Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby limerick girl » Sun May 09, 2010 11:27 am

Hi, we have purchased a cottage and hope to renovate it, as we knew the design we wanted for the cottage we asked an engineer to do the plans for us, now I know it can be difficult at times to contact some people in the building trade but we found it impossible to contact him! this situation is going on since Feb.
He did come to a preplanning meeting with us and showed us the plan of the proposed extension which we were delighted with and then told us he was putting our ad in the newspaper, He gave us a site notice which we put up. This was 10 weeks ago, after a month of trying to contact him after seeing the ad, we contacted the planning office and there was never any planning application made. Due to this and the fact he was uncontactable we decided to change to another engineer, my husband tried unsuccessfully to contact and meet him at his office so ended up leaving a voice message, detailing that we did not want to avail of his services but that we would pay him for the plans. We waited to hear from him to arrange a fee but heard nothing,
6 weeks later our new engineer placed an ad in the paper and then we were contacted by the previous engineer, who is saying he never received the message. I find this hard to believe as it was left on the mobile phone that he contacted us from! He now says we have to take him back as our engineer or change the design of our future home as he has copyright on it. He has refused money for the plans. Has anyone any ideas? We are thinking of modifying the design but can he still cause problems at planning, he has set the project back almost 3 months already. What should we do? We are 1st time builders and we are stuck! Please help?
.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby PVC King » Sun May 09, 2010 11:40 am

If I understand this correctly you had an arrangement with an engineer to submit a planning application based on plans that he was to prepare. Said engineer dropped off the face of the earth and is now demanding to be re-appointed to the project team.

First point would be clarifying if you did in fact formally instruct him; this would be in writing setting out the obligations of both sides; if not documented it would be more difficult for the engineer to prove that a formal instruction was in place however it may be worth contacting the institute of engineers for their views.

What you need going forward are the cad files on a disc so that you can transfer the plans you have in a format that can be adapted versus started again. I would hope that a local architect would read this and send you a personal message to extricate you from sounds like a brush with a very unprofessional consultant who regardless of the manner in which you contacted them should have contacted you as soon as the agreed planning submission date was missed. I would also ask the local planners if the consultant conducted any pre-planning meetings on your behalf.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby limerick girl » Sun May 09, 2010 12:27 pm

Thanks for that, and no we never had any contract or any written agreement, the arrangement was verbal, which is a good thing now.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby Tayto » Sun May 09, 2010 1:21 pm

limerick girl wrote:............we asked an engineer to do the plans for us......... we found it impossible to contact him! .......there was never any planning application made. .....we decided to change to another engineer...........6 weeks later our new engineer placed an ad in the paper and then we were contacted by the previous engineer, who is saying he never received the message..........He now says we have to take him back as our engineer or change the design of our future home as he has copyright on it. He has refused money for the plans. Has anyone any ideas?..... What should we do? We are 1st time builders and we are stuck! Please help?
.



Has anyone any ideas?.....
Usually when somebody wants a house designed, they consult an architect. That is because architects are trained to design buildings including houses. Civil and structural engineers are trained to design infrastructure and structural elements of constructions.
Therefore it would make sense to appoint and architect to design your house rather than an engineer.
What should we do?
Appoint an architect to design your house.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby onq » Sun May 09, 2010 3:05 pm

limerick girl wrote:Hi, we have purchased a cottage and hope to renovate it, as we knew the design we wanted for the cottage we asked an engineer to do the plans for us, now I know it can be difficult at times to contact some people in the building trade but we found it impossible to contact him! this situation is going on since Feb.
He did come to a preplanning meeting with us and showed us the plan of the proposed extension which we were delighted with and then told us he was putting our ad in the newspaper, He gave us a site notice which we put up. This was 10 weeks ago, after a month of trying to contact him after seeing the ad, we contacted the planning office and there was never any planning application made. Due to this and the fact he was uncontactable we decided to change to another engineer, my husband tried unsuccessfully to contact and meet him at his office so ended up leaving a voice message, detailing that we did not want to avail of his services but that we would pay him for the plans. We waited to hear from him to arrange a fee but heard nothing,
6 weeks later our new engineer placed an ad in the paper and then we were contacted by the previous engineer, who is saying he never received the message. I find this hard to believe as it was left on the mobile phone that he contacted us from! He now says we have to take him back as our engineer or change the design of our future home as he has copyright on it. He has refused money for the plans. Has anyone any ideas? We are thinking of modifying the design but can he still cause problems at planning, he has set the project back almost 3 months already. What should we do? We are 1st time builders and we are stuck! Please help?
.


This sounds like a very poor level of service but if he's threatening legal action you may need a solicitor on board.

The engineer appears to have provided drafting services, and only a limited design service and did not perform the planning service you understood according to your account and you have offered to pay him for the plans and his attendances at the pre-planning meeting

Since the lodgement was supposed to be done by him and he was fully in control of it, and failed to do so, he may have no comeback on the newspaper advertisement cost or the site notice cost. Why would you pay him for work which he controlled which he did not complete and in relation to which he failed to communicate? You could offer a nominal amount to help him take the decision to leave you alone

Your solicitor may advise you [or you may decide] to send a cheque to him by registered post regardless with a covering letter confirming all the things he did in an itemised list, as well as all the things he didn't do, stating the payment offer is in full and final settlement of the amount owed. He may not accept this but he may.

Either way you are not obliged to use him and he may find it difficult to claim breach of copyright when you have paid him for the work to date.

I cannot comment on the fee you expect to pay him, but your new engineer should set him straight on the poor service he has provided and you could confirm you will report him to his institute if he doesnt' accept fair payment for poor service and leave you get on with your new engineer.

Otherwise +1 what Tayto has said.

In relation to what PVC King has said, people sending you PMs offering to do the work without you specifically asking them to do this may be considered Spammers and this may affect their posting rights on some boards - not sure about here, but its a ban on boards.ie and askaboutmoney.com.

In other words, write a post here requesting PM's from architects reading this thread.

Also + 1 in relation to PVC King's comments, you make the offer of full and final payment dependent on him handing over the digital drawings to you - assuming a planning set exists, since he has not lodged such.

He should accompany this with a letter stating that his successor has free and unfetted license to use his work in relation to your house on this specific site but not for any other work elsewhere - this is a standard form of wording I use when accepting drawings from other offices for follow on work and I request others to state this to me if I give them drawings.

Also while a local architect might be a good bet, don't limit yourself to the locality - most archtiects have transport or can take a bus or train.
Check out a few office's designs and see what they are capable of for similar kinds of work before deciding - its your money and your home.

HTH

ONQ.

PS

All advice given here is remote from the situation and cannot be relied upon as a defence or support - in and of itself - should legal action be taken.
Competent legal and building professionals should be asked to advise in Real Life with rights to inspect and issue reports on the matters at hand.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby teak » Mon May 10, 2010 2:10 pm

Your story is common enough.
You needed an engineer to assess sewage upgrade implications of extension, told that you need an engineer for this, engineer buzzes around you and offers to do everything from start to finish . . . and then problems with planning, demands for fees, etc.
It's a waste of time going to the IEI or ICE. These organisations are just tea & sympathy at best.

I would not worry about the copyright thing on the old plans.
Much of his "design" was constrained by the existing house. The concept of the rest is your own idea, you say.
So you may need only to change some dimensions that are not already constrained by the existing house and that would not be obviously advantageous to anyone with some expertise in home design.
But I'd be amazed if any architect or architectural technican couldn't sort that out fast and no doubt add a few improvements of their own too. Even possible they'd see structural flaws in the engineer's plans . . .

You should look at the work of some good extensions done locally.
Talk to people (about the extensions, not your situation ;)) and see who does good work at reasonable cost.
Then make your appointment just to discuss the situation. Pay the arch for that hour of his/her time.
The arch will know how best to extricate yourselves from the engineer and his copyrighted "design".
If you ask him/her to assume control of the design, planning office representation and issuing progress drawings he/she will give you the costs involved for this.
Then decide where you go from there.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby sash » Mon May 10, 2010 2:44 pm

Ah the arrogance of the architect!!!;) (so speaks an engineer!)

OP, I'm afraid that engineer is talking complete rubbish to you. Copyright? What a ridiculous word to use! Anyway, the point is this. You do need to find yourself either an architect or an architectural technician who will put drawings together for you and process a planning application. There are a large number of architects out there at the moment doing this, as so many have been laid off (this is NOT a slur on architects, it's simply a fact).
If you are still concerned about this "copyright" notion, which to be honest, sounds like your man is just chancing his arm, then asTeak said, alter a few dimensions or make a couple of very small changes.If I read you right, all he did was draw up what you want, therefore it's not actually his design at all.
If you find yourself in a position where you need structural advise, go find an engineer. DO NOT rely on your architect to size structural members, or advise you on how to support a roof etc. They are not qualified to do this, and taking their advice on that is on your own head.If it's a small enough build, then a good contractor should be able to give you good advise on what to do - you may not need to employ the services of an engineer at all.On sewage/drainage, it depends on the extent of what needs to be done whether you go with the architect, or if you need to employ an engineer.
Best of luck OP, and I would think that the original engineer has an extremely slim case against you here.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby Bob Dole » Mon May 10, 2010 7:12 pm

As stated above - Copyright only applies to original work.

If the design is "run of the mill" involving no element of original design, copyright does not apply.
If you came up with the design, he does not have copyright.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby limerick girl » Mon May 10, 2010 10:04 pm

Thanks so much for all your thoughts and advice, am definately feeling better about the situation now.
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Re: Advice needed- problem with planning and engineer

Postby markstephens » Mon May 10, 2010 11:10 pm

As discussed, the designs need to be original work, here's how architects handle copyright. Note this is in the written RIAI agreement: Although the architects holds copyright on the design "the architect grants a licence to use, for this project only, the designs which the client has commissioned, provided that the charges to the appropriate Work Stage have been paid by the client" Interestingly the RIAI agreement separates the sketch design from the planning work stage.

Personally I think he's chancing his arm.

To check whether your architect is registered go to http://www.riai.ie

Hope this helps.

Mark Stephens RIBA MRIAI
http://www.MarkStephensArchitects.com
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