WCPGW…using an Client-Architect Agreement
Budding Architect (let’s call them Folly): Hi Jonathan! Thanks for joining me for coffee, I’d like to tell you about a new project I’ve started for an old friend of mine.
Jonathan: I’m all ears, new projects are always exciting and interesting.
Folly: The client is very experienced in development, but a while ago a couple of projects went badly, so they wanted to hire me as someone they can trust.
Jonathan: How big is the project?
Folly: It’s a pride piece, a two-storey apartment building, and each whole floor apartment is 300 sqm. The client will keep the ground floor and sell the first floor off the plan. A purchaser has already committed.
Jonathan: Fantastic, what role will you have?
Folly: The client wants me obtain an amendment to the planning permit, manage the tender process, and then novate me to the head contractor once they’re appointed.
Jonathan: That’s quite a big job. What agreements do you have in place?
Folly: Just a fee letter with the client, and they’re happy for the whole job to be on an hourly rates basis, which is great! We’re already at 20% design development, but there are still some variables regarding the first floor.
Jonathan: I’m glad we met today. This sounds like a very high risk project.
Folly: What could possibly go wrong?
Jonathan: A few things, you’d better order another coffee.

Firstly, it sounds to me like you need a client-architect agreement that properly complies with the Architects Act 1991, which describes the nature and scope of your services, the timeframes for providing them, your fees, etc. Without a proper agreement in place you’re at risk of an un-professional conduct inquiry by the ARBV.

Secondly, if a dispute arises there may be issues for coverage under your PI insurance policy.

Thirdly, if the client is intending to novate you, the D&C builder will likely want to “sign you up” to their preferred consultancy agreement terms, which are often quite builder friendly, and you could end up committing to much more work than you originally envisaged, so this needs some careful consideration and negotiation with the incoming builder.

Fourthly, you mentioned the client had some bad experiences, and it sounds like another architect was involved in obtaining the original planning permit. There could be some intellectual property issues that might need resolving before pressing ahead.

Folly: Can we make an appointment so I can show you the documents and correspondence so far?
Jonathan: Absolutely. Oh good, your coffee is here…

Jonathan Mills is a solicitor in the construction and engineering team at Colin Biggers & Paisley.

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and not of Colin Biggers & Paisley. They are  for general information only, and are not to be used as legal advice.