What is going on with Architect....how to change

(18 Posts)
DadOfThreeGirls123 Sun 16-Oct-16 12:15:51

Hi everyone - need some advice re our architect.

We decided upon an extension last year to our semi detached, modernising the current building plus adding space downstairs for extended kitchen + dining room and upstairs bathroom and two extra bedrooms.

We approached a few architects (November '15) but all were busy until March '16. We found a local Council list of architects and builders that we took as recommended (subsequently we've been told by Planning they are just people they use not recommend - so why are they on your website??).

We instructed this guy on their list mid November '15. He did the house survey Thursday 21st January. We didn't see any Draft plans until Mid March. We liked a few of his ideas (and some we didn't as they seemingly based on ideas from his own house on his website) and asked for a meeting to discuss changes.

He sent us an email to say the Drafts were complete and to pay his drafting fee but we said we wanted changes to them. With no reply, we paid and asked to see him but did not hear back until 28th April to meet in early May...

At this point we were becoming quite concerned. We were not able to make his date but didn't hear from him until 16th May citing his dad had passed away and was telling us all about the funeral etc. At this point we lost a lot of confidence in his professional abilities as we thought if he had been unable to continue or was having family difficulties then to at least let us know or to hand over to another firm.

We didn't hear from him again until end of May saying he had gone away for the bank holiday weekend. We had a meeting at the start of June face to face (not actually seen him since March) to suggest improvements to the original drafts - the meeting was tense because he did not like my wifes requests stating he had many years of experience of what looked good in a design.

Mid June we received a 5th Version of the plans (the first 4 were in March) and we confirmed 1st July to go ahead with them to Planning.

4th August we asked where we were at with the Planning but nothing was heard.

6th September he emails over a 6th Version of the plans with Elevations (Which we had never seen before) which were very different from version 5 - stating he had been away on holiday. The plans were very similar to a property across the road from us who had a 2 storey extension. At this point we were quite angry with him and wrote back stating what had happened to the plans from June. We also stating that the elevations revealed aspects we were not happy with and I made Photoshop edits to the plans which he then incorporated.

He then invoiced us for £800 for finishing the plans, which TBH still looked like the draft plans except the wording had changed to FINAL and still had some TBC messages. I think I'm in the wrong job if I can charge £800 for a few words. 2 hard copies were promised too.

At this point I contacted the RIBA to find out where we stood.

8th September I asked for clarification of his fees and got a reply 19th September. He was also pushing for us to get outside rendering from a firm he knew. We had already discarded some big fold out doors/windows from a company he knew too.

At this point I said our funding was a bit all over the place and he'd be paid for these plans 31st Sept/1st October. He then chased US for the fees on the 1st whilst I was paying him!

He then said he had submitted the plans 3rd October and we then had to pay the Council a planning fee - a surprise to us as it was not mentioned in the list of fees - yes this does have to be paid but it was not mentioned as a part of the planning process by the architect. Nor was the massive build regulation fee the council needs. This did not include the £65 he wanted for submitting the plans. When speaking to the Council to pay their fee, it also came up that he had given us the WRONG planning application number - so we are hoping he has given them the right plans!!

Our plans are now in Planning. Nearly a year since the start of the Project. sad We are mentally exhausted and wish we had never started.

He wants another £1545 from us to do the Building Regs part of the project.

We need some answers before we continue any further. Advice or thoughts from others, especially architects, in the know would really help here.

a) Is this normal? Was our expectations too high for getting to initial build by August?
b) In our shoes would you fire the architect? How is this done?
c) Once past planning and if we get the thumbs up, how do we use another architect? My father in law says the plans are ours but I know they belong to him re copyright. How do we license the plans? there is no way on earth we are starting again from scratch as that is a lot of money wasted we cannot afford to lose.

thanks for any pointers! Sorry this has been a ramble!

dynevoran Sun 16-Oct-16 13:09:37

This is ridiculous. We are London zone 3 and we contacted a few architects, they all came within a week or so, we chose the one we thought got the vision best and whose previous projects we liked the most and then we instructed him and they started straight away. We contacted him in June and we applied for planning in July once we had completed enough iterations of the designs that we were happy with it. Received planning in September due to council delays. Overall paid just less than 10% of project costs and work has started over a month ago with no hitches so far.

You have received such a poor level of service from your architect I can't believe it. You were being quite realistic in expecting to be much further along by now.

I would disinstruct him and not pay a penny more. I would contact a smaller practice, show them what you have applied for and get them to take over.

I don't have much experience in the field but in my work field (tax advisor) we often take on work from a client who has become dissatisfied with their previous adviser and we always do it in the mist cost effective way by trying our best to avoid them paying twice for something but at the same time making sure that everything is thoroughly and accurately completed. Good luck and I hope an architect can come along and give you some reassurance.

DadOfThreeGirls123 Sun 16-Oct-16 13:28:39

Thanks for the reply smile We were unsure if we were being unrealistic. We're so far down the pipe in time and money that we can't give up but we're of the view if he's messed up so far, whats it going to be like with the detailed plans, the building regs etc.

BTW the promised hard copy submitted plans haven't turned up sad

I just logged into the planning department and checked that the plans are the ones we wanted submitted (luckily yes). Although the elevations do seem to show the neighbouring connecting wall in both East and West views... {facepalm}

If/when planning comes through (he has to do all the to and fro if they have any objections), can we simply email him to say We no longer require his services?

What happens then to his remaining fees (for work not yet done)?
Do other architects have methods/plans in place for taking over a job like this?

BTW he seems to be a one man band; although he told us at one point he works with a couple of other designers - if that were true why are we delayed THIS much...

thanks!

johnd2 Sun 16-Oct-16 14:11:41

I think this is crazy, we invited a few architects over the same time as you (Nov), chose the one we liked most, and even though the council took the longest possible time for both planning and building regulations, we still just started building. That includes being let down by the original SE and difficultly getting a start date from a builder. We also told the architect there's no big hurry.
The architect is the most important as they tie the whole process together. I can call or email mine and get a reply within working hours. They were the most expensive though.
Personally I think you need a more responsive one as think what happens if there's an issue on site and you need his input? The builders won't wait too long for an update.
You certainly need to be careful how you move over, as we had a bit of a question about changing SE's due to some professional ethics issues, but it was all fine in the end.
If the plans are on the council web site as a public record, you might be able to point the new architect there and they get what they need. Check what they say though.
Good luck!

poochiepants Sun 16-Oct-16 19:56:05

It doesn't need to be him that does the building regs, he's likely even subcontracting it anyway. And are there any party walls to be considered as he definitely won't handle those.

Where are you based? Look locally to see if there's a build consultancy that can help, and also check your contract with the architect to check that you own the plans he's done to date. Even just calling a chartered surveyor to get advice would be better - RIBA look after architects, so contact RICS to see what you need to do next, and who might be able to help.

poochiepants Sun 16-Oct-16 19:57:57

And to be honest, if he hasn't delivered what was agreed in a timely manner, then you should be able to easily step away.

JT05 Sun 16-Oct-16 21:13:17

Do you have a written contract? Did the Architect give you a wrtten breakdown of fees paid at each stage?

If you have no contract then I'd dump him and look for another architect who will give you a contract with a get out clause at each stage, ie. After planning, after building regs.

Re planning, usually there is a pre planning application make sure the project will at least get off the ground. Then a full planning application to get the required permission. The building reg. Application can be done by the Architect or the builder.
Sounds like your chap has only got as far as pre planning.

JT05 Sun 16-Oct-16 21:15:52

I correct myself, as you say you have a full planning application.

DadOfThreeGirls123 Tue 18-Oct-16 13:32:08

Hi all - thanks for replies - I've dug the original contract out - all fairly ok; apart from getting my wifes name wrong from the start and wanting £110 for any one to one visits after the initial plans discussion.

What most stood out was his own timeline -

7 to 9 weeks from instruction (November '15 by our reckoning) to submission of the planning application. He then talks about planning taking up to 8 weeks.

7 to 9 weeks? And yet our application was made 3rd October '16. And there wasn't even a huge amount of back and forth for redesign of the draft plans.

We are done with this guy but are finding it impossible to work out another firm to go with. We're in West Sussex. We're doing online searches and checking the ARB and RIBA. But this guy was in both so how do you tell a bad from a good egg??

DadOfThreeGirls123 Tue 18-Oct-16 13:35:36

Oh and there is nothing in the contract about copyright of plans nor getting out of it. Everything is laid out in step by step payments. He says we will need a Structural Engineer and he can recommend one at a later date (this hasn't happened). There is also mention of the Party Wall Act and that we may need to get Party Wall consent and that he can advise on this element. Again not forthcoming.

Stokey Tue 18-Oct-16 14:34:09

We're at early stages but this sounds crazy.

All the architects that we've seen have put together very clear fee proposal for each stage of the process. Riba has guidelines as to what should be included.

All of ours have a set fee to get you up to tender stage - through drawings, survey, planning etc - and then a coninuting estimate of how much they would charge to get you further i.e if you wanted to use them for project management. They have also given a timeline much as you suggest: two months to go through drawing stages & get ready for planning, two months to get through planning, and another two months to get tenders & assess tenders.

We have also been told we will need a structural engineer and possibly a party wall surveyor, but guess this comes at the post planning stage? The architects have given estimates of how much this will cost.

Have RIBA come back to you with anything? Seems appalling.

poochiepants Tue 18-Oct-16 19:26:59

Are you happy with the design, so do you still need an architect? It's not always necessary to have the architect throughout the project, you just need a good project manager who understands what needs to happen and when. Where in West Sussex are you?

OnePlanOnHouzz Wed 19-Oct-16 08:03:33

His contract doesn't sound valid - it needs to address your rights to cancel - and explain how you do so - does it say if you can have a digital copy of the drawings ? As if you can get a DXF or DWG copy that might lower your costs when bringing on board a new architect ( saves a few hours CAD input )

Aftershock15 Wed 19-Oct-16 08:35:26

I think you should walk away but wouldn't like to do it until you have the hard copies of the plans in your hands. We had similar problems with our architect and should have walked away after the first plans came back and included things I had explicitly said I didn't want. Instead we carried on and everything dragged on for months - especially getting the tender documents produced for the builders. Someone else I know of used the same guy after us, but sensibly fired him after a month. No idea how he keeps getting clients.

DadOfThreeGirls123 Mon 24-Oct-16 16:14:16

Hi everyone - well it's the 24th October and not heard anything from him re the £65 he asked for to put the plans in on the 3rd nor the hard copies of the plans promised. I just got my email server to show me the frequency of mails from the guy since last year and there are huge gaps in contact. Not when things are waiting to be done, just months when he may as well have gone to the Moon.

The trust limit has well and truly been broken. I'm going to give the RIBA a ring in a moment about the contract, as has been mentioned there is no get out clause or anything. The RIBA in the past has mentioned they don't get involved with disputes and to approach the Architect himself for a resolution. But in my eyes that's like complaining about your Manager to your Manager just when your pay review is up....

This guy is supposed to be monitoring our plans in planning right now, and "promised" feedback but that was 3 weeks ago ish and nothing - not even a bean to say Heard nothing, things are ok. Nothing about the Party Wall Act which is a one or two liner in his Contract, which apparently I have to deal with after my own research.

I even had the neighbour on the unconnected side say Hi, heard from the Council planning about your extension and we've okayed it. Nice to hear from the Architect that the letters had gone out then.

We've been recommended a few names, but one wasn't an architect, there are a few others to look at. We just want to get through planning with this guy then flush him away like the blockage he is. We've lost almost all faith in the process and wonder if we're going to be stung again and for how much.

Poochiepants - we are in Horsham.
Stokey - ours was broken down into payment stages and he even estimated it would take about 3 months from start to finish planning. Yeah right.

DadOfThreeGirls123 Fri 16-Dec-16 21:58:43

Hi everyone - an update before Christmas. And unfortunately it's not a good one.

Our plans were put in on the 3rd of October with a deadline for the 28th November. We didn't hear much except the local borough gave it the all clear. Then about 2 weeks before the deadline, the architect phones to say the council have an issue with the plans. Our extension is an enlarged kitchen + diner with an upstairs main bedroom plus unsuite and an extra standard bedroom.

The council wanted us to remove the extra bedroom but the architect said no as this was the reason for extending, providing extra sleeping room. The council backed off and said to pull the extension back 0.5m. He presented amended plans showing the 0.5m removal. We asked the him to give us the weekend to discuss and get back to him. He was in a hurray - probably because he wanted the next bit of his fee. He stated he would organise a 2 week extension to the deadline seeing as it was literally days away.

We had a look and discussed and agree 0.5m would be ok. So I emailed the architect Sunday stating to go ahead. I phoned him Monday with words to that effect. By Friday there was no change to our planning portal, no updated plans. I contacted the planning department and asked if they had received the plans, which they had not. So a week had been lost. I spoke directly to the planning officer in charge of our application - keeping as tight lipped as possible being she had the power to say Yes or No.

She was confused as she had seen and spoken to our architect on several other projects all week and there was no mention of ours. That it was impossible to proceed without the plans. I was utterly dismayed. I said he had so far taken nearly a year to get us to this point to which they were very surprised at the time but not at the issue as she believed "He had taken on too much work".

The officer said to get the plans to her and her chief surveryor or something before end of the day - she would be away the next day Friday but returning on the Monday.

I phoned the architect.

It sort of went along the lines of - Why haven't the council received our updated plans, we are extremely behind already and this delays us more, a week extra has been wasted. This is top priority and I'll send them right away. Right away being 11.30pm. To the planning officer, not to the surveryor. Secondment I think she said. So he couldn't prepare the plans for Monday and an extra day was wasted.

We hear nothing.

Today was the final day - the final legal day they MUST produce an answer. With two hours to go I phone the planning department. The officer was on lunch. I phone at 2.30. Can I ring you back in 5 minutes? It was worse than waiting for the lottery, or the dentist or nails being pulled.

The call came. We need to send an email to the architect, we'll copy you in too, informing him of what has been talked about and he will then come back to you to discuss the sphere of the discussion that needs to be had. Sorry for the delay.

Well that wasn't cryptic at all. I wanted to shout at her What the hell is wrong with you people? But that would have got a No. So I phoned the architect. Surprise no answer. I phoned his mobile. Surprise no answer. I left a message on his home phone.

Surprise no follow up.
I left two long texts on his mobile.
Surprise no answer.

Did I get an email from the council?
Surprise....

It's funny this is a netmums site - we could have had another baby and it would have been several months old by now.

What next? Email the architect? I suspect he has gone away on holiday again. On my money. And the other 89 clients he has that I found listed in the Horsham district council planning portal.

We are now at the point where if or when our plans are passed we will want a serious discount on the next steps. If we don't then a refund of "work" so far.

There must be an architect on here to advise what to do next??

thanks

johnd2 Sat 17-Dec-16 12:20:10

Best advice given by our architect was basically, if you're making the most fuss you'll get the most attention. All these people are taking on multiple jobs and splitting their time trying to do as little as necessary to get the result. Just keep in charge of communication.
Admittedly our architect is very responsive, but before we signed, he said, we're probably a little more expensive but that means we can spend the time we need on your project. And they have. But I think keep making a fuss with everyone and see how you get on. Good luck!

DadOfThreeGirls123 Sun 26-Feb-17 16:59:47

Ok final follow up.

I was end of my tether - it was causing a lot of stress at home, arguments. Planning for Christmas was going out of the window as we didn't know when we needed the money for the architect. I ended up talking to the Head Planner at Horsham council. He could not believe what had happened and stated that what had been happening was that our officer had been telling the architect to make adjustments and he simply wasn't doing them. The head planner invited me into the office on the 27th December to discuss our plans and see how we can achieve what we wanted. He wanted to by pass the Architect.

On the 27th, the head planner produced an A1 sheet of paper with a plan on it that was different from what the architect was telling us the council were looking at. I asked why had the council told the architect to shave 45 degrees off one of the bedrooms - he was perplexed. They hadn't. He then said Ok write these down, this is what you need to do to pass planning - edit the plan in Photoshop and send it back and we will check it and pass it. !!! We added a window and changed the size of the windows at the back.
He then asked if we were on good terms with the neighbour on the adjoining side; asking could we ask if we could take some photos from inside the house and near the north facing windows to prove to the council and anyone else it is already dark in the house because it is north facing. This I did and the neighbour was happy. I edited the plans and sent them off.

Two weeks later the neighbour sent an official complaint about our plans.... a day before we were due to get Planning Permission. Citing Why did I take photos, effects of light, noise, part wall etc. The council said although they had to hear his complaint, it was too late to stop the plans.

I contacted the architect saying I was dealing with the council. He was confused.

16th January we got Planning Permission. 1 year 2 months after the start of our project and 1 planning attempt. I then sent a complaint to the architect, stating all the issues and that we wanted a substantial discount of the remaining £2000. He offered 10%. We said Goodbye and asked for the digital plans.

We now have a new architect who said the process for Building Regs will take him about 2/3 weeks and we are looking to build in the Spring. About 9 months late. I hope there is a Silver Lining!

Thanks for listening.

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