The Architects Registration Board is intent on Professional Indemnity Insurance (AJ 31.1.02), with the aim of protecting the pockets of the public and increasing confidence in using an architect. The status of architects will be bolstered by this 'failsafe' device, but at a price. Further thought is necessary before ARB's instant PII medicine cures one known sick patient but kills off thousands of unknown healthy ones.
Architects are asked to take out PII to protect the public, their clients and themselves.
This extra cost hits the smallest and poorest practice and client hardest, especially as the larger practice and client will be more familiar with contract and legal matters. Nor can the errant professional be relied upon to maintain the insurance - a recently reported case of a RICS surveyor who let his indemnity lapse resulted in a client being unable to get financial redress.
Direct comparisons can be made as RICS requires its surveyors to carry PII.
Charging higher premiums for uneconomic projects, reports and advice will drive architects and small clients out of each other's markets.
But there is a simple solution. Using a master policy held by ARB for all architects, (including principals of large firms), all projects up to a value of £100,000 would be covered, but larger projects would require separate individual cover. Making the ARB responsible for this would:
allow the registration fee to automatically include a sum for this;
be more economical than thousands of individual negotiations;
ensure cover and run-off periods;
show how few cases there are overall; and lincrease the standing and knowledge of the ARB as it would have the data it lacks but comments upon.
Status for having PII could be enhanced by the addition of the letters ARB after all registered architects' names.
Peter Somers, London SE26