I’m thinking of hiring an architect, what do I need to know?

Before you start any architectural work you should know the qualification level of the person you're hiring, what standards you can expect and your rights should anything go wrong.
 

Check the architect is registered

The title ‘architect’ is protected by law under the Architects Act 1997, which means only qualified architects registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) can use the title.

Becoming an architect usually takes about seven years of study and the ARB, which is the government regulator for architects, only lets people register to become one once they have successfully finished all parts of their training.

When someone uses the title ‘architect’, it means that people can check with the ARB that they are dealing with a trained and qualified professional.

However, misspellings of architect and derivatives of architect, including ‘architectural’, are not protected by law.

As a result, you may see individuals, partnerships and firms offering services using a slightly adapted title. If they do not use the title architect, you should be aware that they likely won’t be a registered architect.

Employing someone who is not a registered architect does not necessarily mean their standard of work won’t be high. However, it is worth bearing in mind that they won’t be obligated to follow the ARB code of conduct and you will have limited rights if something were to go wrong at any stage.

If you’re not sure, you can check the ARB register for free or get in touch with the ARB for clarity around a title.

Misuse of title

In some cases, people may misuse the title ‘architect’, calling themselves an architect on letterheads or council applications when they are not qualified to use the term.

If the person you have hired has used the title ‘architect’ and they are not registered on the ARB register, you should inform the ARB as this is a criminal offence.

What you can expect

Architects are required to act in accordance with the ARB code, which sets out the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of them.

Your architect should provide a written agreement before they commence work, which should help avoid problems arising during the project.

This should cover the following:

  • the scope of the work
  • the fee or method of calculating it
  • who will be responsible for what
  • any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties
  • the provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement, including any legal rights of cancellation
  • a statement that they have adequate and appropriate insurance cover as specified by ARB
  • the existence of any Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes that the contract is subject to and how they might be accessed
  • that they have a complaints-handling procedure available on request
  • that they are registered with the Architects Registration Board and that they are subject to this Code

What you need to do to protect yourself

The ARB has shared some practical tips you can use to protect yourself when hiring someone to do architectural work.

Check the register - If the person is describing themselves as an architect either verbally or on their marketing materials or planning applications they must be on the ARB register.

Request a written agreement - Architects are required to provide you with this.

Be clear on what you want the architect to do - You need to provide your architect with clear instructions. State whether you want the architect to produce designs and/or working drawings, apply for planning and/or undertake project management. If you want the latter, explain what you mean by project management.

Know your budget - This will impact on the design the architect produces for you.

State if you have any time constraints - The architect will need to know this to plan their work accordingly.

Ask about the fee - Ask what the architect’s fee is and how it is calculated.

Be informed - Ask how often the architect will update you on the project. State how you wish to be updated - eg via letter, email, phone or face to face.

Ask who is undertaking the work - If that person isn’t an architect, ask for the name of the architect who will be supervising your project.

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