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Leeds architect suspended from register after second ARB conduct breach

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ARB has banned a Leeds-based man from calling himself an architect for a year after finding him guilty of failures amounting to unacceptable professional conduct

Steven Johnson, currently architectural design consultant at Dzign House Architecture, was handed a 12-month suspension from the register by the Architects Registration Board.

He had previously been in trouble with the ARB in 2013 when he was handed a penalty order of £1,000 for ‘failing adequately to set out terms and conditions’ and ‘not safeguarding client money’ while working at MJF Architects.

In the latest case, the board’s Professional Conduct Committee looked at another project that Johnson had undertaken while working for MJF, this time to refurbish and extend an empty cottage. The panel found Johnson had not entered into an adequate written agreement with a client; not carried out an adequate tender process; not provided adequate detail in Building Regulations drawings; and not carried out his role as contract administrator competently.

The client ended her relationship with Johnson and the contractor initially used for the project following issues said to include the type of stone used for the extension, a cavity wall with uneven width of cavity and the burial of debris beneath a new floor. 

Johnson did not attend the hearing nor ask for an adjournment, and it took place in his absence.

In a written submission he accepted that he did not provide terms of engagement, saying possible reasons for this included that he was distracted by an illness in his family. But he said that although tender documents could have been fuller, the Building Regulations drawing could have been better and there were issues with the contract, none of these amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

The panel found Johnson guilty on all four counts.

’Each of these four elements has the potential to cause the client great difficulty, upset, and expense,’ it said. ’This client was not well served by her architect because of the way he approached the task, from beginning to end, and for which he was paid a substantial sum of money.’

The ARB committee found that Johnson’s only correspondence with the client about his retainer was ‘to tell her that his fee would be £5,000 inclusive of VAT and expenses’.

It added that following a tender process that led to selection of a contractor for the job, Johnson ’made no notes of the discussions between the client and the contractor, and the final quote did not contain any detailed specification, being only three pages with a list of prices next to a list of headings’.

The committee noted that although the contract provided for certification at fortnightly intervals from 19 August 2016, Johnson did not certify any work between 16 August 2016 and 16 September 2016, when the client terminated the agreement.

After the client found a new floor to be substandard, a hole was dug in it and debris found beneath. Johnson claimed the client’s father had asked for this to happen to save the cost of skips, according to the committee, but the client denied this.

Johnson’s suspension order lasts for 12 months from 3 September 2019.

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