An ArchiTeam member has written in asking about doing inspections on a project where they are have not been engaged for contract admin.
Dear What could possibly go wrong?
I have been asked by a developer to carry out inspections on their projects. They have reached completion and are ready for handover. I’ve been asked to report on the quality of the work that has been done and any defects. It will be done on an hourly rate which is tempting but I wonder if this could lead to problems for me.
Dear ArchiTeam member,
They have not involved you with the projects to date but now they would like you to inspect the work and report. Is this yet another example of risk shifting.
You have not selected the builder as part of a tender EOI process, including references, so you don’t really know who they are in the sense of their approach to standards and good practice. Have there been directions from others, like the engineer, that you are not aware of and have not been rectified but you are about to ‘sign off’ on? There will be lots of unknowns when you have not done any contract admin.
For not much cost they will move defect issues onto you. That is, the ones that you either missed or couldn’t see because you could only carry out a visual inspection of the works. Also, when a claim is made, even if you’re right, it could be very costly and time-consuming just to defend it. Defending an accusation or a claim can be the biggest part of the costs of a claim. That’s why a ‘commercial decision’ is often made by the insurer to settle just because it is cheaper than proving you are right.
What about PI cover. If you participate in the ArchiTeam group insurance policy you signed an application form that says in part – I understand that building inspections are not part of this policy. I agree to consult with the directors and the claims manager prior to undertaking any such inspections. This type of work is seen as extremely high risk and that is why it is not covered under the group policy. When you consult with the directors it will be suggested that you take out a stand-alone policy, the ArchiTeam broker can possibly arrange it for you. This is not a problem if you want to do this sort of work. If you do, you should carefully consider the full range of disclaimers and try to limit your exposure to risk.
ArchiTeam’s insurance broker’s claims specialist for professional risk Josie Schena said “We have seen many claims in this area where such inspections are relied upon and the architect is drawn into an action and most usually held liable. It is also important for the members to know that they will not be covered as a standard under their PI policies”.
Inspections can be defined as a ‘formal evaluation exercise’, I avoid the use of the word ‘inspection’ in all my projects. Observations can be defined as an ‘act or instance of noticing or perceiving’. There is a difference between the two. Engineers and building surveyors carry out inspections. The only thing that we architects are allowed to certify is a progress payment certificate, in all other matters I make observations.
If asked to do an inspection I’d be thinking ‘I’m not taking on the risk’ but I’d be saying ‘thanks for asking, but I’m just too busy at the moment’. Always try to retire gracefully, there may be other opportunities in the future.
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.