When can one sue architects for poor work?

When acting in a professional capacity, architects are responsible for several different aspects of building. In addition to various regulations which must be adhered to, architects are also bounded by client requests and budgetary demands, all of which can sometime conflict.

When an architect fails to satisfy certain requirements and the client suffers a loss as a result, the client may be able to sue. Architects should therefore be careful to avoid situations where the building is non-compliant with either the applicable regulations or the client’s specifications.

Who regulates architects?

When using the services of an architect you can expect a high standard of work due to their heavy regulation. Regulatory bodies include:

  • The Royal Institute of British Architects
  • Since 1997, the Architects Registration Board has existed that has a code of conduct (the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Competence) that all architects should comply with

This code includes a process whereby a complaint can be made about an architect if you feel that they have been negligent when working on your project.

Before engaging an architect you should be aware that the term ‘architect’ is protected under Section 20 of the Architects Act 1997. You should always check the credentials of anyone that claims to be an architect with the Architects Registration Board.

How to sue an architect

If you think that the architect you have used is guilty of negligence, the Architects Registration Board, through the magistrates’ courts, can prosecute them. This applies to architects who are based in:

  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

If you are in Scotland, prosecutions of architects for negligence are handled by the Procurator Fiscal’s office. If you are unsure of your legal standing regarding a case of negligence you want to bring against an architect, contact a solicitor as early as you can.

What kind of negligence can I sue for?

Negligence by your architect could take many forms. An architect’s negligence could range from:

  • A low level of expertise when working on your project
  • Dangerous buildings that may have caused you a personal injury

In the case of Anderson v Benson, architects failed to warn the client that both planning permissions and third party rights were being violated. The court found that the client had a right to sue the architects.

The central legal question related to the level of loss that should be the responsibility of the architects. As the client was himself sued for the violation by third parties the court decided that all legal expenses (including an agreed settlement) which the client incurred were the sole responsibility of the architects.

If you have had a bad experience with building professionals, and you are looking to sue, architects will almost always engage legal professionals to defend them, in order to defend not only the claim, but also their professional reputation. It is therefore advisable to discuss the merits of your case with a specialised professional negligence solicitor before bringing a claim.

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