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ARB hands architect £1,000 penalty for terms of engagement gaffe

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The ARB has fined an architect £1,000 for failing to clearly set out his terms of engagement in writing to a client 

At a hearing earlier this month, the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) found Seth Handley guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for falling short of setting out clear terms of engagement to the client during the refurbishment and ground-floor extension of a house.

The PCC concluded that Handley had also failed to provide the client with details of the complaints handling procedure; did not act with integrity; and ‘inappropriately’ restricted his client’s right to make a claim against him for a year.

Handley, who was trading as AEW Architecture in London, is a practising member of the Academy of Experts, has himself acted as an expert witness at a previous ARB hearing and is still an RIBA Adjudicator Panel member.

Handley, who was legally represented at the hearing, accepted that he had failed to adequately set out his terms of engagement in writing because these did not include a reference to the complaints procedure. However, he denied the other factual allegations and said they did not amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

The client made the complaint against Handley after the project nearly doubled in cost. In August 2014, Handley had prepared drawings for the scheme, with an anticipated cost of £90,000 and had invoiced the client. But, in March 2015, the architect emailed the complainant stating that the projected building costs were £160,000, which led to the client questioning the way the invoice was calculated.

In considering its sanction, the PCC acknowledged that Handley had no adverse regulatory history in a career that spanned more than 20 years, and had fully engaged with the regulatory process.

But, it added that Handley’s failings were ‘serious in that they had the potential to benefit him and to materially disadvantage his client’, and fined him £1,000. 

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