Mr Charles Graham
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Charles Graham (045442G)
Martin Winter (Chair)
David Kann (PCC Architect Member)
Martin Pike (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charge against Charles Graham (the Registered Person):
The Registered Person:
a) accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against him in the terms set out below;
b) confirms that he has been offered the opportunity to appear before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee to present his case, but does not wish to do so.
The Architects Registration Board (ARB) accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against Charles Graham in the terms set out below:
An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Registered Person. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
(1) In respect of Project A, the Registered Person did not provide any and/or any adequate terms of engagement to the Referrer, contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;
(2) In respect of Project B, the Registered Person did not provide and and/or any adequate terms of engagement to the Referrer, contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code.
Statement of agreed facts
- The Registered Person is a registered Architect who owns his own company, Design-Tect Design Associates.
2. In July 2020, the Registered Person was appointed by Sarah Cheeseman (“Referrer A”), to assist with renovation works at her home. The works proposed included a loft conversion, single storey rear extension and the addition of a garage.
3. Referrer A had contacted the Registered Person a year previously regarding possible extension work at another property but had not proceeded with that project. On that occasion, in an email dated 8 August 2019, the Registered Person had provided a detailed description of included services and charges.
4. Referrer A did not receive any terms of engagement or a contract from the Registered Person in connection with the works at her property, nor did he provide any literature about his services or explain to her what his role would involve.
5. On 29 July 2020, the Registered Person provided Referrer A with drawings for the proposed extension. He advised that the loft conversion should be completed under permitted development rights and an application would be submitted for planning permission for the rear and side extensions. His email concluded by advising that his fee for the project was £990.
6. Referrer A says that the plans provided by the Registered Person did not properly reflect her brief and she responded to him to raise points of revision.
7. The Registered Person responded on 6 August 2020, referring to obtaining building construction drawings and work required by a structural engineer and advised the fee for this would be £350. This was the first time there had been any mention of requiring structural engineer calculations or building construction drawings being an additional cost for the project.
8. On 10 August 2020, Referrer A paid the Registered Person’s fee and the planning application fee (total £1,250) and asked if this included the cost of the calculations. The Registered Person confirmed that his fees did not include structural calculations and the engineer had quoted £360 for their work.
9. Referrer A requested, on more than one occasion, an invoice for the fees she had paid to the Registered Person. No invoices were ever provided.
10. On 27 August 2020, the Registered Person emailed Referrer A to provide construction drawings and structural calculations for the loft conversion. Referrer A was unhappy with the work done and, on 31 August 2020, she emailed the Registered Person to highlight errors in the work. The planning application submitted in August 2020 was deemed invalid and new drawings were required to be submitted to the Local Authority.
11. Referrer A contacted a number of building companies to obtain a quote for the loft conversion works. When potential companies reviewed the plans, issues were raised regarding the steel beams. When she raised this with the Registered Person, a new set of structural calculations was then provided. Referrer A requested updated drawings from the Registered Person but when updated drawings were received these contained discrepancies.
12. Further issues arose in relation to the structural engineer calculations. Discussions continued in November 2020 to try and resolve the issues that had arisen with the drawings and structural calculations. Referrer A arranged for the structural engineer to attend site to check the plans and to revise these, at an additional cost of £250.
13. On 22 December 2020 Referrer A made a formal complaint to the Registered Person, requesting a refund of fees. The Registered Person responded on 23 December 2020, stating that he had fulfilled his contractual engagement and no refund was due.
14. On 31 December 2020 Referrer A made a formal complaint to the ARB.
15. In June or July 2020, the Registered Person was appointed by Khaled Hassan (“Referrer B”), to assist with a project he was carrying out at his home to convert an attic into a living space. The Registered Person was appointed to provide advice on relevant legal procedures and to prepare construction drawings.
16. Following initial discussions about the project, and the Registered Person’s appointment, the Registered Person did not provide any written confirmation of his involvement in the project, nor did he outline what his role as Architect would involve. The Registered Person did not provide any terms of engagement or any literature about his services.
17. The Registered Person advised Referrer B that planning permission was not required for the intended works. The Registered Person provided construction plans, which included a spiral staircase. Shortly before the works commenced the contractor advised Referrer B that there was insufficient space for this and that the staircase proposed was not legal. Referrer B contacted the Registered Person to outline his concerns.
18. The issue was resolved and the attic conversion completed in September or October 2020. Referrer B then sought to sell the property. During the sale proceedings the buyer’s solicitor informed Referrer B that the attic conversion was not legal and had required planning permission. The Registered Person advised Referrer B this was incorrect.
19. Referrer B contacted Croydon Council who advised planning permission was required and that they would need to apply for retrospective planning permission. Referrer B forwarded this correspondence to the Registered Person. On 29 July 2021, the Registered Person provided drawings for the application. The application was submitted on 2 August 2021. The buyer of the property withdrew from the sale proceedings.
20. Referrer B contacted Croydon Council in September 2021 to ascertain the status of the planning application and was advised that the Registered Person had in fact applied for a Certificate of Lawful Development but a retrospective planning application would have been more suitable. Referrer B forwarded this correspondence to the Registered Person. He also telephoned the Registered Person to request that he did not move forward with the application as the mistake made was unacceptable.
21. Referrer B emailed the Registered Person to request a refund of the fees he had paid for the Certificate of Lawful Development application. He advised he would be instructing another company and requested a copy of documents held in relation to the application.
22.The application was withdrawn and retrospective planning permission obtained using another company.
23. On 4 October 2021, Referrer B made a formal complaint to the ARB.
24. The Registered Person accepts that he did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout. The Registered Person admits that he had a professional obligation to provide the Referrers with full and adequate terms of engagement in accordance with the requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2017).
25. The Registered Person did not deem it necessary to issue terms of engagement at the time of his engagement due to the limited scope of Khaled Hussain’s project and the previous professional relationship he had with Referrer A, during which he had provided a detailed description of included services and charges.
26. The Registered Person now accepts that he should have issued terms of engagement in respect of both projects.
Statement as to Unacceptable Professional Conduct
27. In light of the admission above, the Registered Person further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
28. Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code 2017 states that an Architect is expected to ensure that they enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covers a number of matters including the scope of the work, who will be responsible for what and details of fees and/or the method of calculating fees. The Architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work.
29. The Registered Person provided an email in which he set out his fees. The email did not adequately and/or at all clarify:
i) Contracting parties;
ii) Scope of work;
iii) Who was responsible for what;
iv) Provision for suspension/termination of the agreement;
v) Details of insurance;
vi) Complaints handling information.
30. The Registered Person accepts that it was necessary for him to provide adequate written terms of engagement for all projects, as required under Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. A failure to do so leads to the potential for misunderstanding and confusion about important matters such as any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties, or that the Registered Person is registered with the Architects Registration Board and therefore subject to the Architects Code.
31. The Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee, with the consent of the parties and having taken account of its responsibilities to protect the public and maintain the reputation of the profession, makes the following disciplinary order:
i) In all of the circumstances the Registered Person agrees to a disciplinary order of a reprimand.
ii) The Registered Person has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct. He has no adverse regulatory history.
iii) The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Registered Person’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Registered Person’s conduct was sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the low risk of repetition, the parties agree that a reprimand is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.