If ever you instruct an architect to build or make extensive redesigns to a building, you want to be sure that you get both the right architect for the job and the right builder to carry out the work required. A recent architect professional negligenceclaim highlights many of the issues and dangers that typify the client-architect relationship. Indeed, it should be seen as instructive.
The case concerned a married couple who bought a property in the desirable riverside location of Putney, West London. They had instructed a firm of architects to plan the redesign, which, in turn, had connected the claimants with a firm of builders – recommending its quote on the work as being both cheap and reliable.
However, several weeks after the near £300,000 works were completed on the £1.7 million property, a number of defects became clear: damp, defective floor tiles, as well as faulty plumbing and electrical works included.
Expressing obvious concern, the owners of the property decided to pursue an architect professional negligence claim, arguing that, as the overseeing architect, the defendant failed to adequately monitor the work of the builder. In short, argued the claimant, the architect should have noticed the defects and taken steps to remedy them.
However, when it also became clear that the building firm had filed for insolvency, the claimants were left with the architects as the sole potential defendant, so took out an architect professional negligence claim for a full £800,000 (including potential losses).
However, the defendant attempted to counter the claim by arguing that the retainer included a net contribution clause, which limited their liability: “Our liability for loss and damage will be limited to the amount that is reasonable for us to pay in relation to the contractual responsibilities of other consultants, contractors and specialists appointed by you.”
However, in considering the net contribution clause, the judge hearing the case ruled that as the architect had both recommended the builder and received a fee for their work, it could not hide from liability in the specific wording of the net contribution clause. As such, the architect professional negligence claim succeeded, and the claimants will receive a payout.