Casper Mueller Kneer Architects director Olaf Kneer has been reprimanded by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) followings delays to a £35,000 flat refurbishment
The Barbican-based architect was issued with a reprimand by the ARB’s professional conduct committee (PCC) after he admitted unacceptable professional conduct for not providing adequate terms of engagement.
The board found the failings to be ‘a serious breach of the Architects Code [the ARB’s standards of conduct and practice] that had the potential to diminish both the architect’s reputation and that of the profession generally’.
Kneer had proposed removing and replacing the kitchen and bathroom for a client, installing new cupboards, laying new floors and decorating the property. But, following ’a prolonged period of time when the works remained incomplete’, the client complained to the ARB.
Kneer accepted that he had not entered into a written agreement with his client that adequately covered the terms of engagement, contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code, at the outset or throughout the project. Kneer accepted that he failed to meet these professional obligations, which led his client to misunderstand his role in the project.
The PCC found that while Kneer’s role in the project had evolved over time, he had not recorded or agreed these changes in writing with the client.
Kneer waived his right to have the case heard at a public hearing, meaning that the decision could be made by the PCC on the basis of the papers alone, with no need for a hearing.
On the basis of Kneer’s admission and the fact he had engaged fully in the regulatory process, the PCC decided that a reprimand, rather than a fine or suspension, was the appropriate disciplinary order.
In August 2017, Kneer was first approached by the complainant to assist with the development of a small flat. The proposed works involved removing and replacing a kitchen and bathroom, installing new cupboards and laying new floors as well as painting.
On 1 September 2017 the client and architect met to fully discuss the proposed works. Following that meeting, Kneer emailed the client setting out briefly what had been discussed and his hourly charging rates. That email did not include full terms of engagement as required under Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. Kneer did not issue any further documentation detailing the full terms of engagement, including clear detail on the agreed scope and extent of his role.
The client had a strict timetable in place for the works to be completed in line with her professional commitments. She set a deadline of Friday 12 January 2018. The respondent prepared relevant drawings and the parties liaised about those and next steps. This included the appointment of a contractor.
Kneer and the client met with a potential contractor who provided a cost estimate of £35,000 plus VAT. The contractor advised he was able to commence works on 11 December 2017 and complete the works by 15 January 2018. The client therefore agreed to his appointment.
The works in fact commenced on 9 December 2017. The client was not resident at the flat for the duration of the works.
By early January the works were not going to be completed by the 15 January 2018 deadline. The client agreed to extend the completion date by one week. The works were not completed within that timeframe either.
On 22 January 2018 Kneer emailed the client to advise that he expected all major items to be completed by Friday that week. He also emailed the contractor and advised the client was unhappy about the on-going delays.
The client attended the flat on 1 February 2018 and remained concerned about the state of the works. She spoke with the contractor and asked him and his team to leave.
As a result of the above the client was not able to use the flat to both live in and for work for a delayed period of time.
Whille Kneer did provide some information at the outset, for example on his fees, he admitted that he had a professional obligation to provide the client with adequate terms of engagement. Kneer accepted that the initial email of 1 September 2017 did not adequately detail his role in the project or the scope of each party’s role. Further, while the terms of engagement did set out hourly rates, Kneer acknowledged that he did not provide the client with any explanation as to his anticipated number of hours on the project.
Kneer admitted that the terms of engagement did not provide details of provision for suspension/termination of the agreement, details of insurance or information on complaints handling. The architects also accepted that all of this information ought to have been provided at the outset in accordance with the requirements of the Code
Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code 2017 states that an architect is expected to ensure that they enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covers a number of matters including the scope of the work, who will be responsible for what and details of fees and/or the method of calculating fees. The architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work. As a result of not providing written terms of engagement, Kneer did not provide adequate details as to:
• The contracting parties;
• The scope of the work;
• The fee or method of calculating it;
• Who will be responsible for what;
• Any constraints of limitations on the responsibilities of the parties;
• The provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement;
• A statement that the Respondent had adequate and appropriate insurance cover as specified by the ARB;
• Any complaints-handling procedure, including details of any special arrangements for resolving disputes.
Kneer accepted that it was necessary for him to provide adequate written terms of engagement for the project, as required under standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. The ARB held that a failure to provide adequate terms was ’serious because, as in this case, it can lead to the potential for misunderstanding and confusion about important matters such as who is responsible for which aspects of a project’.
The client did not appear to understand the architect’s role and responsibilities in the project. The lack of terms of engagement seems to have led the client to misunderstand Kneer’s role and its limitations. While Kneer’s role in the project may have evolved over the timespan of the project, this was not recorded or agreed in writing.