Serious concerns about architects are rare. On the limited occasions they do occur, as the UK regulator we are here to ensure standards, and therefore trust, in the profession is maintained. We hope the information published about conduct and competence decisions provides useful learning points for others.
On 4 October 2019 the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) issued architect Mr Toby Howell, of Mitchell Evans LLP, Godalming with a Penalty Order of £2,500 after a finding of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC) in relation to the control and management of his practice.
In early 2015 Mr Howell’s practice was retained to assist a client with a cottage extension. During the project the client’s main contacts at the practice were architectural technicians. The client raised concerns about incomplete works when they moved back into the property, and they first met Mr Howell in May 2017 when he attended the property as the practice architect. The client then complained to ARB following frustrations with the completion of an extensive snagging list.
Following an investigation, it was alleged that Mr Howell failed to ensure the architectural work of his practice was under the control and management of one or more architects as outlined in Standards 3.4 and 4.1 of the Architects Code. Mr Howell admitted that he had failed in this regard from May to October 2017, and that this amounted to UPC.
The PCC accepted Mr Howell’s admission relating to the control and management of work between May and October 2017 and further found that the client had not been notified of the name of the architect with management and control of the work from May 2015 to May 2017.
In considering sanction the PCC noted Mr Howell had previously been found guilty of UPC by the PCC in November 2016 for failing to ensure an ongoing dispute was satisfactorily resolved and for making a statement which was inaccurate, misleading and dishonest.
The PCC however accepted the previous case was not identical in nature and there was no further allegation of dishonesty or a lack of integrity. It also took into account that Mr Howell had changed the management of his practice to ensure there would be no repetition of his failings. In light of his guilty plea and evidence of remorse it concluded that a penalty order of £2,500 was the appropriate and proportionate sanction.
A copy of the PCC Decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.
Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects
• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.
• The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The PCC determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.
Where a guilty finding is made, the PCC will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
– a reprimand
– a penalty order
– a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
– an erasure order
• Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
For further information, please contact Kate Howlett, Communications Lead on 020 7580 5861 or by email at KateH@arb.org.uk.