Ms Zoe Polya-Vitry - Architects Registration Board
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Ms Zoe Polya-Vitry

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Ms Zoe Polya-Vitry (071094F)

———-

Emma Boothroyd (Chair)

David Kann (PCC Architect Member)

Alastair Cannon (PCC Lay Member)

———–

In respect of the charges against Zoe Polya-Vitry (“the Respondent”):

The Respondent:

    1. 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 her in the terms set out below;
    2. confirms that she has been offered the opportunity to appear before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee to present her case, but does not wish 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 the Respondent in the terms set out below:

The Allegation:

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;
  1. The Respondent did not produce adequate drawings and/or documentation at Stage 3 and/or Stage 4 of the project.

Statement of agreed facts:

  1. The Respondent is a registered architect and Director at Zoe Polya-Vitry Ltd.
  1. In November 2018, AL (“the Complainant”) and her partner first met with the Respondent to discuss a proposed project that included refurbishment and interior design works at the Complainant’s home. Initially it was envisaged that the works would be carried out across two floors and would include a re-fit of two existing bathrooms, installation of a new kitchen, and alteration works to the mezzanine floor to create a study/library. It was also intended that new flooring be installed in the two bedrooms and bathrooms, together with new light fittings and radiators.  The Complainant told the Respondent that her budget for the works was £80,000.
  1. 3.On 15 January 2019, the Respondent wrote to the Complainant confirming the proposed works and setting out her fees. She stated that she would be appointed in accordance with the RIBA Plan of Work 2013. The letter set out five stages for the proposed works and enclosed a separate terms and conditions document. 
  1. 4.Having obtained an initial cost estimate from a proposed contractor, and following discussions between the parties, it was agreed that the scope of works would be reduced so as to carry out works to refurbish the top floor of the property only. 
  1. A measured survey was conducted in February 2019. Initial design proposals were produced on 4 April 2019, and labelled ‘RIBA Stages I & II’.  Further proposed drawings were produced on 7 May 2019 and noted to be Stage 3 drawings.
  1. On 12 June 2019, the Respondent provided an updated cost estimate. This estimate was £80,000 plus VAT (total £96,090) and in excess of the Complainant’s budget of £80,000. During an exchange of correspondence between the Complainant and Respondent, the Complainant said that she had not previously understood that construction costs would exclude VAT, architects’ fees and any other consultation fees which would be required to be paid on top.
  1. On 29 June 2019, the Respondent provided a third cost estimate to the Complainant. This estimate was for £75,235 plus VAT (total £90,282).   The Respondent suggested ways that savings could be considered.
  1. The Respondent prepared and submitted further proposed drawings in December 2019. The Respondent advised that these were completed Stage 4 drawings. 
  1. In January 2020, the Respondent and Complainant exchanged correspondence regarding the Respondent’s most recent invoice.  The Complainant’s partner also raised with the Respondent that in the Respondent’s fee proposal that had agreed to her fees being “15% of the construction cost, currently assumed at £80,000”. The Complainant advises that by this stage they had paid 70% of the Respondent’s fees. However, if they paid the Respondent’s most recently invoice then they would have paid more than the 15% fee due.
  1. The Respondent replied and stated that there was the cost of the measured survey to include which was outside of her fees, plus VAT to be included. The Complainant advises that her position was that their overall budget of £80,000 was for the entire project, to include any VAT. The Respondent advised that her latest invoice had been reduced to reflect the latest construction cost of £75,000.
  1. The Respondent and the Complainant’s partner exchanged further correspondence regarding costs. In particular it was noted that the first two invoices paid by the Complainants had been calculated on a construction cost of £80,000 excluding VAT, and not £75,000 excluding VAT. The Respondent replied and advised that the reduction only applied to Stage 4 and that the first three stages had been based on the £80,000 design.
  1. The Complainant took over correspondence with the Respondent and said that the sum of £80,000 on which the first three stages were based was the wrong amount due to issues regarding the payment of VAT. The Complainant requested that the fees be reduced downwards. The Respondent agreed to reduce her fees.
  1. On 22 January 2020 the Respondent provided a further cost estimate as prepared by the proposed contractor. This cost estimate was for £77,464 plus VAT (total £92,955.60). The Respondent advised that the estimate was for the Stage 4 drawings and included lighting and small power. She advised that there were some savings offered on the quote that could be actioned to reduce the overall cost.
  1. Between 17 and 19 February 2020, the Respondent exchanged further emails with the Complainant’s partner regarding a Domestic Construction Contract on the RIBA website. During that exchange, the Complainant’s partner noted there had been a lack of clarity in costs and he stated that her terms and conditions that had been provided had been severely lacking in detail.
  1. A meeting was then held on 26 February 2020. During that meeting the Complainant said that she had doubts about the Respondent’s ability to manage the project. Following that meeting the Respondent wrote to the Complainant saying they had terminated the contract. The Complainant says that they had not done so but they did want to get second opinions from different architects.
  1. The Complainant then sought second opinions from three independent architects. Those architects advised the Complainant that the drawings produced were not Stage 4 drawings but were Stage 2 or Stage 3 drawings. On 7 March 2020 the Complainant asked the Respondent to complete her Stage 4 drawings or to reimburse their costs. The Respondent replied on 9 March 2020 and advised that Stage 4 was complete.
  1. On 30 March 2020 the Complainant made a formal complaint to the Respondent. On 3 April 2020, the Respondent emailed the Complainant and advised that the Stage 4 drawings were not for construction but were substantially completed for their purpose. She advised she was adding clarification notes to the drawings and supplementing the Schedule of Works with materials and fittings
  1. On 9 April 2020 the Respondent emailed the Complainant and provided Stage 4 drawings and additional notes and clarifications. These drawings contained more detail and specifications that those drawings that had previously been labeled as complete.
  1. On 11 April 2020 the Complainant’s partner emailed the Respondent and noted that they had requested a refund, not completion of the drawings. On 15 June 2020 the Complainant made a formal complaint to the ARB.

Inquirer

  1. As part of ARB’s investigation, ARB instructed an independent inquirer to provide a report in relation to the drawings prepared by the Respondent. In conclusion, the Inquirer advised that the drawings prepared for Stage 1 and 2 fell below but not seriously below the standard expected of a reasonably competent architect. The Inquirer concluded that the Stage 3 and Stage 4 drawings and documents in particular contained numerous deficiencies and omissions. He concluded that cumulatively there were many deficiencies and that the drawings fell significantly short of the reasonable expectations of an architect.

Admissions:

  1. The Respondent admits that she did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout. The Respondent admits that she had a professional obligation to provide the Complainant with full and adequate terms of engagement in accordance with the requirements of the Code.
  1. The Respondent admits that her letter of 15 January 2019 was 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 letter of 18 June 2019 did not set out in full who would be responsible for what, any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties, the provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement, a statement confirming adequate and appropriate insurance cover was in place and that a complaints handling procedure was available on request. The Respondent accepts that her terms of engagement lacked clarity around charging and costs.
  1. The Respondent admits that she did not produce adequate drawings and/or documentation at Stage 3 and/or Stage 4 of the project. The Respondent accepts that the drawings were not adequate for the purposes for which they were produced and that the documents and drawings contained a significant number of omissions.

Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct:

  1. In light of the admission above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct. 
  1. 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. An architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work.  The Respondent accepts that her terms of engagement were inadequate.
  1. The Respondent accepts that it was necessary for her 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 mean that if issues arise later in the process then it may be more difficult to resolve matters without clarity as to important matters such as costs. The Respondent accepts that setting out full and accurate terms of engagement in writing prior to undertaking professional work is essential for both the architect and their client in order that the parties are aware of their respective rights and obligations. 
  1. Standard 6.1 of the Code expects an architect to carry out their work with skill and care, in accordance with their terms of engagement. The Respondent did not apply sufficient skill or care on this project; she accepts that her drawings were not sufficiently detailed for the relevant stages and it is likely that accurate costings would not be able to be provided had the matter progressed. The work produced by the Respondent, and invoiced by her, was not in accordance with that expected by her client. The Respondent’s actions in this regard were a breach of Standard 6.1 of the Code.

Disciplinary Order:

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:

  1. In all of the circumstances, the Respondent agrees to a penalty order in the sum of £1,000.
  1. The Respondent has no previous disciplinary history. She has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. She has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct. 
  1. 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 above considerations, the parties agree that a penalty order in the sum of £1,000 is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.