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Architect criticises ARB after spending £20,000 refuting claims

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A Welsh architect has criticised the way the ARB deals with complaints after spending £20,000 defending himself from charges which he was later cleared of

Stefan Horowskyj, principal of Abergavenny-based Morgan & Horowskyj, was reprimanded by the ARB earlier this month after admitting he had failed to provide adequate terms of engagement for a job converting a pub to commercial premises between 2011 and 2013. 

But Horowskyj was cleared of nine separate allegations relating to not properly carrying out surveying and design work.

A four-day sitting of the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) saw committee members leaf through more than 500 pages of documents relating to the allegations.

The PCC concluded that: ‘The progress of the project was somewhat disjointed because the complainant had no specific type of conversion in mind, wishing to keep all options open.’

And it said it ‘found the evidence of the complainant difficult to follow’ while Horowskyj gave evidence ‘in a straightforward, credible and professional way’.

Horowskyj said of the ruling: ‘I don’t think I have won because of all the time, stress and money it has cost. The way the ARB is set up is not fair.

’Once the ARB has a complaint against an architect, they immediately deploy a solicitor to look into it and you are guilty until proven innocent. People are trying to prove you did something wrong.’

The chartered architect, who is now waiting to find out whether the RIBA will sanction him, said he had spent around £10,000 on legal costs including hiring a solicitor, for the hearing.

And he added that he had lost a further £10,000 through loss of his own and his assistant’s time and their hotel and travel fees to the hearing.

‘There is a client who caused all this trouble, and he just walks away,’ said Horowskyj. ‘How can it be fair when you get somebody who wants to cause trouble, can do this, and it costs you loads of money to try and deal with it?

‘It does leave a bitter taste. I have worked 30 odd years. I have various qualifications. I am an RIBA-accredited conservation architect, and I am an associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators,’ he added.

‘I’m not a novice. But it just goes to show that someone of my experience can be caught out if somebody wants to do that.’

Horowskyj said he had failed to issue a letter outlining fees and contractual obligations because his client has handed him work in an incremental way – but accepted that he was in the wrong for not having done so. He also stressed that the ARB and PCC had been courteous and fair, despite in his view operating in a flawed system. 

An ARB spokesperson said: ‘Mr Horowskyj was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in respect of failing to have adequate terms of engagement. Having robust terms in place mitigates the risk to both architects and their clients of disputes arising.’

She added: ‘While the vast majority of complaints do not proceed to the Professional Conduct Committee, we have a legal duty to investigate the most serious complaints we receive about architects’ conduct and competence, and it is only fair to all those involved that the issues are considered in a thorough matter.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    ARB needs to get it’s act together. Innocent until proven guilty. Do not forget that non architects can do tremendous harm, get away with it and then called architects in the media. The ARB should be about protecting our function as architects not just the title.

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