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Architect rapped over failure to provide standard contract

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In a clear signal to the profession, the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), which acts for the ARB, has reprimanded another architect for not having an adequate contract with his clients.

After a four-hour hearing the committee found Andrew Kiffin of Design and Architectural Services in north-west London guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for relying only on a fee proposal document to outline his obligations.

Kiffin was found to be 'in clear breach of the rules' following a complaint from a client for work undertaken in 1998.

Lawyers for Kiffin, who denied the charge, argued that the fee proposal presented to the clients was sufficient and that it was common industry practice not to issue the RIBA's recommended standard form agreement for the appointment of an architect.

But the PCC said in its decision: 'The fee proposal does not define beyond reasonable doubt the terms of engagement including, in particular, the scope of services.'

The case highlights the continuing problem of architects relying on informal or even verbal agreements with clients. In a survey by the AJ earlier this year, more than two-thirds of architects working on small projects admitted to breaching the ARB's regulations. In a straw poll of architects around the country, 65 per cent had undertaken work without a written contract (AJ 1.2.01).

Laziness, the possibility of confusing a client and even fears that a written contract could be seen as an insult by long-held clients were all cited as reasons for breaking the code.

Responding to this latest breach ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan said: 'This case once again underlines the importance the PCC attaches to architects properly recording - in writing - the terms of the contract agreed with the client.

'Time and again, it is apparent that the failure to accurately record and define roles and responsibilities leads to disputes and disagreements that result in complaints to ARB. The PCC consistently view breaches of the code in this area as an instance of unacceptable professional conduct' ARB's 1997 code on standards of conduct and practice says that 'an architect should not undertake work unless the parties have clearly agreed in writing the terms of the contract notably as to:

scope of work, the allocation of responsibilities, any limitation to responsibilities, the fee or method of calculating it and any provision for termination'.

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