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Architect struck off ARB register launches appeal

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Faheem Aftab, formerly of Manchester-based A-Cube Architects, is to appeal after being found guilty by the ARB of unacceptable professional conduct and erased from the register of architects

A source close to Aftab said he was preparing an appeal against the sentence imposed on him by ARB’s professional Complaints Committee the on the basis that ‘not all the evidence was presented at the case’.

Aftab faced seven allegations arising from a domestic project he undertook through his firm, A-Cube Architects which is now in liquidation. 

A-Cube was appointed to provide architectural services relating to major extension works to the complainants’ property.  The only contractor’s tender returned was vastly in excess of the clients’ budget.

To reduce costs, Aftab suggested using builders he had worked with previously, and to take payments on their behalf. No contract was ever put in place.

The ARB’s professional Complaints Committee heard there were numerous problems with the works, including inappropriate behaviour by workmen, damage to a neighbouring property, breaches of Building Regulations, sub-standard work, incorrect specification and a general lack of progress.

The workmen had threatened to walk off site because they were not being paid, resulting in the clients having to pay them direct to ensure work continued.

When the clients refused to pay A-Cube any more money until a full breakdown of costs and receipts had been provided, A-Cube issued county court proceedings.

A-Cube’s claim was struck out, and instead the complainants’ counter-claim was eventually settled for £129,000.  After the clients complained to the Architects Registration Board, ARB enquired about the adequacy of Aftab’s professional indemnity insurance.

Aftab sent a copy of his policy to ARB and confirmed that he had properly notified his insurers of the claim. He told ARB that insurers were dealing with the claim, jointly with A-Cube’s liquidators (because the firm was by then in liquidation), and that he understood the insurers were going to cover any successful claim against A-Cube.

In fact, the committee heard the insurers had written to A-Cube some 18 months earlier, declining insurance for this project on the grounds of misrepresentation and non-disclosure of the potential claim. Because A-Cube’s insurance was ineffective and the firm is in liquidation, Aftab’s clients have been unable to, and are unlikely to recover any of the £129,000 settlement in their favour.

Aftab attended the hearing and admitted the charges against him, except the allegation that he had dishonestly misrepresented to ARB the true position of his professional indemnity insurance cover.

After consideration of Aftab’s admissions, the Committee found Aftab guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for acting in a manner inconsistent with his professional obligations in respect of the informal and undocumented appointment of the builders;  for offering a service that combined consulting services and architectural services without explaining  that no independent architectural function could therefore be provided;  for failing to provide adequate competence and resources for the project;  for failing to provide sufficient terms of engagement;  and for failing to carry out works without undue delay and within agreed cost limits.

After further consideration, Aftab was also found guilty of dishonest misrepresentation in respect of his statements about his professional indemnity insurance.  However, he was found not guilty of any financial conflict of interest.

The Committee considered all of the mitigating factors in the case, including Aftab’s previously unblemished record; his admission of all but one of the allegations;  the acceptance of his failings; his expressions of regret and remorse toward his former clients;  that he had not benefited financially from the conduct complained of but, on the contrary, had suffered financially as a result of his firm’s liquidation; and that Aftab  is passionately committed to architecture, and his promising career had been blighted by this case. 

However, the Committee decided that the findings of unacceptable professional conduct – including one of dishonesty – were so serious, and had so seriously affected his clients, that the only appropriate sanction was one of erasure from the Register of Architects.  The Committee recommended that Aftab be entitled to apply for re-entry in no less than two years’ time.

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