Mr Russell Charles Trudgen
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Russell Charles Trudgen (063688F)
Andrew Webster (Chair)
Robert Dearman (PCC Architect Member)
Martin Pike (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Russell Trudgen (“the Respondent”):
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 has forgone 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 finding against Russell Trudgen in the terms set out below:
An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Respondent. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
(1) The Respondent did not provide adequate terms of engagement to the Complainant contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;
Statement of agreed facts
- The Respondent is a registered architect and Architectural Director at Arctic Associates Ltd.
- In January 2017, MG (“the Complainant”) purchased a detached bungalow (“the Property”) with the intention of carrying out development work and then selling the Property. The Complainant wanted to carry out an extension and internal refurbishment. It was intended that the Property would be converted to a dormer bungalow with a staircase, two additional bedrooms and an additional en-suite bathroom.
- The Complainant and the Respondent met on 3 February 2017 to discuss the project. Following this the Respondent wrote to the Complainant on 7 February 2017 setting out details of the proposed project and his fees for works including preparation of drawings for planning permission and Building Regulations Approval. The Respondent also provided a separate Terms and Conditions of Appointment document.
- The Respondent then prepared drawings for the proposed works. An application was made to Leeds City Council (“the Council”) in April 2017 for planning permission. The initial proposals, for a double extension on both gable ends with the en-suite bathroom above the garage, were rejected by the Council. Amended plans were submitted to the Council. Planning permission was granted on 1 June 2017.
- The Respondent submitted an application for Building Regulations Approval in May 2017. Approval was received on 2 August 2017.
- The Complainant appointed a contractor himself. The Complainant understood the Respondent would be a point of contract throughout the entire project and he did not understand that the Respondent’s role was limited to just preparing drawings.
- Works commenced at the Property in October 2017. During the construction phase issues arose with the work at the stage when the dormer stairs and roof were to be installed.
- The Complainant contacted the Respondent’s office to advise about the issues that had arisen. The Respondent and his assistant attended at the Property on 5 September 2018. During that visit the Respondent noted a number of changes that had been made during the works that were not in line with his drawings. The Complainant says that the Respondent advised him that the changes were not allowed and that further drawings would be required. The Complainant says that he did not expect that he would need to pay for any further drawings and that fees were not raised by the Respondent.
- The Respondent amended the drawings to incorporate the site changes made by the Complainant and emailed these to the Council for their comments. On 18 September 2018, the Complainant submitted the Non-Material Amendment Application direct to the Council and paid the application fee to the Local Authority. On 29 September 2018 the Respondent raised an invoice for the time spent preparing the Non-Material Amendment Application. On 17 October 2018 the Council refused the amendment application and advised a full plans application would be required.
- The Respondent advised the Complainant that a new planning application was necessary for the site changes made to make the building works legally compliant. On 24 October 2018 the Respondent wrote to the Complainant confirming the planning regulations application was ready for submission and included a statement of account for his fees. The letter stated that on receipt of payment of the outstanding invoice the Respondent would submit the new application on the Complainant’s behalf. The Complainant did not contact the Respondent after this date. The Complainant’s position is that he had not agreed further fees with the Respondent, although he did not raise this with the Respondent when the invoice was submitted in September 2018. The Respondent did not submit a new planning application on behalf of the Complainant.
- In light of the above, the Complainant ceased communications with the Respondent until March 2020 when the Respondent received a letter from the Complainant’s solicitors. The Complainant made a formal complaint to the ARB on 23 November 2020. The Complainant was made aware of the complaint by the ARB on 20 January 2021.
- The Respondent accepts that he did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout. The Respondent admits that he had a professional obligation to provide the Complainants with full and adequate terms of engagement.
- The Respondent accepts that his letter of 7 February 2017 and its accompanying Terms and Conditions were not compliant with the requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2017). The Respondent accepts that the correspondence did not adequately detail the limitations of the Respondent’s role, did not provide details of provision for suspension/termination of the agreement, details of insurance or information on the complaints handling procedure. The Respondent accepts that all of this information ought to have been provided at the outset in writing in accordance with the requirements of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2017).
Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct
- In light of the admission above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- 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. As a result of not providing full written terms of engagement, the Respondent did not provide adequate details as to:
- Any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties;
- The provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement;
- The existence of any Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes that the contract is subject to;
- A statement that the Respondent had adequate and appropriate insurance cover as specified by the ARB;
- That a complaints handling procedure is available on request; and
- A statement that that Architect is registered with the Architects Registration Board and subject to the Architects Code.
- The Respondent 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, it can lead to the potential for misunderstanding and confusion about important matters such as the role of the architect and any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties. The Respondent accepts that without adequate written terms of engagement, it can be difficult to resolve matters without clarity as to the important matters set out in the Code.
- 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 Respondent agrees to a penalty order of a reprimand.
- The Respondent has no previous disciplinary history. He has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Respondent’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Respondent’s conduct is 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.