ARB Insight, August 2023
Professional Consultants Certificates (commonly known as PCCs) are often signed by architects. They provide reassurance that construction work has been carried out in a way that is compliant with Building Regulations and any contractual instructions for the purposes of securing a mortgage on a property. By signing a Professional Consultants Certificate you are creating liabilities to current and future owners. However, Professional Consultants Certificates are not guarantees for construction as an NHBC (National House Building Council) Warranty would be, and before issuing one you may want to take legal advice on whether it is appropriate.
A common complaint we encounter occurs when an architect has signed a Professional Consultants Certificate and the client then seeks to hold them liable for defective work. We also see complaints where an individual has purchased a new home and later finds issues that need to be remedied.
Although these types of complaints do not generally result in further action being taken by ARB, some reveal a mishandling of the responsibilities and conduct expected of architects. For example, a recent hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee found that an architect had signed certificates without having carried out the required inspections, despite confirming that they had done so. Not only was this creating an unacceptable risk for their practice and anyone else relying on the accuracy of the certificate, but it was a dishonest statement that ultimately led to their erasure from the Register.
Despite the risks involved, we realise that providing Professional Consultants Certificates is a legitimate basis of some architects’ practice. It is also the case that, while being the subject of a claim or complaint may be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to minimise the risk:
- Dispel misconceptions
We recommend that you clarify the limitations of Professional Consultants Certificates when engaging with your client, explaining that they are based on site inspections and signify that the work appears to be compliant with the drawings and Building Regulations. We also suggest that you explain what type of issues are not included in or covered by these inspections. It may also be helpful to highlight the differences between Professional Consultants Certificates and other warranties as explained above.
- Keep clear records
Good written records of an inspection can help you defend against a claim. This includes keeping a record of any areas you were unable to inspect, and why, and noting these in your certification.
- Ensure you’re covered
Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) or other appropriate insurance cover is essential to protect the interests of both you and your client. We recommend seeking guidance from an appropriate expert adviser to ensure you have the right cover, and maintaining your insurance for the period of liability. You can click here for further guidance from us on PII.
Although serious concerns about architects are rare, common themes can emerge in the complaints that ARB handles. By sharing these insights with you, along with guidance on the expectations of the Architects Code we hope to help you avoid similar pitfalls.
If you would like further advice on this subject or if there are other topics you would like us to cover, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.