A review of the register of disciplinary matters investigated and determined by the New South Wales Architects Registration Board reveals a repeated failure, by architects whose clients have brought complaints against them, to enter into a written agreement compliant with the relevant code of professional conduct with the client prior to commencing architectural services
Perhaps it is timely, as we enter a new year, to remind ourselves not only of the importance of a client/architect agreement:
… as an enforceable legal document;
… as an invaluable tool for managing client’s expectations;
… but also, in some States, a requirement of the architect’s code of professional conduct.
Section 7 of the NSW Architects Code of Professional Conduct (Architects Regulation 2017) sets out the requirements for Client Agreements for NSW registered architects.
The Code prescribes that an architect must enter into a written agreement with the client concerning the provision of architectural services. The agreement must be entered into before commencing to provide the architectural services unless it is not reasonable to do so in the circumstances or the services to be provided are urgent, in which case the agreement must be provided to the client within a reasonable time after the commencement of services (Clauses 7(1) & 7(4)(a) & (b))
The Code goes further to set out those matters which must be included in the agreement if it is prepared by or on behalf of the architect (Clause 7(2)) Those matters include:
- the parties to the agreement;
- the name, registration number and contact details of the architect responsible for providing the architectural services;
- the scope and nature and specific requirements of the architectural services;
- how the professional fees and costs of the architectural services will be calculated;
- where possible, reasonable estimates of disbursements;
- how professional fees and costs, including disbursements, will be paid;
- how the architect may inform the client of progress in the provision of the architectural services;
- how the client may authorise the architect to proceed with the architectural services or any part of the architectural services;
- a requirement that the architect must inform the client how a change or amendment to the architectural services will affect the professional fees and costs for the architectural services.
- how the architect may obtain the client’s authority to change or amend the architectural services;
- how variations to the agreement maybe made;
- how any pre-existing agreement to the provision of other architectural services for the client is to be applied;
- how the agreement may be terminated and for what reasons;
- a reservation of the right of an architect to withdraw from the provision of the architectural services in certain circumstances;
- notice of the existence of the Code of Professional Conduct and how the client can obtain a copy;
- notice that alternative dispute resolution will apply to disputes and how alternative dispute resolution mechanisms will apply.
Other States’ Codes of Professional Conduct include similar requirements – refer to Division 2 Clause 4 of the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct (Schedule 1 Architects Regulations 2015); Standard 4.4 of the South Australian Architects’ Code of Conduct; Division 2 Clauses 14 – 15 of the Board of Architects Queensland Code of Practice.
Whilst the regulations referred to in this article apply only to architects, written client agreements which clearly address the rights and responsibilities of both parties is good practice management for all consultants working in the construction industry.
So embrace the new year with enthusiasm, passion and curiosity for all the projects which lie ahead … but don’t forget the paperwork!