The number of complaints against architects is increasing year on year, according to a report published by law firm Kennedys. The firm’s findings suggest that complaints to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) increased 26 per cent between 2017 and 2018. It says that a total of 43 individual complaints were made against architects to RIBA in 2018 with 2019 set to be a record year.
Two organisations handle individual complaints against architects – RIBA and the Architects Registration Board (ARB), the independent regulator of UK registered architects. Kennedys report that the number of decisions published by the ARB suggest the regulator is also seeing a similar increase in complaints.
Kennedys believe there are several drivers behind the increase. It believes that more clients are aware of the disciplinary procedures offered by RIBA and the ARB. It also suggests that the increase in court fees and reduction in no-win-no-fee litigation means that clients are avoiding the courts in the first instance. As neither the ARB nor RIBA charge for their complaints procedures, Kennedys believe clients may be using the process to test the water before taking on an expensive court case.
“These findings are a warning to architects to make sure that they have up to date and effective complaints procedures,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “Architects should make sure that they have written retainers which clearly set out their duties and they should also record all decisions made at meetings or in discussion with clients. These are key materials in explaining and defending against allegations, whether it is a complaint or a claim,” he explained.
“If a formal complaint is made, architects should discuss it with their broker as a matter of priority, to consider whether their professional indemnity insurers need to be notified,” he added.
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