Architects Act 1997
The title ‘architect’ is protected by law in the UK, under Section 20 of the Architects Act 1997.
It can only be used in business or practice by someone who has had the education, training and experience needed to join the Architects Register and become an architect. Businesses can only use ‘architect’ in their name if there is an architect in control and management of all of the architectural work.
The Architects Register
The Act protects the public from dishonest individuals who mislead people by calling themselves something they’re not. We keep a public register of all UK architects that you can search quickly and easily online to make sure someone is a genuine architect. If someone is not on the Architects Register they are not a UK architect - it’s as simple as that.
Only those with appropriate skills and experience can join the Register. We set standards for architectural education and good practice and make sure that architects maintain these standards. UK Architects must abide by the Architects Code and also hold appropriate insurance. If you are using a genuine architect you can be reassured that there is an independent, statutory regulator that you can contact with any queries or concerns.
Only ‘architect’ is protected in this way – this means someone calling themselves an ‘architectural consultant’ or ‘architectural assistant’ is not covered by ARB’s regulatory activities.
We take a common sense approach to the use of ‘architect’ that isn’t connected to building and design, for example with ‘software architect’ or ‘systems architect’ which are increasingly used by the computer and IT industry.
As regulator, it’s our role to protect the title ‘architect’ and take action against those who misuse it. We do this by conducting investigations proactively as well as in response to complaints submitted to us.
If a problem is identified we take a proportionate approach. Where appropriate we can issue guidance and seek assurance that the problematic activity has ceased to address the harm swiftly and efficiently. If a breach of the Act is sufficiently serious we can and do take legal action.
Title misuse prevention
We also work with others to try and prevent title misuse occurring in the first place. We regularly visit Schools of Architecture to advise students on the correct use of the title.
We engage with the media and business directories to help ensure information provided to the public is accurate. We also collaborate with other public protection bodies like Citizens Advice and Trading Standards, as well as with professional bodies and consumer groups, to share resources and best practice.
We also encourage architects to help the public spot a genuine architect and identify those who aren’t by displaying the ARB logo and providing links to their Register entry online to clearly demonstrate that they are a regulated professional.
View the ARB's policy statement on investigating title misuse
We list prosecutions for misuse of title on our website, issue press releases about convictions and publish title misuse case studies, to help inform and protect the public and to act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise have used the title illegally.
Outcomes of past prosecutions for misuse of the title 'architect'
Misuse of ‘architect’
Read about real examples
of title misuse
More on prosecutions
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we prosecute in the magistrates’ courts. In Scotland our prosecutions are carried out through the Procurator Fiscal’s office. Before deciding whether to prosecute someone for misusing the title ‘architect’ there are two tests we must apply:
- The ‘evidence’ test
Magistrates need clear evidence – for example, business cards, planning applications or web content that clearly show that the offender was claiming to be an architect when they weren’t on our Register. That evidence must be less than two years’ old.
- The ‘public interest’ test
Prosecutors have to ask themselves whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. If, for example, the offender posed as an architect to make money and is likely to offend again, a prosecution would probably be in the public interest. If the offender gave a reasonable explanation as to why they called themselves an architect and it was unlikely to reoccur, it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.
If someone is convicted of misusing the title ‘architect’, they may have to pay a fine (currently up to £2500 for each offence). We can prosecute both individuals and businesses, which can amount to multiple charges.