Mr Michael Simon Hooper
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Michael Simon Hooper (054797B)
Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Stuart Carr (PCC Architect Member)
Alastair Cannon (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Michael Simon Hooper (“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; and
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 has foregone his right to do so.
The Architects Registration Board accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against the Registered Person 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) The Registered Person did not provide adequate written terms of engagement contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;
(2) The Registered Person:
a) did not complete work for his client without undue delay;
b) did not keep his client informed about the progress of the work contrary to Standard 6.3;
(3) The Registered Person did not:
a) provide adequate specification notes and/or technical information in line with the client’s requirements when issuing these documents on 7 March 2021;
b) did not adequately revise the specification notes and/or technical information on more than one occasion when issues were identified by the client.
(4) The Registered Person did not deal with a complaint appropriately, contrary to Standard 10 of the Architects Code.
Statement of agreed facts:
1. The Registered Person is a registered architect and owns Mike Hooper Architects.
2. SF (“the Referrer”) appointed the Registered Person on or around December 2020. The Referrer owns a traditional cottage in Cornwall (“the Property”). She wanted to knock down an existing porch and rebuild and extend this to create a garden room. She had obtained conditional planning approval on 12 July 2019. She appointed the Registered Person to prepare a Building Regulations Schedule and drawings. The Registered Person confirmed he could not start work on the project until the beginning of January 2021. With the exception of two emails dated 13 and 14 December 2020, which set out the proposed fees of £1,050 and the scope of the works, the Referrer did not receive any other terms of engagement.
3. On 28 January 2021, the Registered Person carried out a site visit at the Property. He advised a survey would be required which would incur additional fees of £500. The Referrer agreed to this and transferred £500 as an initial payment on the same date. A completion date for the works was not agreed, albeit the Registered Person had estimated he would be able to complete the work between two to three weeks. At the time of the Registered Person’s appointment, the Referrer had already obtained provisional drawings from a structural engineer which required amendment. It was agreed at the time that the Referrer would hold off going back to the structural engineer with any corrections until the Registered Person had reviewed the drawings in case additional amendments were required.
4. On 24 February 2021, the Referrer sought an update as to when she could expect to receive the Building Regulations Schedule and drawings. The Registered Person replied on the same date, advising he would respond to her on 25 February 2021. He stated he had had some issues with his assistant being unwell and asked, “please give me a bit of time in the morning but I will be there”. The Registered Person did not respond the following day. The Referrer sent a further email on 26 February 2021 asking if the work had been started and when she could expect it to be completed. The Registered Person replied advising that his assistant was finalising the survey drawing and that he intended to draft the building regulation notes and specification by the following weekend. He commented “I appreciate I gave you a 2-3 week date but I cannot legislate sometimes for things like my assistant having to go into hospital”.
5. On 7 March 2021, the Registered Person emailed the preliminary drawings and Building Regulation specification notes. On 8 March 2021, the Referrer emailed her comments in respect of the same. She flagged four areas in need of correction including:
i. the material of the rooflight being described as polycarbonate when it should be described as aluminium and hardwood;
ii. the removal of the window on the front elevation to the right of the front door;
iii. the description of the drainage system omitted reference to the land drain from the gable end being connected to the soak away; and
iv. the new internal wall to be lime plastered not raked out and re-pointed.
6. On 24 March 2021, the Referrer emailed additional comments including queries as to whether there was a requirement for fire proofing to protect the steel frame of the garden room, whether the specification should include underfloor electrical heating and whether the gap between the internal wall and doorframe was correct. On 25 March 2021, the Referrer confirmed that she wanted those issues clarified before she went back to the structural engineer. On 26 March 2021, the Registered Person responded stating that the fire-proofing had been designed by the structural engineer and it was for him/her to address. He commented that the specification for the under-floor heating was the contractors and/or plumbers’ responsibility as they would design it. He accepted that he had misread the Referrer’s specification with regards to the front window and sought clarification in respect of the same.
7. On 6 April 2021, the Referrer emailed the Registered Person a formal letter setting out her concerns in respect of his services. She noted her concern that he had suggested he had no responsibility for the fire-proofing and that she wanted certainty that the Building Regulations Schedule was going to cover every aspect of the works. She further commented that the Registered Person had failed to stick to the timeframe he had previously outlined and had not kept her updated when that timeframe had become unrealistic. The Registered Person replied on the same date advising he could not comment on the structural integrity of the steel frame as he had not designed it. On 14 April 2021, the Referrer requested a full response to her letter dated 6 April 2021. No response was received. On 21 April 2021, the Referrer sent a further email expressing her concern that she had not received a full response to her letter dated 6 April 2021. She commented on the inadequacy of the specification she had received.
8. On 27 April 2021, the Registered Person emailed updated specification notes. With the exception of an additional section relating to the external wall construction, the remainder of the document was identical to the version sent on 7 March 2021. The four areas in need of amendment, first flagged in the Referrer’s email dated 8 March 2021, were uncorrected. On 29 April 2021, the Referrer informed the Registered Person of the same. She confirmed she had contacted the structural engineer to make the necessary changes to the design and she would contact the Registered Person when she had an update. The Registered Person replied stating he was aware of the four items in need of correction but he would amend these when he received the corrected engineer’s details. On 5 May 2021, the Referrer replied advising that the Registered Person was confusing the four items with issues that depended on corrections being made to the structural engineer’s drawings. She pointed out the Registered Person had not identified the four items in need of correction- she had drawn them to his attention in her email of 8 March 2021. On 6 May 2021, the Registered Person confirmed he would correct the four items following receipt of the amended drawings from the structural engineer.
9. On 20 May 2021, following a conversation with the Registered Person, the structural engineer emailed to confirm what had been proposed with regards to the design. On 26 May 2021, the Referrer emailed the Registered Person to put him on notice that there would be some delay in finalising the structural engineer’s drawings as they required information which was not available until 1 June 2021. The Referrer confirmed she would update the Registered Person as soon as possible. On 24 June 2021, the structural engineer emailed the Referrer attaching the revised drawing for the proposed works. On 30 July 2021, the Registered Person emailed the Referrer advising he had spoken with the structural engineer who had informed him the work had been completed weeks before. The Registered Person queried why that drawing had not been sent on to him. On 4 August 2021, the Referrer replied advising she had not sent on the structural engineer’s drawing as she had spotted two further errors which needed to be corrected.
10. The updated drawings from the structural engineer were emailed to the Registered Person on 10 August 2021. The Registered Person did not respond to acknowledge receipt. On 26 August 2021, the Referrer sought an update. The Registered Person replied on the same date advising he had not had any time to look at the drawings and advised he had put her project in his work schedule for the 2nd/3rd week of September. On 31 August 2021, the Referrer replied expressing her frustration that he had put her project on hold without informing her or acknowledging receipt of the updated drawings from the structural engineer. No response was received to that email. On 24 September 2021, the Referrer contacted the Registered Person as it was the last week of September and she had not received any update. She asked him not to ignore her email. He replied on 25 September 2021 stating he would reply “on Monday” commenting “Please do not threaten me with ‘do not ignore this email’ as I will pass it to my solicitor”. On 27 September 2021, the Registered Person emailed the Referrer confirming the structural engineer’s drawings were with his assistant who was working on them. He advised his assistant was undergoing a major operation at the end of the week and he was hoping to get the revised drawings completed before then. On 30 September 2021, the Referrer responded noting that the Registered Person had failed to keep to his revised timescale for completing the work and that he had not contacted her to inform her of any further delays. She asked for the work to be completed in a timely way and for him to keep her updated. On 30 September 2021, the Registered Person responded confirming the work would be completed by 15 October 2021.
11. On 15 October 2021, the Registered Person emailed the Referrer the final drawings and Building Regulations specification. He advised his invoice would follow over the weekend. The specification document was identical to the version sent on 27 April 2021. The areas in need of amendment (first flagged by the Referrer on 8 March 2021) remained uncorrected.
12. On 18 October 2021, the Referrer emailed the Registered Person setting out her concerns in relation to the Building Regulations specification. On 21 October 2021, she submitted her complaint to the ARB.
13. The Registered Person accepts that he did not provide adequate written terms of engagement contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code (2017).
14. The Registered Person accepts that he did not complete work for his client without undue delay and that he failed to keep her informed on the progress of the work contrary to Standard 6.3. It took from 28 January 2021 to 7 March 2021 for the initial drawings and specification to be provided notwithstanding the fact the Registered Person had originally indicated an estimated timeframe of 2 – 3 weeks. Following comments from the Referrer, it took the Registered Person until 27 April 2021 to provide an updated specification. Following a period of delay attributable to the structural engineer, the Registered Person was provided with the final version of the structural engineer’s drawings on 10 August 2021. It took a further two months for the final version of his drawings and specification to be sent to the Referrer, despite the specification being identical to the version sent on 27 April 2021. Whilst the Registered Person did generally respond to emails, he did not volunteer updates on the progress of the work. Instead, the Referrer had to seek updates on the progress of the work on 24, 26 February 2021, 6, 14 and 21 April, 26 August and 24 September 2021. The Registered Person did not acknowledge receipt of the structural engineer’s drawings on 10 August 2021 or provided any updated timescale for the completion of the work until prompted to do so.
15. The Registered Person accepts that he did not provide adequate specification notes and/or technical information in line with the Referrer’s requirements when issuing these documents on 7 March 2021. He also accepts that he did not adequately revise the specification notes and/or technical information one more than one occasions when issues were identified by the client.
16. Finally, the Registered Person accepts that he did not deal with a complaint appropriately, contrary to Standard 10.2 of the Architects Code. Notwithstanding the Referrer’s request for a full written response to her letter of 6 April 2021, the Registered Person did not ever provide a full response to the concerns.
Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct
17. In light of the admission above, the Registered Person admits that his conduct amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
18. In respect of Standard 4.4, setting out compliant terms of engagement in writing is essential for both the architect and the client to understand their respective rights, responsibilities and obligations. The terms of the Code are clear and the Registered Person has a duty, as a registered architect, to be aware of and adhere to the Code irrespective of the size of a project.
19. Standard 6 of the 2017 Code expects an architect to carry out their professional work with skill and care. Standard 6.2 requires any work to be carried out without undue delay. Standard 6.3 requires an architect to keep their client informed of the progress of work they undertake on their behalf. The Registered Person accepts he is in breach of those Standards. As a professional, the Registered Person had an obligation to adequately correspond with his client throughout the duration of his appointment. He had a professional duty to carry out that work in accordance with agreed timescales and ensure the work he was providing was of an acceptable standard and in accordance with his client’s instructions.
20. Standard 10.2 of the Code expects complaints to be handled courteously and promptly. A response addressing the issues raised should be issued within 30 working days from its receipt. The Registered Person did not provide a full written response to the issues raised within the Referrer’s complaint, in spite of repeated requests that he do so.
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:
21. In all of the circumstances, the Registered Person agrees to a disciplinary order of a financial penalty of £1,000.
22. The Registered Person has previous disciplinary history in that, he received a caution on 30 September 2007 from the then-Investigations Committee concerning his failure to respond to a client complaint. He has no other previous disciplinary history.
23. The Registered Person has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegations. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
24. 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 is sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the admissions and mitigation advanced by the Registered Person in his representations dated 4 January 2022 and 8 March 2022 and 10 August 2022, the parties agree that a financial penalty of £1,000 is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.