The Sava Protocol.

Original Article
February 10th, 2018


Promoting a consistent approach


We sometimes get anecdotal feedback from surveyors to the effect that they don’t like the Sava Protocol, that it doesn’t work and it doesn’t give them the ‘right answer’

As the protocol is embedded into the Product Rules, it is therefore a fundamental part of the rules and you should be applying it when using the HCS. We thought it might be useful to remind you why it was introduced in the first place and why we consider it so important.


The SAVA Protocol is one of the few remnants carried over from the original Home Condition Report scheme. Over time it has been slightly amended following surveyor feedback and particularly to adapt it for use in a buyer report scenario, but fundamentally it remains the same as the original version created about 10 years ago.

The Sava Protocol arose out of necessity. Some will remember that SAVA was one of the leading training centres for the Home Inspector Qualification (DipHI) and early on in the development of the assessment regime for the DipHI Sava assembled a team of experienced Chartered Surveyors to lead on training and assessment. Those people who trained with Sava and with our then training partner, the College of Estate Management, will remember some of the surveyors. People such as Larry Russen (now part of BlueBox partners and still running CPD for Sava), Stephen Neale (now lecturing at the University of Portsmouth), Gary Reynolds (now working at RICS) Ian Brindle and Anne Hinds (both then of Valunation, but now working on ‘the ladders’ and also assessing for the new Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation) and Ben Elder, who at the time worked at the College of Estate Management but who is now leads as the Global Director of Valuation at RICS. 

Larry, Stephen and Gary are all building surveyors. The others are general practice surveyors and specialists in residential property.

We knew that we had to adopt a consistent approach to assessment. As part of our responsibility as an assessment centre we have to provide as consistent an experience as possible for all learners. In a traditional NVQ environment this can be relatively straightforward, but for a more sophisticated and involved qualification, such as the then DipHI and the new Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation, this can be much more challenging. 

The protocol was created initially as a tool to use in assessment. It began life in the back garden of a bungalow in Bletchley. We were inspecting this property jointly as part of a standardisation exercise – we wanted to ensure that every surveyor assessing for us took the same approach. The bungalow was in reasonably good condition, but there were one or two issues with the roof covering and in particular the ridge tiles. 

Six very experienced surveyors stood in the back garden of that property. In theory, because we had the Product Rules for the Home Condition Survey in place at that point and because the surveyors were all very familiar with them, we should have had a consistent approach to the condition ratings for that roof covering. In practice what we got was a range of condition ratings – 1, 2 and 3. 

Clearly this was not sustainable. It meant that not only would assessment be completely inconsistent but also the approach that the learners took would be inconsistent as well. This meant that we would not be able, hand on heart, to guarantee to the awarding body that all the learners had met the required standard. So those surveyors locked themselves in a room and created the SAVA Protocol. They road tested it, made a few amendments, and then we introduced it as a fundamental part of training and assessment for home inspectors doing the DipHI. 

And it worked! Using the protocol, these surveyors could consistently allocate condition ratings to properties that they inspected together. And here is a very important thing about the protocol – even if they did not agree on the final condition rating, what they could agree on was the thought process that they had used to get to the condition rating and they were able to debate the professional judgements made at the various decision points along the way.

Product rules ( now requirements)

And so the Sava protocol was born.

Fast forward a few years and the creation of the Home Condition Survey (HCS). By that time the protocol had been well used and tested and all of the assessors were convinced that it was the only way to guarantee that they had assessed learners consistently and fairly and that the learners had met the standards required. In other words the protocol had earned its Spurs. 

So when Sava created the HCS and the associated Product Rules it seemed sensible to include the protocol. 

A key aspect to the HCS is the pay per click insurance surveyors can use when they complete an HCS. At the time that the HCS scheme was created, and because the Home Condition Report had never got off the ground, the concept of pay per click insurance in a buyer survey environment was completely unique. Understandably, the insurers expressed some reticence about the level of risk and exposure and wanted to be reassured that Sava was doing as much as possible to manage this risk. 

Part of the reassurance we are able to give is due to the Product Rules, and specifically the protocol which gives them a level of reassurance that surveyors are taking as consistent an approach as possible to the surveys that they undertake.

Complaints and claims

As you know, if the surveyor is unable to close a complaint off quickly, that’s where we come in. We will review the complaint and liaise with insurers where necessary.

Consequently, we are now very experienced in looking at complaints and potential claims that arise when clients of Sava Scheme members find something wrong with the property that they buy. (Indeed we are now probably more experienced than any member of the Sava Scheme). This is one reason why the protocol is so important and why we insist on surveyors recording how they used the protocol (their decision process) as part of their site notes. With the site notes and evidence to hand, we can gain an insight into the thought process of the surveyor. 

With that information we can then determine whether or not we think the complaint or claim is justified. Remember, on average a complaint arises around six months after the survey was completed, so even if the surveyor was handling the complaint, the chances are they would not recall exactly how they reached the condition rating.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that we are trying to create a consistent product with the Home Condition Survey. Most customers are not well-versed in the nuances of different sorts of survey. Many also do not understand the concept of the ‘level of inspection’ and indeed the concept of a contract defining the exact level of service that they are buying from the surveyor. The more we can do to ensure a consistent approach is taken to the inspection and report writing process then the better it will be for everybody in the long run – for surveyors and their customers alike.