An ArchiTeam member has written in to What could possibly go wrong? asking if they should sign a form from their client’s financial institution saying that the project conforms with various regulations.
Dear What could possibly go wrong?
I have been asked by my client to sign a form from their financial institution saying that I confirm that the design and contract documentation for the project meets all relevant authority and statutory requirements. This doesn’t feel right, should I be signing something like this?
Dear ArchiTeam member,
There is a lot going on with this request and we are hearing that there is a bit of this going around at the moment.
Firstly, this request is coming from a third party that you have no relationship with or obligation to. The client architect agreement sets out clearly what you will be doing, check it. I’d be surprised if it says that you’ll be signing a form like this.
Now for the other bits, and this is a big big one to keep foremost in your thinking at all times with anything you agree to do or forms you sign. Your ArchiTeam group professional indemnity insurance covers you only for the work usually done by an architect. Anything you agree to do outside of this work you will be personally liable for. Yes, that’s right, personally liable for, so be very very careful there is a lot to lose.
One of the good questions to ask yourself to check for this and other issues is – does the training and day to day activities of architects equip them to know or find out what all the relevant authority and statutory requirements are and does the project comply? It’s a big topic. I wonder who would know what they ALL are at any one point in time let alone if your design and docs comply with the fine detail of each and every one.
Architects don’t issue any permits – applications are made to others for planning and building. How many projects have you done where your design and docs have had a permit issued without question? In other words you don’t know for sure and it’s not your job to sign off on compliance.
Why are they even asking you to sign a form like this anyway? Well, I reckon it is all a part of a risk shifting exercise. Are they asking others to sign this form to spread their chances of recovery around? Are they working their way down a list as each one rejects it?
I’ve been talking with the ArchiTeam insurance broker, Greg Hansen from Austbrokers Countrywide, about this. Greg also represents a number of building surveyors where there have been some issues in signing off on projects, especially where flammable cladding is involved. I’m told that building surveyors are now having trouble in getting indemnity insurance at all. So they won’t be keen to take responsibility on this form. Of all the disciplines involved they are probably the ones that are best placed to know what the rules are. If they sign it then you don’t need to and if they won’t why would you?
It is very difficult to see where there is any upside at all for you in taking on this risk. Or for that matter the ArchiTeam group PI policy or for the broker or for the insurer, even if they agree that you would be covered. Yep, it’s only in the interests of the financial institution. If they want it signed the client might have to engage someone else to audit their project for compliance. I couldn’t even begin to think what discipline that might be, so to me it could be a mission impossible.
If it were me I’d be saying to my client something like, I’m sorry but I can’t sign a form like this, it’s outside my area of expertise.
Peter Finn, architect
Disclaimer – ‘What could possibly go wrong’ is not an advice column, it is only general comment from ArchiTeam who are not aware of your circumstances with any issue that you may have. You cannot rely on these general comments, each member must make their own decisions about any action they should take and seek independent advice of their own if they are unsure.