At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee in London on 6 October 2017, Mr Seth Handley of AEW Architecture, London, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and issued with a £1000 penalty order.
The PCC heard that in 2014 Mr Handley had been instructed to undertake architectural services in respect of a ground floor rear extension and the refurbishment of a domestic property.
It was alleged that Mr Handley failed to adequately set out his terms of engagement in writing and that he failed to deal with a complaint appropriately. It was also alleged that he inappropriately attempted to restrict the extent of his liability, both with regards to the amount that could be claimed and the period within which a claim could be made against him. Further, it was alleged that Mr Handley made representations to his client which were inaccurate and misleading.
Mr Handley attended the hearing and was legally represented. He accepted that he had failed to adequately set out his terms of engagement in writing, as the terms provided omitted to make reference to a complaints handling procedure. However he denied the remaining factual allegations and denied that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
The PCC found it proven that Mr Handley had sought to improperly restrict the extent of his liability both in time and quantum. This was, in the Committee’s view, a serious failing designed to benefit Mr Handley to his client’s detriment. Mr Handley referred in his letter of appointment to “the Standard RIBA Conditions of Appointment for an Architect for a Domestic Project 2010” but had amended two of the clauses. The PCC considered his failure to secure his client’s consent or even draw his attention to the changes from the standard document to be misleading and demonstrated a lack of integrity. The Committee further considered that the way in which Mr Handley’s dealt with his client’s complaint was intimidatory.
In the view of the PCC the failings demonstrated a course of conduct which fell substantially below the standard expected of a registered architect, and amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
In considering sanction, the PCC noted that Mr Handley had no adverse regulatory history in a career spanning more than twenty years, and that he had fully engaged in the regulatory process. It also took into account that he had demonstrated a significant level of insight into his failings and taken some remedial steps in respect of other clients. However it noted that Mr Handley’s failings were serious in that they had the potential to benefit him and to materially disadvantage his client. The Committee therefore imposed a penalty order in the sum of £1,000 which it considered to be an appropriate amount to reflect the seriousness of Mr Handley’s failings.
Notes for Editors
ARB is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest. The Act requires ARB (among other things) to:
- Maintain the Register of Architects (Section 3)
- Prescribe qualifications for entry to the Register of Architects (Section 4)
- Deal with competence to practise (Section 9)
- Issue a Code which lays down standards of professional conduct and practice (Section 13)
- Regulate use of the title “architect” and prosecute those who use it unlawfully (Section 20)
The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The Committee determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. Where a guilty finding is made, the Committee will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
- a reprimand
- a penalty order
- a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
- an erasure order
Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
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