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Ms Elitsa Krumova

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Ms Elitsa Krumova (083217K)

Held on 6,7 and 8 February 2018

At

Hotel Novotel Cardiff Centre
Schooner Way
Cardiff
CF10 4RT

———-

Present

Mr Paul Housego (Chair)
Mr David Kann (PCC Architect Member)
Mr Martin Pike (PCC Lay Member)

Mr Tim Grey (Clerk)

Ms Iain Miller of Kingsley Napley appeared on behalf of ARB.
Ms Elitsa Krumova attended in person but she was not legally represented.

Ms Elitsa Krumova was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct (“UPC”) based on the allegation that she did not have in place a written procedure for the handling of complaints (contrary to standard 10 of the 2010 Code of Conduct). The sanction imposed was a reprimand.

Charge and allegations
1. Ms Krumova appears before the Professional Conduct Committee (“the Committee”) of the Architects Registration Board (”the ARB”) to respond to an allegation that she is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct (“UPC”). The ARB frame the allegation as follows:

2. The allegation made against the Respondent is that she is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in relation to a project at 40 Dan-y-Bryn Avenue, Radry (“the Property”) in that:

1) As the sole registered person at the practice, she failed to ensure that the architectural work was under her control and management contrary to standard 3 of the 2010 Code of Conduct. The Respondent’s failure is evidenced by the following matters which are relied upon individually and cumulatively;

(i) The client was not aware that she would be the architect responsible for undertaking the architectural work in relation to the property;

(ii) She did not conduct a site visit to the Property;

(iii) Her full name did not appear on any of the paperwork provided to the client;

(iv) She did not communicate directly with the client;

(v) She did not manage concerns raised by the client in respect of insufficient details provided by the structural engineers;

(vi) She did not ensure that any complaints made by the client were dealt with in accordance with the 2010 Code of Conduct; and

(vii) She was based outside the UK.

and /or

2) She did not make her clients aware that their architectural work was under her control contrary to standard 3 of the 2010 Code of Conduct; and/or

3) She did not have in place a written procedure for the handling of complaints contrary to standard 10 of the 2010 Code of Conduct.”

3. Ms Krumova denied Charge 1, save that she admitted that fact (vi) was correct and was upc. Some of the facts set out in Charge 1 were admitted – (ii), (iii) (iv) and (vii). The remainder, (i) and (v), were denied. Save as above, Ms Krumova denied that the facts admitted amounted to UPC.

4. Ms Krumova denied Charge 2 relating to Standard 3 in its entirety. Ms Krumova accepted that there was no complaints procedure in place and that this was UPC and so admitted Charge 3 (and Charge 1 in so far as it related to fact (vi) and Standard 10).
5. The preamble to the 2010 Code of Conduct (“the Code”) states that any failure to comply with the provisions of this Code is not of itself to be taken as constituting unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence, but it shall be taken into account in any disciplinary proceedings before the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee.

6. It also states that architects are expected to be guided in their professional conduct and professional work by the spirit of the Code as well as by its express terms. The fact that a course of conduct is not specifically referred to in the Code does not mean that it cannot form the basis of disciplinary proceedings.

7. Each case is judged on its facts, and there may be circumstances in which unacceptable professional conduct is found even where there has been no clear breach of the express terms of the Code. Conversely not every shortcoming, or failure to meet the Standards expected by the Code, will necessarily give rise to disciplinary proceedings or a finding of UPC.

8. The relevant provisions of the Code are:-

Standard 3

4. If you are a principal in a practice you are expected to ensure that all architectural work is under the control and management of one or more architects, and that their names are made known to clients and any relevant third party. You should notify your client promptly of any change in the architect responsible for the work.

Standard 10
Deal with disputes or complaints appropriately

1. You are expected to have a written procedure for prompt and courteous handling of complaints which will be in accordance with the Code and provide this to clients. This should include the name of the architect who will respond to complaints.

2. Complaints should be handled courteously and promptly at every stage; and as far as practicable in accordance with the following time scales:

a) an acknowledgement within 10 working days from the receipt of a complaint; and

b) a response addressing the issues raised in the initial letter of complaint within 30 working days from its receipt.

3. If appropriate, you should encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation or conciliation.
Summary

9. Ms Krumova lives in Luxembourg. The company for which she works, Interior Architectural Design Company Ltd (“the company”) is a limited company, owned and run by Rebecca Lewis-Chapman, who is not an architect. Ms Lewis-Chapman has a degree in interior architecture and had styled her business as an “interior architect”. The ARB had pointed out to her that she could not use the title “architect” in her business as it is a protected title. Ms Lewis-Chapman was using that title in her website and email addresses (www.interiorarchitect.com). Ms Krumova worked in the business of the company, and there was no architect save Ms Krumova working within the company, which is owned and run by non-architects. Ms Krumova was not then registered with ARB as she lived in Luxembourg. The difficulty for the business was considered solved by Ms Krumova’s registration with ARB.

10. A client of the company complained that he had no knowledge of Ms Krumova, and the ARB assert that where a company, as here, is owned and controlled by non-architects, the architect involved must ensure that the client knows the name of that architect, who must retain control over and manage the architectural work of the company. The ARB asserts that the facts of this case are not consistent with that professional duty. Ms Krumova averred that she was in control of and managed the architectural work of this project, and on this small project a site visit was not necessary. She asserted that the client knew of her, and that direct contact between them was not a professional requirement. She further pointed out that the contract with the client ended, at the latest, when planning consent and building control approval were both obtained (which was done without problems), that the complaint related to the work of a structural engineer with whom the client contracted directly, and that the client obtained his own tenders and himself project managed the building of the project, which was completed in accordance with the plans she drew. There was no obligation on her (or the company) to do anything about the difficulty the client found with his structural engineer, and that they had tried to help was not to be taken against her.

Complaint

11. The ARB brings the allegation following a complaint by the Complainant who, with his wife, had commissioned the company with which Ms Krumova was involved to design an extension to their home. There was no issue with the plans drawn by Ms Krumova, but a structural engineer whose name had been provided by someone in the company (not by Ms Krumova) made a mistake in their structural design and the Complainant blamed the company and Ms Krumova for not noticing or resolving it.

Burden and standard of proof

12. The ARB is required to prove the allegations to the civil standard; that it is more likely than not that any event occurred. That is a single unwavering standard of proof, though the more unlikely an allegation the more cogent the evidence required to prove it. There is no requirement for Ms Krumova to prove anything. The Committee has in mind throughout its deliberations that the right to practise a profession is involved in these proceedings and proceeds upon the basis that the Human Rights Act 1998 will apply. In particular Ms Krumova has the right to a fair trial and to respect for her private and family life under Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as incorporated within UK law by that Act. The question of whether or not any facts found proved amount to UPC is a matter for the Committee’s judgment, and there is no burden of proof. A finding of unacceptable professional conduct requires the Committee to judge that conduct to be serious, or a significant falling short from professional standards. There must be moral opprobrium for there to be UPC.
Preliminary matters

13. This matter was first listed for hearing in 16 October 2017, by video link. This proved problematic. In addition it only then became apparent from what Ms Krumova said that there had been an investigation into the company arising from its use of the protected title “Architect”. This was a matter that plainly had relevance, and the solicitor for the ARB asked for an adjournment to consider what other facts might be relevant. Ms Krumova also wanted an adjournment and so the Committee adjourned the hearing to this date, when Ms Krumova could attend in person, and the ARB solicitor have the opportunity to assess and amend the matters to be put before the Committee, as has been done (with an amended response by Ms Krumova).

14. At the first hearing a preliminary point arose about the construction of the word “principal” in the Code. The Committee considered carefully the jurisdictional aspects of this matter. The company uses the protected title “architect”. Ms Krumova is not an owner or director of the company. The ownership is by non-architects. Ms Krumova is a “principal” as defined by the Code. This is in the interpretation section of the Code – “Principal is the architect in control and management of all the architectural work pursuant to section 20 (3) Architects Act 1997.”

15. S20(3) of that Act states –

20
Use of title “architect”.
A person shall not practise or carry on business under any name, style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a person registered in Part 1 of the Register.

(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent any use of the designation “naval architect”, “landscape architect” or “golf-course architect”.

(3) Subsection (1) does not prevent a body corporate, firm or partnership from carrying on business under a name, style or title containing the word “architect” if—

the business of the body corporate, firm or partnership so far as it relates to architecture is under the control and management of a person registered in Part 1 of the Register who does not act at the same time in a similar capacity for any other body corporate, firm or partnership; and

in all premises where its business relating to architecture is carried on it is carried on by or under the supervision of a person registered in Part 1 of the Register.”

16. While Ms Krumova is not a principal as meant in everyday language – that term usually meaning an owner or co-owner – she is for professional obligations in respect of the company. There was no contractual client relationship between the client of the firm and Ms Krumova, but that is not relevant.

17. The mischief to be guarded against by the Code (and the Architects Act 1997) is that the public needs protection, and the architect has a commensurate responsibility, where the architect is working (as an architect) and members of the public are making use of the architect’s work, in a business that describes itself as that of an architect.

18. The Committee decided that it would be an over legalistic interpretation of the Code, which is conceptual rather than lengthy and detailed, to apply an interpretation that deprived the public of benefit, and removed the responsibility of architects.

19. Here Ms Krumova knew that she was the sole architect providing architectural services to this client. It was her obligation to make sure the client knew that she was undertaking that architectural work and to ensure that there was a complaints procedure for any architectural work she undertook. Ms Krumova therefore does fall within the definition of “Principal” in the Code.

Defence

20. The defence is set out at length for us in the documentation, but can be put succinctly. The Complainant was always aware of who Ms Krumova was, and her role, as Ms Lewis-Chapman told him. There was no issue with any work that Ms Krumova undertook. The complaint was about something absolutely not her responsibility. She had signed her plans with her initials and all the work had been done professionally and competently.

Evidence

21. The Committee perused the report of the ARB’s solicitor with accompanying documents running to over 300 pages. The ARB called oral evidence from the Complainant. Ms Krumova provided further documentary evidence. She elected not to give oral evidence herself, and called Ms Lewis-Chapman and an employee of the company, Benjamin Harbron, who was described as a junior surveyor.

Submissions and advice

22. The Committee heard submissions from the solicitor for the ARB at the commencement of the hearing and from Ms Krumova before retiring to consider its findings of fact. It heard and accepted the legal advice of its Clerk.

Findings of fact

23. Ms Krumova is an architect living in Luxembourg. She is employed by the company. After a period of bureaucratic uncertainty this is now organised in accordance with the laws of Luxembourg. The company is run and owned by Rebecca Lewis-Chapman. It is a small company, with only a few employees. Benjamin Harbron was then described as a junior surveyor. He is now described as “project manager”. Ms Lewis-Chapman takes the lead to find out what the client wants and is the point of contact, then Mr Harbron takes measurements and photographs, Ms Krumova draws the plans, Mr Harbron then becomes the point of contact with the client once the design is agreed. The realised design is submitted for planning and building regulation approval, and there the involvement of the company ends. The client then gets a builder to build. The company does not undertake tender work, nor project management, nor contract administration.

24. Following the involvement of ARB when the use by Ms Lewis-Chapman of the title “architect” was raised (she describing herself as an “interior architect” by reason of a degree in interior architecture), Ms Krumova was registered at ARB (not having done so before) and so the issue of the use of the title was considered resolved.

25. The Complainant and his wife live in the same village as Ms Lewis-Chapman. They engaged her company to design and get planning consent and building regulation approval for a 2 storey extension to their home. Ms Lewis-Chapman met them. She told them the company had an architect as they would be in trouble with the ARB if they did not. She may have mentioned the name, but if so it was fleetingly. There was nothing in writing about this, at any time.

26. Mr Harbron took measurements, and liaised with Ms Krumova who drew plans. There was a structural engineer needed. The company gave the name of a firm they had worked with, in case the client wanted a comparison with other quotes. This was not a recommendation, but the client would have assumed that there was no reason not to instruct them as the company would not be suggesting them unless they thought that engineer was satisfactory. The client engaged the structural engineer himself. He was intending to (and did) deal with the tendering for the work and to project manage the build himself.

27. Ms Krumova drew plans that were passed by the planning authority. During the obtaining of building consent there was an issue with the engineer’s plans relating to a vaulted ceiling. The Complainant said that they had not included steel work required, not understanding the plans properly. There was no error in the plans. The Complainant asserted that the company should resolve this as he said they had recommended them, and Ms Lewis-Chapman tried, although this was not a contractual obligation on them, this not being within their contract with the Complainant, and nor had they had any dealings with the structural engineer about the structural engineer’s work. The Complainant had obtained the structural engineer’s calculations and either he or the company had sent those calculations to Building Control. Eventually the Complainant instructed another engineer who drew acceptable plans for £650. There was additional cost in the steels, but the Complainant accepted that these costs were not extra costs to him, as had the first engineer included them he would have had no difficulty with this.

28. During the process of dealing with the Property, Ms Krumova had no direct contact (or indirect contact) with the client, and did not visit the site. At all material times she was in Luxembourg. No paperwork supplied to the client mentioned her by name, or stated that there was an architect involved, but the client was told orally that an architect would draw the plans for the project.

29. Planning consent and (after the difficulty with the structural engineer’s calculations was dealt with) building control permission was obtained without difficulty. The client obtained quotes and the extension was built without difficulty.

30. The Complainant was very unhappy about the difficulty with the structural engineer, and there came a time when Ms Lewis-Chapman decided that she would cease to assist the Complainant save by charging him at an hourly rate, this being outside any contractual obligation owed to the Complainant. This incensed the Complainant who complained to ARB, which did not take further any matter to do with the structural engineer, but in the course of the correspondence the Complainant said that he did not know of Ms Krumova, and so the allegations now put arose.

Overview

31. This is a case with wide implications for the profession. The business model of an architectural practice owned and run by non-architects is not unusual. This case highlights the need for the role and professional responsibilities of the architect in such a business to be made clear.

32. The starting point is the words of the Architects Act 1997. The title “Architect” is a protected title and no-one but a qualified architect may use it (with some exceptions in S20 of the Act such as Naval Architects). There is no work reserved to architects. Anyone may do anything an architect does, and seek payment for it. Only a registered architect may call him or herself an architect. The use of the term “architect” in a business is a reputational asset to the firm that uses it.

33. The reputation of the profession requires that businesses that call themselves architects conform to professional requirements applicable to architects. Those obligations are set out in the Code, and at 3.4 is the obligation for a principal to control and manage the architectural work of the practice, and to ensure that the name of the architect is known to the client. This is also essential for the protection of the public.

34. The Committee decided at the previous hearing that someone in Ms Krumova’s position is a “principal”.

35. The obligation of the principal extends to “all architectural work”. This is nowhere defined. The work of architects is work relating to buildings, as well as other things. As there is no work reserved to architects, and as the email and website of the business incorporate the title architect, and all the work of the business of the company relates to buildings it necessarily follows that all the work of the company is architectural work.

36. This means that Ms Krumova is responsible for the control and management of all the work the company delivers to its clients. She is also responsible (by reason of S20(3)(b)) for supervising the work carried out at the place where the company carries out business.

37. There is plainly a tension in such a professional obligation, for Ms Krumova is employed by Ms Lewis-Chapman. It is Ms Lewis-Chapman who gets the clients, and who negotiates the fee structure with them. It is Ms Lewis-Chapman who has the interface with the client to work out what they want and how it may be designed. Submission by her to such management and control by her employed architect is the price Ms Lewis-Chapman must pay in order to utilise, for her own advantage, the use of the protected title of architect.

This case

38. The Complainant’s oral evidence was that he knew there was an architect. He knew that neither Ms Lewis-Chapman or Mr Harbron were architects. Ms Lewis-Chapman told him so, as he accepted. Ms Lewis-Chapman said that she told the Complainant the name. The Complainant’s later emails to ARB, while arguably self-serving, would have to be totally disingenuous when stating that he had found Ms Krumova by searching the ARB website and then googling her. Ms Lewis-Chapman’s evidence that the wife of the Complainant made express reference to Ms Krumova by her first name is not inconsistent with that.

39. There is no reason for Ms Lewis-Chapman not to tell the Complainant of Ms Krumova’s identity had he wished to know the identity of the architect he knew was drawing the plans. That accounts also for his not enquiring as to whose initials were on the plans. The Committee concluded that the Complainant was not really interested in who drew the plans. They were good plans, and they set out what he wanted built and that was all he was concerned about.

40. In terms of mischief this is a breach of the requirement of Standard 3, but the Committee finds that it is not such that it could be categorised as UPC. This is because the client knew – was told – that there was an architect, and that architect’s work was satisfactory, and there was no attempt to conceal the facts of the matter: there was an omission clearly to identify the architect, but had the client asked the information would readily have been given. (The Committee notes that Ms Lewis-Chapman now gives written notification to clients about Ms Krumova’s involvement: the Committee draws to Ms Krumova’s attention that it is her personal obligation to engage with clients and to ensure that they have all necessary information.)

41. As to management and control, there was no site visit and no direct communication with the client. Ms Krumova was in a different country. Ms Krumova does not always make site visits, and relies on the photographs and measurements taken by Mr Harbron, who has some experience but no qualification. There is no allegation of serious professional incompetence in this case. While the Committee would normally expect to see the architect visiting the client and the site, and engaging with the client, the fact is that the plans drawn were entirely sufficient for their purpose, and planning consent and building regulation approval was obtained without problems and then a builder built the plans without difficulty.

42. The remoteness with which this was done (and it was known to the client that he had no contact with his architect) is relevant to the question as to whether this was a breach of Standard 3 sufficient to amount to UPC. That elides 2 questions, for first is whether it breaches Standard 3. The Committee’s decision is that it does. Management and control has to be of all the architectural work of the company. The work done by Ms Krumova was entirely sufficient for what was sought by the client: but that is relevant to whether it is UPC or not. Ms Krumova was directed by Ms Lewis-Chapman as to what needed doing, and Ms Krumova did it well, but that is not the same as Ms Krumova being in control or managing the architectural work of the company, and in terms of this allegation all of the architectural work of this project.

43. However as the end result for the client was satisfactory, in the case of the Property (and that is the sole subject of the allegation), the Committee decides that this was not UPC.

44. The issue with the structural engineer weighed heavily with the Complainant. It was irrelevant to the charges in this case. The plans drawn were correct. The structural engineer ought to have considered the design of the structure of this ceiling, and was a professional with his own skill set. It is not in doubt but that it was his fault if there was any issue with the steels or structure (and the Committee makes no finding of fact that this was the case as the structural engineer is not party to these proceedings).

45. The remit of the company was to design and to draw plans for a two storey extension and get planning consent and building regulation approval for the project. That is what they did. The client was then to go to tender and get contractors to build, as he did. The client chose to get his own structural engineer, and contracted with them. The company gave the client the name of the engineer instructed, but that was as a suggestion that they should get several and the one whose name they gave might be a useful comparator. That was not a recommendation, and gave rise to no subsequent obligation to the client regarding that engineer.

46. The ARB asserted at 1.(1)(v) that Ms Krumova did not manage concerns raised by the client in respect of insufficient detail provided by the structural engineers. There was no contractual obligation with the client so to do. The client had elected to contract direct with the structural engineer. Any assistance given by anyone in the company in this regard was a good will gesture and not by way of any contractual or professional obligation.

47. Accordingly the Committee did not find that any of the facts admitted or found proved (save in relation to the lack of a complaints procedure) amounted to UPC.

48. The Committee noted that ARB did not make an allegation arising from S20(3)(b), which requires that it is permitted for a business to use the word architect only where in all premises where its business relating to architecture is carried on it is carried on by or under the supervision of a person registered in Part 1 of the Register. In short, Ms Krumova is required to supervise the business of architecture at the company’s premises, and not just control and manage its architectural work (which given the lack of definition of that term is all its work). However the Committee does not consider any question of lack of supervision as it is not alleged, and the charge is limited to an alleged lack of management or control of a particular project, and not the way the entire company is managed.

49. Ms Krumova accepted that at the time there was no complaints procedure in place, and that this was UPC. This requirement is simple and straightforward, and is an important means of resolving disputes. Disputes can adversely affect the reputation of the profession, the existence of a complaints procedure can and often does lead to resolution of disputes. The absence of a complaints procedure is regarded as UPC in this case and the Committee so finds.
Mitigation and Sanction

50. The Committee considered its indicative sanctions guidance. The ARB regard sanction as a matter for the Committee’s judgment.

51. Ms Krumova set out points in mitigation. The company now has a complaints procedure in place. The company has tried to comply with its professional obligations throughout, and the need for ARB registration was only because Ms Lewis-Chapman described herself as an “interior architect” having a degree in interior architecture. This was not an attempt to pass herself off as something she is not, and nor was Ms Krumova accused of trying to assist in such an enterprise.

52. The Committee usually regards a reprimand as appropriate for a case of failing to have a complaints procedure in place. This is in accordance with the Indicative Sanctions Guidance. There are no circumstances in this case that might lead to no sanction or to a greater sanction than a reprimand, and accordingly the Committee reprimands Ms Krumova.

 

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