Mr Graham Raymond Middle
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
In the matter of
Graham Raymond Middle 054094C
Following an appeal to the High Court under Section 22 of the Architects Act 1997, the Court ordered with the agreement of the parties that:
- The Respondent, Graham Middle failed to avoid any actions or situations which were inconsistent with his professional obligations, in that in seeking to recover unpaid fees he sought to recover disproportionate costs which he ought to have known he could not justify;
- in light of paragraph (a) he is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct;
- the disciplinary sanction imposed pursuant to Section 15 Architects Act 1997 is a Reprimand.
Statement of agreed facts
- The Respondent is a registered architect and at the material time was practising at LM Associates, Clock Tower, Lindfield Enterprise Park, Lewes Road, Lindfield, Haywards Heath RH16 2LH.
- The Respondent accepted instructions from his clients on 12 January 2017 and sent preliminary drawings to them on 20 January 2017. The following day, his clients terminated his retainer and expressed dissatisfaction with the work done.
- On 7 June 2017, the Respondent sent his clients an invoice for £1,715 plus VAT for his professional fees in producing the preliminary drawings (the “Original Invoice”). On 18 June 2017 the Respondent’s clients wrote expressing their surprise at receiving the invoice, raising concerns about the work done and requesting that the Respondent waive the invoice. Further correspondence ensued, including two detailed letters written by the Respondent dated 10 July 2017 and 25 July 2017. The latter enclosed a further invoice for £1,170 plus VAT for the time spent by the Respondent in responding to his clients’ letters of complaint and addressing their refusal to pay the Original Invoice. The clients responded with a further letter on 1 August 2017 and the Respondent replied on 3 August 2017 and enclosed a further invoice for £812.50 plus VAT for his time spent on dealing with the correspondence. The invoices dated 25 July 2017 and 3 August 2017 are collectively referred to as the “Further Invoices”.
- The Respondent’s clients complained to the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Having considered the complaint and the Respondent’s response, ARB’s Investigations Panel decided that there was no case to answer in respect of an allegation that the Respondent failed to meet his client’s brief and found that he had complied with the written terms of the contract. However, allegations were referred to ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee concerning the Respondent’s approach to dealing with the dispute and in particular his seeking to recover his costs in dealing with the dispute.
- The Respondent acknowledges that whilst clause 5.19 of the RIBA Standard Conditions for the Appointment of an Architect 2010 (2012 revision) permits architects to recover their costs of recovering unpaid fees, the Further Invoices were disproportionate in amount to the Original Invoice and therefore represented costs incurred in dealing with the complainants’ dissatisfaction with the Respondent’s work. ARB considers that it is not appropriate for an architect to respond to expressions of dissatisfaction with their work in the context of a fee dispute by raising invoices for time spent addressing those concerns, even if the architect considers the client’s dissatisfaction is unjustified. The Architects Registration Board is concerned that such conduct may deter the pursuit of complaints by clients.
- ARB is satisfied that it is in the public interest to dispose of this matter by consent.
DATED: 2 May 2019