An abridged version of this article first appeared in the RICS UAE National Association Annual Review 2012-2013 – see Publications.