The Architects Registration Board has suspended an architect from its register for two years after he sent aggressive text messages to a client and refused a fee refund unless negative feedback was removed from a review website
The ARB imposed the punishment on London-based sole practitioner Nicholas John after finding him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. The suspension means he cannot call himself an architect for the next two years.
The severe penalty was imposed because the incident took place less than a year after he had been reprimanded in another case where he had sent inappropriate messages to a different client.
A statement from the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) said: ‘That there should be a recurrence of his unacceptable professional conduct (UPC) when the PCC in June 2015 accepted from the respondent that he had taken corrective steps to prevent a recurrence of his failings, makes his conduct on this occasion, particularly serious.’
After the initial ARB ruling, in early 2016, John was appointed through the MyBuilder.com website to prepare drawings for a planning application on a listed building.
An initial £800 payment – half the full fee – was paid immediately, but a dispute arose about the scope of the work and the client cancelled the contract.
The conduct committee, however, rejected a charge by the client that John had failed to understand the scope of the work required.
However, it censured the architect for angry texts sent to the client, including one that read: ‘Rubbish and know I’m dealing with a Russian client and they don’t talk to me the way you do to me. Yesterday you just talked all the time and never let me speak or you said was no no no no to everything I said!!’
In another, he texted: ‘I will pay you back as you’re not an honourable person who doesn’t pay her bills!!!’
In a further text, he wrote: ‘I’m now in meetings and my partner is furious with you she’s really angry and wants to give you a piece of her mind I will be in touch but that is the end of the texts.’
In addition, despite promising to repay the initial £800, John ‘failed to do so in a timely manner’, according to the board.
Another text from John on the matter of repayment said: ‘We will need to see you take off negative feedback before payment is made those are our terms’.
Two weeks later, he emailed the client, saying: ‘I want this negative feedback removed then will pay it’s that simple….
‘This is not open for discussion, we already will pay you back but I am not also going to lose my account at MyBuilder because of you….
‘I have made our position clear on this matter, you need to contact MyBuilder to request the negative feedback be withdrawn and that we should be reinstated, it was a mistake and you acted hastily I will give you my word we will pay you back.’
The committee found that the delay in repaying the client amounted to a failure to act with integrity, breaching standard one of the Architects Code.
In imposing a two year suspension, the committee said: ‘This, the committee considers, reflects the gravity of the respondent’s [unprofessional behaviour] when, having been the subject of a PCC sanction a year previously, it was incumbent on him to have taken far greater care to ensure that he fully complied with his professional obligations.
‘Having been in that position, the fact of his further appearance before this committee is a matter entirely of his own making.’
In a statement to the AJ, John said: ‘I do not wish to comment in any detail on a decision which is personally very upsetting and disappointing.’