Paul Hyett's article 'arb take note: courtesy costs nothing' (aj 7.1.99) raises a number of issues regarding the retention fee letter.
Section 8(2) of the Architects Act 1997 provides: 'Where, after the Registrar has sent a registered person who is liable to pay a retention fee a written demand for the payment of the fee, the person fails to pay the fee within the prescribed period, the Registrar may remove the person's name from the Register.' The key words here are 'written demand'.
The board's rules provide that if payment is not made within 90 days, the architect's name will be removed from the Register. In the event that they subsequently wish to be reinstated, they have to pay twice the retention fee. It will therefore be seen that the implications of non-payment can be severe. In the interests of fairness, it is right that architects are informed of the significance and consequences arising from a failure to pay the retention fee.
As to the wording of the letter, all the evidence suggests that gentle reminders have little effect. Nonetheless, as part of the arb's commitment to a continous improvement of its services, the wording of the retention fee letter for the year 2000 will be reviewed. In essence, however, due to the terms in which Section 8(2) is couched, the 'formal demand' aspect cannot change.
Section 8(2) also deals with Mr Hyett's concerns over the letter being sent to leaders in the world of architecture. The Act refers to a 'registered person' being sent a written demand for payment. The Act, quite rightly, does not differentiate between architects and, following its example, neither does the arb.