Mr Stephen Nicholas Samuel
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Stephen Nicholas Samuel (055134A)
Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Robert Dearman (PCC Architect Member)
Alastair Cannon (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Stephen Samuel (“the Respondent”):
- 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;
- 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 Stephen Samuel 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 adequately communicate with the client, by not responding to correspondence in a timely manner.
Statement of agreed facts:
- The Respondent is a registered architect and a Director of Samuel Kendall Associates.
- In January 2018, the Complainant appointed the Respondent to design and seek planning approval for a small extension to the Complainant’s house including a utility room.
- The Respondent was also instructed in relation to replacing an existing kitchen downstairs, and the provision of an ensuite bathroom upstairs.
- Planning permission was granted on 9 July 2018, with notice of this being sent the following day. A Building Regulations Application was submitted on 2 August 2018.
- On 16 August 2018, the Respondent emailed to advise he had spoken with the Building Inspection Officer who had approved the application but subject to the submission of structural calculations which meant a Structural Engineer was required. On 18 December 2018, the Respondent emailed the Complainant to advise he had received a quote from Dudley Consulting (Hull) Ltd who would be able to carry out the calculations for £575. The Complainant confirmed her instructions and the Respondent appointed Dudley Consulting (Hull) Ltd (“the Structural Engineer”) on 19 December 2018. On 18 January 2019, the Complainant sought an update from the Respondent as to when the Structural Engineer’s report would be received. The Respondent replied on the same date, confirming that the Structural Engineer had been abroad over Christmas, returning on 14 January 2019. He advised the Complainant that he expected the report to be sent the following week.
- Building Regulations Approval was received on 13 February 2019. A copy of the Structural Engineer’s report was provided to the Complainant on 15 March 2019.
- On 14 August 2018, the Respondent extended his terms of engagement to include the tender process and for him to oversee the construction phase of the works. That tender process was put on hold pending Building Regulations Approval. On 24 April 2019, the Complainant emailed the Respondent seeking an update on the tender progress. The Respondent provided an update on 29 April 2019. On or around 9 May 2019, the Respondent proposed four potential contractors for the works. Invitations to tender were issued for a response by the end of May 2019, which was subsequently extended to 6 June 2019. Following the tender process, Clark & Hay were appointed as Contractor.
- The Respondent prepared a JCT contract stipulating a contract sum of £70, 171.83 and for the Respondent to be appointed as Contract Administrator. Further, it confirmed the works were due to commence on 22 July 2019 with a date for completion of 7 October 2019. The works commenced on 22 July 2019.
- Following revisions in the design in August 2019, including a change from the roof light being able to partially open, rather than being fixed, the Respondent agreed to assist the Contractor in sourcing the appropriate roof light. The Complainant sought an update on the roof light on 15 September 2019 and 17 September 2019. The Respondent did not provide a response to those queries by email but provided an oral update during a meeting with the Complainant on 1 October 2019. During that meeting, the Complainant expressed her concerns about the frequency of the Respondent’s communication and requested that a regular two weekly update be provided. She requested her correspondence be acknowledged within 24 hours. The Respondent did not communicate to the Complainant at that time that those requested deadlines were unrealistic and accepts he should have done.
- 1.On 10 October 2019, the Respondent’s wife provided an update on progress but no further update was sent within two weeks of that date. On 29 October 2019, the Complainant emailed the Respondent flagging this and sought an update. No response was received to that email and so the Complainant wrote again on 4 November 2019. On 11 November 2019, the Respondent forwarded the Planning and Listed Building Consent Formal Approval Notice dated 8 November 2019. In response, on 13 November 2019, the Complainant requested further information concerning the Respondent’s invoice. On 19 November 2019, the Complainant received an email from the Respondent’s wife, on behalf of the Respondent, informing the Complainant her emails had gone into the Respondent’s ‘junk’ inbox folder. On 20 November 2019, the Respondent provided a response in relation to the Complainant’s query concerning the invoice. On 21 November 2019, the Complainant sought an update with regards to progress in securing the appropriate roof light. No response was received to that email and so the Complainant sought a further update on 3 and 4 December 2019. On 5 December 2019, the Respondent replied confirming the roof light would be delivered by 31 January 2020. The Complainant responded on the same day, expressing her dissatisfaction that she had not been informed of this sooner.
- Works on the property came to a halt until the roof light was delivered. Progress was further delayed in March 2020 on account of COVID-19. Work restarted in late April 2020.
- From 5 December 2019 onwards, the Complainant received no further correspondence from the Respondent at all, save for the forwarding of invoices on 7 February 2020 (dated 15 December 2019) and 4 May 2020 (dated 21 March 2020).
- On 18 April 2020, the Contractor contacted the Respondent noting he had emailed an invoice the previous week and payment was due. He advised he required payment to pay contractors and suppliers. No response was forthcoming and so on 27 April 2020, the Contractor emailed the Respondent a second time, this time coping the email to the Complainant, noting that he had requested his invoice be passed onto the Complainant for payment. No response was received and so on 2 May 2020, the Contractor sent a third email to the Respondent advising that the invoice needed to be actioned otherwise the supply of the Complainant’s kitchen would be delayed. On 3 May 2020, the Complainant emailed the Respondent, forwarding on the Contractor’s email of 2 May 2020, commenting-
a.“…I find it hard to believe I’m chasing for an invoice for me to pay but it is wholly unacceptable that Clark & Hay are having to wait so long for payment, especially so in the current climate. Please do whatever possible so we can continue to progress this interminable project.”
- On 4 May 2020, the Respondent emailed Interim Invoice No.3- dated 21 March 2020 to the Complainant. He did not include within that email any explanation for the delay or his lack of contact. The Complainant replied to his email on the same day, confirming that payment would be made immediately. She also noted that the works against the invoice had not been verified by the Respondent either by way of a site visit or a consultation. She sent a further email confirming payment had been made. The Respondent did not reply to either email.
- On 13 July 2020, the Complainant terminated the Respondent’s appointment. On 14 July 2020, she made a formal complaint to the ARB.
- The Respondent accepts that he did not adequately communicate with the Complainant, by not responding to her correspondence in a timely manner, from 5 December 2019, through to when his appointment was terminated on 13 July 2020. He accepts that as the architect appointed on the project his responsibilities extended to monitoring the progress of the Works against the Building Programme and to review that progress with the Contractor and report to the Complainant. He also had an obligation to communicate in a timely manner in his capacity as Contract Administrator.
- Whilst the Respondent’s frequency of communication with the Complainant from September 2019 through to 4 December 2019 was not ‘unacceptably low’ so as to amount to Unacceptable Professional Conduct, he accepts his communication could and should have been more frequent, particularly when the Complainant flagged her concerns regarding the Respondent’s communication during a meeting on 1 October 2019
Statement as to Unacceptable Professional Conduct:
- In light of the admission above, the Respondent further admits that his conduct in relation to the adequacy of his communication with the Complainant from 5 December 2019 onwards amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- Standard 6.2 of the 2017 Code expects an architect to carry out their professional work without undue delay. Standard 6.3 requires an architect to keep their client informed of the progress of work they undertake on their behalf and of any issue which significantly affects its quality or cost.
- The Respondent accepts that he is in breach of these Standards. As a professional, the Respondent had an obligation to adequately correspond with his client throughout the duration of his appointment. The Complainant was ultimately left to manage and complete the project alongside the Contractor, which was a serious failure on the Respondent’s part.
- 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 disciplinary 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 and the mitigation advanced by the Respondent in his witness statement dated 30 November 2021, the parties agree that a reprimand is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.