APC competency: The dirty end of surveying

APC-SeriesKate Taylor gets stuck into the nitty gritty of the property management competency

The property management competency can be a frustrating area for assessors. Often candidates with significant experience and without a structured training period, eg APC with a Preliminary Review – formerly known as professional experience route or PER – will specialise in this area but fail to make the most of that experience through a lack of understanding of the competency requirements.

The candidate will often be inward-looking, process-focused and fail to understand the need to articulate experience in the context of the law and RICS guidance. Even graduates of a structured training programme with a major property company can miss the basic principle that this competency is all about the occupier.

However, when well handled, this competency can show real skill at the “dirty end” of surveying. It is a low-margin area, less glamorous than, say, valuation or agency, but common sense, occupier focus and key document knowledge could really impress the assessors and contribute to the holistic overview of the candidate.

The level structure will need careful thought in articulating property management experience. Level 1 requires knowledge and understanding, Level 2 is about the practical application of that knowledge and Level 3 involves complex reasoned advice to a client.

This competency has a terrifying breadth and can encompass elements of most other commercial property competencies, including leasing and letting, purchase and sale, property management accounting, conflict avoidance, corporate insolvency, insurance and local taxation. Candidates need to try to restrict areas of potential questioning by providing specific examples of competence at Level 2 and Level 3. For Level 1, there is no escape: candidates will need to read widely and ensure the occupier perspective is reflected in responses.

What to read at Level 1

As described above, there are many documents relevant to the breadth of this competency. Candidates should ensure they are familiar with the key ones mentioned here and read additional documents relevant to their Level 2 and Level 3 examples to provide the depth needed for the complex reasoned advice to a client required by Level 3.

The starting point should always be the knowledge section of the RICS website. A search will reveal pertinent RICS guidance notes such as:

  • UK Commercial Real Estate Agency Standards (also known as the Purple Book);
  • Commercial Property Management in England & Wales, 2nd ed, 2011; and
  • RICS Code of Practice, Service Charges in Commercial Property, 3rd ed, 2014.

There is also important law to get to grips with. Thanks to the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007, a property manager may find him or herself liable for the offence of “death by negligence”. Unsurprisingly, assessors will be keen to check understanding of this legislation as well as other areas of health and safety.

Asbestos is a perennial favourite and the snappily titled Asbestos and its Implications for Surveyors and their Clients, 3rd ed, is a must-read RICS guidance note for property managers (and all surveyors).

Rules and ethics competency may also crop up in property management where the terms of management agreements and a client’s money will be discussed.

This just scratches the surface. Candidates should do their research and not let the breadth of Level 1 catch them out.

Level 2

Level 2 requires specific examples as evidence of experience. This should be more comfortable for candidates as they will be describing what they have actually done in this field. The questions will be led by the summary of experience and candidates should describe what they did step by step. Maintenance issues or service charge experience can make good examples.

Landlord and tenant issues, for example, consent to alter and assignments, are often described. This may entail working with other property professionals and the liaison adds to the example of competence.

Day-to-day property management functions such as rent collection, dealing with repair issues and complaints can all appear at Level 2 or Level 3 depending on whether complex reasoned advice to a client was given.

Record keeping and data security in the context of property management records, eg service charge budgets, will provide a crossover with data management and property records at Level 2.

Level 3

Level 3 will require candidates to talk about advice to a client and this can be in the form of reports, recommendations, presentations, letters, suggestions or explanations. This is where the property manager adds value to the client by enabling the use of a property to be optimised. The objectives of the client will be key, for example, is the goal to maximise income or maximise tenant retention?

More complex examples may include property management matters such as commercial rent arrears recovery and dealing with insolvency.

The Equality Act 2010 can also be a good example as complex, reasoned advice may be needed on access for disabled people or any reasonable adjustments which should be made.

Candidates will need to ensure their advice is up to date and reading journals is a must. This will flag up matters such as the repealed Property Misdescriptions Act 1993 and its replacement, in October 2013, with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer and Business Protection Regulations 2008. At the APC final assessments in session 2, 2015 this error was still being made by some property managers.

Level 3 is where the candidate needs to show a depth of understanding and reference to the occupier’s perspective will be essential. This entails relationship-building soft skills as well as commercial awareness.

Assessors may question the competency backwards by starting with a Level 3 example and drilling down to the supporting Level 1 knowledge that explains the reasons for the advice. An interview of an experienced property management candidate can be more like a professional conversation, with competencies being ticked off as they crossover.

My top tip is to thoroughly know experience examples and to be ready to impress assessors.


Hot topics

  • CRICS Service Charges in Commercial Property 3rd ed 2014
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
  • Building Performance, Rethinking Relationships Between Owners, Managers and Occupiers’ 2015 British Council for Offices Report
  • Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
  • Consumer and Business Protection Regulations 2008

Example questions

Level 1

• What are the four objectives stated for the 2014 Service Charge code?

• How do empty property rates affect property managers?

(Likely questions at levels 2 and 3 will depend on the examples you provide.)

Level 2

• Talk through the process you followed in dealing with… (say, reactive maintenance).

Level 3

• Describe your advice to the client about the… (say, asbestos). Why was that your advice?

*Don’t assume that the questions given here will be asked at an APC assessment. Assessors will focus on and pose questions on the basis of the candidate’s declared competencies, pathway guide requirements, up-to-date developed knowledge base and the examples provided in their summary of experience, etc.


Useful resources

Supervisor and counsellor APC training/recordings – formal CPD Guidance on how to appropriately manage and support candidates to get them through the APC. Free 1-2 hours of formal CPD: www.delever.com

APC Explained Masterclass This helps candidates to understand what needs to be done to achieve the APC, including a walk-through of the DeLever APC process timeline and myAPC Diary: www.delever.com

APC Commercial Property Revision Guide A reference book for preparation: www.delever.co.uk/katetaylor

Timeline wallchart An A2 pictorial view of the APC process. It can be used to track progress. Free copies are available at: www.delever.com

RICS APC Guides These should be read at least once every three to four months and fully understood. Candidates from outside the UK also need to check their regional websites for any local APC requirements: www.rics.org

isurv www.isurv.com

RICS pathways, templates and guides www.rics.org/pathway


Supervisors and counsellors: how to help

Help may be needed in choosing the most appropriate examples in this competency. Encourage candidates to think of each example like a mini case study and ensure they can clearly describe the context and steps in the process. Always follow up with a question about the legal basis and any RICS guidance.

Property managers are often very team-focused, but APC candidates need to avoid the use of “we” and refer to “I”. Supervisors can help by reminding candidates to do so.


Kate Taylor FRICS is an APC chair and a DeLever APC consultant trainer. Follow Kate Taylor and Jon Lever on Twitter: @katetay73593006 and @deleverapc

Click here for full access to Estates Gazette‘s Pathway to Success series on APC competencies

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