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Prohibited conduct provisions provide safeguards for the community. People who engage in prohibited conduct may be subject to an investigation by the ARBV and subsequent prosecution.

Tribunal decision alerts

  • Architects must enter into written agreements with their clients before they commence work. Not only is this good practice, it is a legal requirement pursuant to the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct (Code).

    Item 4 of the Code prohibits architects providing architectural services for a client unless the architect (or the relevant approved company or partnership) has entered into a written agreement with the client for the provision of those services. The agreement must address the matters listed in clause 4(2) of the Code, which include the scope and nature of the services, the timeframes in which they will be provided and how the client may authorise changes or amendments to the services. A failure to enter into a compliant written agreement is a breach of the Code, which constitutes unprofessional conduct.

    Importantly, the obligation to enter into a written agreement applies whether or not the architect is actually charging the client for his or her services, given the way in which the Code defines “client”. “Client” is defined as “an entity with whom an architect, an approved partnership or an approved company enters into an agreement (whether or not for payment) to provide architectural services” (regulation 5). So, even if architects are providing architectural services to local clubs, organisations or even friends at no cost, a written agreement must be in place.

    A written agreement ensures that both the architect and client are clear about the services to be provided and the fees (if any) to be paid. It can also assist to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes between the parties.

    For more information view the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct:

    For queries about compliance with the Code or other conduct issues contact compliance@arbv.vic.gov.au

  • Determination of the Architects Tribunal

    The Architects Tribunal has found that an architect involved in building work carried out without the required permits is guilty of unprofessional conduct.

    The matter related to the construction of a new three level home in Hampton. The architect prepared the design and administered the building contract.

    A planning permit and building permit had been issued for the construction. However, various amendments were sought so the proposed works, so an application to amend the planning permit was made.

    The building works proposed in the application to amend the planning permit were then carried out. The work related to the widening of the balcony to the attic of the dwelling, the construction of a wall to a boundary and the construction of the dwelling with an increased wall height. Given the amendments to the planning permit had not been granted, the work did not comply with the planning permit (and with respect to most of the work, did not comply with the building permit either).

    The Tribunal determined that given the architect proceeded as if the permits were in place for the work when he knew they had not been granted, he was guilty of unprofessional conduct. The architect was found to have breached 18 of the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct (Code) as included in the Architects Regulations 2015, in that he had not met his duty to “endeavour to maintain the standards and integrity of the profession of architecture” (paragraph 18).

    The Tribunal did not accept that it was permissible to allow the works to proceed because waiting for the approvals to be granted, which had already taken considerable time, would delay the progress of the project and therefore not be in the owners’ interests. The Tribunal also rejected the justification put forward by the architect that the works could revert to what was permitted by the original permits if the amendments sought were not granted.

    The Tribunal said that it was “concerning that the Architect did not appear to appreciate the inappropriateness of his conduct”. The architect was cautioned by the Tribunal and ordered to pay the costs of the inquiry.

    The decision recognises that it is fundamental to the schemes governing building work that permits be obtained before the works commence. If building work is carried out without a required permit, it may amount to an offence under planning and/or building legislation.

    The determination of the Architects Tribunal can be viewed here: 

    For queries regarding compliance with the Code or other conduct issues contact compliance@arbv.vic.gov.au

  • Determination of the Architects Tribunal

    The Architects Tribunal has found that 2 architects were careless in their practice with respect to costs and their clients’ budget.

    The 2 architects were directors of a company that provided architectural and other design services. The clients engaged the company to provide a design for a new residential dwelling and granny flat at their property in Belgrave. The project initially involved the potential use of shipping containers. The property was sloped and subject to a high Bushfire Attack Level. The clients’ budget was fixed, however the brief and instructions changed during the engagement.

    Ultimately, the architects’ design exceeded the clients’ budget and the project did not proceed.

    The 2 architects admitted that they had been careless or incompetent with respect to informing themselves and their clients about likely costs.

    The Tribunal found that that the architects:

    • failed to inform themselves about the likely costs to construct a building at the site based on their design
    • failed to adequately inform the client about the likely costs and if they could design a building within the clients’ budget

    The architects were cautioned and ordered to pay the costs of the inquiry.

    This matter illustrates that architects have an important role to play in managing costs and must have regard to a client’s budget. At times it may be necessary for an architect to advise a client (or prospective client) that the outcome they want simply cannot be achieved within their budget. This also forms part of an architect’s obligations to communicate with a client, including the obligation to provide relevant information and inform a client as set out in paragraph 7 of the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct.

    Read the determination of the Architects Tribunal:

    For queries regarding compliance with the Code or other conduct issues contact compliance@arbv.vic.gov.au

  • The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have considered a professional conduct matter involving an architect, following an appeal from a decision of the Architects Tribunal.

    The matter began with a complaint to the ARBV about the architect’s conduct with respect to architectural services he provided for an extension to a terrace house in North Fitzroy. The ARBV constituted an Architects Tribunal to conduct an inquiry into the architect’s professional conduct. The Architects Tribunal found the architect guilty of eight allegations of breaches of the Architects Act 1991 and the Architects Regulations 2004 (which applied given the timing of the conduct. The Architects Regulations 2015 came into force in May 2015).

    The architect applied to VCAT for a review of the decision, and VCAT conducted a rehearing of the inquiry. VCAT set aside the finding of the Architects Tribunal and found the four allegations proven against the architect. The allegations related to a:

    • failure to, after a change to the terms, conditions and/or scope of the engagement, to set out in writing the change and supply a copy of that document to the client
    • failure to adequately inform or consult with the client regarding the basis for an increase in the estimated cost of building works
    • failure to provide documents to the client in a format in which they could be digitally modified so they could comply with the National Construction Code and the Building Regulations 2006 (as applied at the time)

    The VCAT reprimanded the architect and ordered that he pay fines totalling $3,500, the costs of the original inquiry (save for costs specifically referable to the allegations that were not found proven against him) and a substantial part of the ARBV’s costs of the VCAT proceedings.

    The architect made an application to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal VCAT’s decision on questions of law. The Supreme Court dismissed the application.

    The architect then sought leave to appeal from that decision to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal granted leave to appeal and allowed the appeal with respect to one ground only, leading it to vary one of the orders made by VCAT but otherwise affirm its decision. As such, VCAT’s determination that three allegations against the architect, relating to the three failures set out above, stands.

    The decision highlights the importance of understanding and fulfilling professional obligations with respect to communication with clients, as set out in the Architects Regulations 2015 and the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct (Code).

    Find the VCAT determination about allegations against the architect.

    Read the VCAT decision with respect to penalty and costs and the decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal regarding the applications for leave to appeal document 1 and document 2.

    For queries regarding compliance with the Code or other conduct issues contact compliance@arbv.vic.gov.au

  • Determination of the Architects Tribunal

    The Architects Tribunal has found an architect guilty of unprofessional conduct and conduct that is careless or incompetent in his practice as an architect with respect to services for the development of a site in Kew.

    The Architects Tribunal found that the architect:

    • failed to act in the interests of the client and not favour his own interest over that of the client
    • failed to give the client written notice of a conflict of interest
    • failed to ensure that a representation made in the connection with the supply of his architectural services was accurate and current
    • was careless or incompetent in his practice with respect to providing notice of the change in scope of engagement

    The architect was fined a total of $5,000. The Tribunal also ordered that the architect pay approximately $12,500 toward the costs of the inquiry.

    Read the determination of the Architects Tribunal:

    For queries regarding compliance with the Code or other conduct issues contact compliance@arbv.vic.gov.au

Tribunal and prosecution reports

Reviewed 11 May 2021

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