Dear What Could Possibly,
My client says that it is not fair for me to invoice them for extra work that I’ve had to do with the additions to the project that they’ve made during construction. They say that it is should just be included in the overall percentage for the total cost of the project.
I feel a bit awkward about asking them to pay more for all the extra work that I’ve had to do. What is the right thing with this?
Of course, clients don’t want to pay, who does? But then you are not a charity. You are running a business that must make a profit and you have various bills to pay, maybe staff to pay and at home, there are mouths to feed. All this is paid for by someone paying you for your expertise and effort, usually costed on a time basis, either inhouse against the fee or an invoice for your time to the client.
It is the client’s project and naturally, they must pay for everything, as well as you.
As far as any ‘extra’ charges are concerned, what are the terms of your engagement? The charges are not an ‘extra’ if they are a part of your engagement for work outside the percentage fee. If necessary include the passage from the agreement allowing this with the invoice. Your agreement must have hourly rates for additional works which have been outlined in your fee proposal. In the initial meeting with your client discuss examples where these fees could be incurred. The client deserves all of the information to make an informed decision, and this also helps form mutual respect. There’s no benefit for anyone in mystery and misunderstanding. You also have legal obligations to the ‘consumer’, make sure you understand what they are. Where fees are liable let the client know before you do any work so that the client understands and can sign off.
If it is not part of your agreement this time make sure it is in the future. You are entitled to get paid for your work.
A director from a large well known and respected practice recently told me that they charge for every ‘extra’ now ‘wherever we can’.’ We didn’t use to do this; we always did things for the client at no charge.’ Why the change in attitude? He said that this is the result of being screwed down by project managers for cost and performance. For any work that might be outside the brief or approved documents etc. a variation claim is sent in, just like a builder does, and no work is done until it's signed off. He said he still doesn’t like project managers but feels a bit better about them now when they approve the ‘extras’.
Another architect that I spoke with said that they have additions such as yours quoted to the client on a time charge basis which is signed off by the client as a variation before any work is done. They said that before they adopted this process there were requests for variations where drawings were prepared and quoted by the builder, but the addition did not go ahead. Because the contract sum didn’t alter, there wasn’t a charge as per the usual percentage fee. This seems a bit too charitable. They now get a lot less of the ‘suck it and see’ approach from clients.
You are in the business of being an architect who provides a great value service and looks after the client’s interests and you are entitled to get paid for your work.
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.