Mr Quentin John Alder
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
QUENTIN JOHN ALDER (045331E)
Sean Hammond (Chair)
Stuart Carr (PCC Architect Member)
Jules Griffiths (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Quentin Alder (“the Registered Person”):
The Registered Person:
- 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
- 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 (UPC) has been brought by the ARB against the Registered Person. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
- The Registered Person did not provide adequate terms of engagement to the Referrer, contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code.
- The Registered Person did not carry out his work adequately with regards to the Soil Report in that he did not:
- Adequately read the report; and/or
- Adequately act upon the report findings upon receipt of the report; and/or
- Provide the Soil Report to the Council until 29 October 2019; and/or
- Did not advise the Referrer of the findings of the Soil Report until 7 July 2020.
- The Registered Person did not deal with a complaint appropriately, contrary to Standard 10 of the Architects Code.
Statement of agreed facts
- The Registered Person is a registered architect and owner and Director of his own company, Quentin Alder Architects.
- R Hayward (“the Referrer”) purchased his house in August 1999. In around 2014 he considered building a second property (“the Property”) on the surrounding land that he could then rent out.
- The Referrer contacted the Registered Person in 2014 and they met on site to consider the potential project. The Referrer then took further time to consider the proposed works and the matter then moved forward in September 2015. On 18 September 2015 the Registered Person sent a terms of engagement letter to the Referrer. The Referrer then decided to take further time to consider the project and whether or not to proceed.
- In 2018 the Referrer contacted the Registered Person again to ask that he assist with the project. No further terms of engagement were sent in 2018. It was agreed that meetings would be held every six weeks so that the Referrer could be kept up to date on the progress of the works.
- An application for planning permission was granted on 25 June 2018. Quotes were obtained from a number of potential contractors and Fisher & Dean were ultimately appointed to carry out the works. Work began at the Property on 1 October 2018.
- Prior to works commencing, the Registered Person advised the Referrer that a soil contamination report would be required in order to obtain a Building Control Certificate. The Registered Person recommended a company called Wesson Environmental and they were then appointed.
- A site investigation was carried out by Wesson Environmental in August 2018. They produced a report dated 7 September 2018. Wesson Environmental was instructed to provide documents directly to the Registered Person and therefore the Referrer himself did not receive a copy of the report from Wesson Environmental at this time. The Referrer advises that the Registered Person did not provide the report to him, nor did he request a copy from the Registered Person as he was not informed the Registered Person had received a copy.
- Work continued at the Property which was largely completed in September 2019. The Referrer was advised by the Local Authority advised that no one should be living at the Property until the house was “signed off” by Building Control. He was also awaiting a gas safety and electrical safety certificate so until these were received he was unable to let out the Property in any event. From September 2019 to July 2020 the schedule of defects was completed, flooring was laid and the kitchen was installed.
- In July 2020 the Registered Person informed the Referrer that he had nearly all the documentation required to Practically Complete on the Property and the only outstanding matter was the Building Control Certificate from the Local Authority. The Referrer says he asked the Registered Person why this was taking so long and the Registered Person told him that the soil contamination report had highlighted issues with the soil and so it may take a while for the Council to deal with this.
- On 7 July 2020 the Registered Person emailed the Referrer and stated that there was a requirement in the Building Regulations approval to carry out remedial works to deal with the contaminants found in the soil samples. He said that the initial proposal was to excavate the whole site to a depth of 300mm and replace with clean top soil. The Registered Person advised that he had however reached an agreement with the land contamination officer that only part of the land should be removed.
- By this stage the house was built and landscaping work had been carried out at the Property, to include the erection of a fence and two gates. The Referrer decided to contact Wesson Environmental and upon speaking with them he was informed that the soil contamination investigation had been carried out in August 2018. The Referrer contacted the Registered Person to advise he had contacted Wesson Environmental and asked why issues were now only coming to light when the report had been produced two years earlier. He asked who was to pay for remedial work. The Referrer did not receive a response.
- On 10 September 2020 the Referrer requested a copy of the soil contamination report from the Registered Person; this was provided the following day. The Referrer asked whether the report had been given to Planning or Building Regulation before the build started, and if not when it had been provided. The Registered Person advised that the report had been provided to them on 29 October 2019; this was over a year after the investigation had been carried out.
- During further discussions between the Referrer and Registered Person, the Referrer was told that the cost of removal of the soil would be £7,084. The Registered Person did seek to find a competitive price over the following months and on 17 November 2020 the Registered Person emailed the Referrer with an alternative price for replacing the top soil that was £3,924.80. The Registered Person offered a contribution towards the cost. The Referrer did not immediately respond and the Registered Person chased the Referrer for answer on 14 December 2020. Ultimately the Referrer rejected the contribution offer as he felt this was not adequate as by this point he had already paid for the landscaping works.
- The Referrer sought legal advice and on 15 April 2021 the Referrer’s solicitor wrote a letter of complaint to the Registered Person detailing the concerns and offering to deal with the remedial works via mediation. The Registered Person replied on 21 April 2021 agreeing to mediation but not providing a response to the concerns and questions set out in the letter of complaint.
- The Referrer’s solicitor sent a further letter of complaint to the Registered Person on 10 May 2021. The letter requested that the complaint be dealt with under the firm’s internal complaints procedure. The Registered Person replied via email on the same day saying he was not in agreement with the contents of the letter. He did not provide a response to the concerns and questions raised by the Referrer’s solicitor.
- The Referrer did not receive any further correspondence from the Registered Person until 23 December 2021 when the Registered Person asked the Referrer to engage with him to resolve remediation of the soil so that Building Control could issue the Completion Certificate. The Referrer replied advising that his legal team were dealing with matters.
- The Referrer made a complaint to the ARB on 29 June 2021 via his legal representative.
- The Registered Person did provide a terms of engagement letter dated 1 September 2015. The work did not ultimately commence until 2018 and the Registered Person admits that he did not confirm to the Referrer that the previous terms of engagement were to be used for the works. In addition, the Registered Person accepts that the terms of engagement provided were not adequate and were contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code (2017).
- The Registered Person accepts that he had a professional obligation to provide his client with full and adequate terms of engagement that complied with the requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2010). The Registered Person accepts that the terms of engagement that were sent did not contain a statement that the Registered Person held adequate and appropriate insurance, nor did they advise that a complaints handling procedure was available on request. These are requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code and the Registered Person accepts that this information ought to have been provided at the outset in writing.
- The Registered Person accepts that the soil test report was completed in September 2018 and he was provided with the report about this time. He accepts that the report stated that the soil represented a moderate risk to human health and therefore required removal and replacement. The Registered Person accepts that he should have adequately read the report upon receipt and acted upon the report findings at the time the report was received and prior to any significant works being undertaken. The Registered Person also admits that the report was not provided to the Local Authority until over a year after it was completed. Further, the Registered Person accepts that he did not advise the Referrer of the findings of the soil report until July 2020, almost two years after the soil testing had taken place. The Registered Person accepts that the failure to adequately read the report, to act upon its findings, to provide it to the Council in a timely manner and the failure to advise his client of the findings of the report for almost two years caused significant issues for the Referrer where extensive works had been undertaken in advance of the findings being made known to him.
- The Registered Person accepts that he acknowledged receipt of the initial letter of complaint of 15 April 2021 but that he did not provide any substantive response to the concerns raised. The Registered Person also accepts that he did not provide any substantive response to the complaint of 10 May 2021. The Registered Person accepts that Standard 10.2 of the Code expects complaints to be handled courteously and promptly at every stage. The Registered Person accepts that the brief responses he sent were not sufficient in dealing with the concerns raised by the Referrer.
Statement as to Unacceptable Professional Conduct
- In light of the admission above, the Registered Person admits that his conduct amounts to UPC.
- 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. The Registered Person accepts that it was necessary for him to provide adequate written terms of engagement for the project, as required under Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. A failure to provide adequate terms is serious because, as in this case, when a dispute arises later in the process it may become more difficult to resolve and it is important that a client is fully aware of their rights when engaging an architect.
- Standard 6 of the 2017 Code expects an architect to carry out their professional work with skill and care. In respect of the soil report, the Registered Person accepts that this was an important investigation and the outcome was that remedial action needed to be taken to replace soil. The Registered Person accepts that he ought to have taken necessary steps to ensure a solution could be found prior to significant works being undertaken. The Registered Person accepts that this matter has had a significant impact on the project and its completion.
- 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 two letters of complaint.
- 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:
- In all of the circumstances, the Registered Person agrees to a disciplinary order of a financial penalty of £1,000.
- The Registered Person has no previous disciplinary history. He has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual particulars. He has also admitted that these matters amount to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- 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 low risk of repetition, the parties agree that a financial penalty order of £1,000 is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.