Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby Fiona Mansfield » Sat May 09, 2009 6:20 pm

Having some difficulties with an architect who provided very poor service and caused damage to our house. Need to find out if she is insured, she has not answered a solicitors letter asking that question. She is a member of the RIAI. Does this mean she has to be insured?
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby parka » Sun May 10, 2009 12:27 pm

Nope, up to the Architect to sort their own insurance out. Sadly, some have ignored the importance of P.I. insurance.
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby henno » Sun May 10, 2009 6:58 pm

Fiona Mansfield wrote:Having some difficulties with an architect who provided very poor service and caused damage to our house. Need to find out if she is insured, she has not answered a solicitors letter asking that question. She is a member of the RIAI. Does this mean she has to be insured?


an architects service is usually a passive one... how did they cause damage... put a foot through a ceiling of something?
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby onq » Tue May 12, 2009 5:13 pm

Hi Fiona,

Can I first of all respectfully caution you about how you present your information in a public forum. :)

What you've posted here gives a very poor impression of the architect involved and on the face of it isn't clear what occurred.

Poor service during a job can arise from a number of legitimate factors, including pressure of work, a difficult builder or, the most unfortunate of all, a poor working relationship developing between the achitect and client, which can arise from time to time.

I'd say there are very few architects who aren't feeling the pinch right now and most are flying around like bluebottles trying to keep their practices together - those that still have them.

But it is not easy to see how an architect could have damaged your house.
Architects are primarily designers - they do not carry out the work themselves.
The architect may design the details, but its up to the contractor to build them.

The contractor's responsibility usually includes designing and installing any formwork, temporary works, propping or supports that may be required for new work, demolitions, opening up works, tie-ing in of structures, building-in of elements or extending the premises.

It is usually therefore the workmanship or working methods of the contractor that causes the physical damage during the building programme.

It is important to be clear on who has done what exactly, but I'm not suggesting you discuss this level of detail outside your solicitors office - certainly not here.

In relation to PI cover, Architects supporting the standards of the professional may carry Professional Indemnity Cover providing it is available at reasonable rates commercially.

Professional Indemnity cover generally covers loss or damages arising out of the design of the building, not damage due to works per se - one may follow from the other, but unless it can be traced back to the design, an architects PI cover may not come into play.

In relation to resolving this matter, an increasingly fraught exchange of solicitors letters may not be the best course to achieving a result to everyone's benefit.

When faced with distress like this people normally consider court action, but you should have due regard also to whatever method may be specified in any contract that may apply.

Could I respectfully suggest you also explore arbitration as well as mediation/conciliation, as time-and-cost-effective options.

Where the possibility exists of agreeing a solution, it is better to get people talking, and not have one chasing and the other furiously ignoring.

An independent Report, or the testimony of an inspecting professional may be required in order the present a legal action properly to a court, arbitrator or mediator.

Where this involves a review of the detailing, level of site inspections, photographic records, if any, and the competence of the architect, another architect may be required.

You may wish to consider contacting the RIAI or another architect directly with a view to asking someone to come in to inspect the damage and prepare a report, if your solicitor hasn't already suggested this possible course of action.

I trust the foregoing is of some use.
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby goneill » Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:54 am

Code of Conduct Requirement
Members should note that Section A.5.3 of the RIAI Code of Conduct refers to professional indemnity insurance as follows;

"A member who is in practice as an independent consultant architect should maintain a level of professional indemnity insurance appropriate to the nature and sale of the practice."

The RIAI view is that the minimum level of appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance is €650,000, so as to provide protection to clients and also to the architect. There have been cases of significant claims against architects where minimum levels of cover have been held and the architect has been exposed to considerable financial liability.
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby Fiona Mansfield » Fri Jul 03, 2009 4:06 pm

Thank you all for your replies.
The case is complicated and I can say no more about it here. I appreciate the advice. Hope things work out ok but it will take time.
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby mathewgeorge » Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:15 pm

It is really a serious matter. One should need to take care and get complete history of an Architect, who are going to choose for services.
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Re: Professional Indemnity Insurance for Architect

Postby teak » Fri Jun 06, 2014 3:14 pm

@ Goneill :

A member who is in practice as an independent consultant architect should maintain a level of professional indemnity insurance appropriate to the nature and sale of the practice.

Even for a small practice with 2-4 concurrent jobs going at a time, this could run to €2.5 m easy.

In any case, insurers themselves will insist on minimum insured amounts according to both the expense equalizing tendencies of the insurance sector itself, as well as the actual scale of risk by the professional concerned. (Like public liability insured amounts of €1.3 m added to the smallest business with no public access to their works.)

@Fiona Mansfield :

The essence of your case against the architect may well turn on the construction drawings, the associated notes and moreover the dialogue between architect and builder on the matters giving rise to the losses.

@mathewgeorge :

Yes.
But prior professional history is hard to come by for a newcomer to an area - moreover someone unfamiliar with the building scene.
No new/casual acquaintance wants to stick his/her out and advise for this or that architect/engineer/ surveyor/etc or against another. There's always the danger they'd be blamed if the advice was taken but the project was a failure.
And those friends who would do so are not always sufficiently au fait with the local professional misfits scene to guide us either.
Added to that is the particular need of someone engaging an architect to find someone who "gets" what they are trying to imagine and trying (awkwardly) to communicate. Client-architect relations in my humble opinion - at least as far as house design goes - seem to hang heavily on the existence on a good communicative union between the parties.
Like with other types of relations, this sense of mutual understanding can be faked by a person with a bit of social skill and a share of personal charm. And so many architects have a lot of this stuff, sadly.
It's easy to imagine the scene. A woman rushing around trying to do all the tasks that go into building or rebuilding a house. A professional suavely guiding her into the comfy chair. A cup of coffee being handed to the stressed out woman. Then the soft spoken enquiries. "Tell me about your site" and "What sort of design you have in mind" -- all the time using her firstname, that infuriating violation of the modern age. Then the sunny eyeball gazing at her as she speaks . . .

We've all been "done" by one of these people.

My approach would be :

1. Look at the architect's own portfolio on their website. If they haven't got a website by now, they're deadbeats.

2. Drive out some Sunday and view a couple of the finished houses. If possible, at a later time of mutual convenience, talk to the owners of these houses and listen to their appraisal of the design features and how they worked out.

3. When interested in jobs done by a particular architect, arrange an appointment to discuss your project with him/her. By paying the architect for this time, you avoid being legally - or feeling morally - under any obligation to engage them afterwards.

4. The purpose of the architect visit is as much (more?) about your mutual communicative compatibility as it is about the architect's ability and will to produce good work.
Do not be shy of using your intuition on points of unease, whether you are a man or woman.
Better safe than sorry.

5. There is supposed to be a type of insurance that a client can take out against the risk of losses arising from different types of failure in a building project. If the project's potential losses are high look into this.
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