The Architects Registration Board (ARB) has suspended an architect from its register after he failed to respond to 23 ‘increasingly desperate’ emails from a client
The ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) found Nicholas Baldry of Kent, guilty of unacceptable unprofessional conduct and removed him from the register for six months.
The architect faced two allegations over his conduct as a contract administrator on a domestic scheme, namely: that he had failed to communicate adequately during the project; and that he had terminated his contract without informing his client.
The ARB said that although it considered this case to be an ‘isolated incident’, his conduct amounted to a ‘serious failing’ and diminished both his reputation and that of the profession.
The architect was appointed as a contract administrator on a house extension project and worked with the client to find a builder for the scheme.
The committee heard that when a pipe was unearthed during excavation work, the site was shut down by the health and safety executive (HSE). The client sent an email on the 24 November 2015 informing Baldry of this, but he received no reply. Baldry denied receiving this email, though he admitted he had spoken to the client about the decision to shut the site.
Three days (27 November) later another email sent by the client notified the architect that the contractor had now addressed the HSE’s concerns and that ‘building work has begun again’.
It was alleged that Baldry did not reply to this email nor a further 23 emails from the client sent between November 2015 and March 2016 saying he needed to speak to him.
Baldry, who gave evidence at the hearing but had no legal representation, denied all the allegations against him.
According to the PCC, the architect claimed in his defence that he had not received the client’s emails of 24 and 25 November nor the email on the 27 November confirming that the site had been reopened.
He said he, therefore, had not been notified or been provided with any ‘supporting evidence’ that the HSE had allowed the site to reopen.
In any event, he stated, to have allowed work to resume on the strength of his client’s email alone would have been ‘seriously negligent’.
The architect also claimed that after the November 24 email was sent, he spoke to the client about the possibility of instructing an alternative site agent.
However, the committee said there was no evidence he gave ‘adequate advice as to how to proceed’ with the project in the light of the HSE’s decision to close the site.
Baldry said that he did not respond to the client’s other 21 emails as his insurance broker advised him not to have any further communication with the client.
He claimed that allowing work to continue would have amounted to a declaration that the site was safe, exposing him to liability.
But in a statement, the PCC said: ‘In the absence of any evidence that Baldry’s emails were bouncing back, the committee considered it unlikely that he would have received 21 of the emails sent by the client, but not three specific ones.’
The PCC ‘found proved’ the allegation that the architect had repeatedly failed to communicate, despite the client sending numerous ‘’increasingly desperate email requests’ for contact over a period of five months.
It also concluded that in withdrawing from undertaking any further work on the project, including checking whether the problems had been resolved, the ‘practical effect of his actions was to terminate the contract’.
Baldry declined to comment.