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Removing myself from Architect of Record

Nov 1 '13 21 Last Comment
andres.villegas
Nov 1, 13 2:39 pm

Hi all, I am trying to figure out if there is any possible way to remove myself from being the Architect of Record of a project that I stamped and submitted for a building permit and was approved as well. I am trying to resign from being the architect of record because the client does not want to pay me for being in the Construction Administration phase.

I did not design the project. I was acting as the architect of record for a larger architecture firm which did not have a licensed architect in my state. I revised, reviewed and made sure everything in the plans is to code and regulations through the design of the project.

Also, are the construction documents mine or are they from the firm that designed them? I believe they are theirs and not mine, but I could be wrong. Just because I stamped them, doesn't mean they are mine (thats my argument).

Any comments are welcomed.

 

mislabeled
Nov 1, 13 3:10 pm

a few points to consider:
your seal is your professional attestation of compliance with applicable regulations, the drawings were done under your direct supervision and as the architect of record - in terms of liability - indeed these are your drawings.
i would think very carefully about this.

here is what NYS says about it
http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/arch/archguide-a4.htm

 

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 1, 13 4:10 pm

The fact that you stamped them means you are liable for what is contained in them. 

This does not mean you are liable for how the contractor interprets them and then builds the project.  But if the Contractor builds exactly what is shown on your documents, then you *are* liable for that.  If the Contractor misinterprets or changes anything, you aren't liable for that portion, although an argument could be made that your drawings implied a standard of practice that the Contractor followed in good faith.

At the very least you need to write a letter to the Owner stating that without the ability to observe the construction process you cannot be held liable for anything that the Contractor misinterprets. Warn the Owner that anything that gets flagged by the permit department or code official, or any problem that comes up later, will likely have to be torn out to establish whether the contractor built it according to the drawings or not.  Copy that letter to the permit department as well.

This letter doesn't absolve you, though.  You're in a very sticky situation. Sorry.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 1, 13 4:11 pm

Also, I hope you didn't label them "100% Set".  Because that would be bad.

curtkram
Nov 1, 13 4:21 pm

i would think drawings going in for permit would be labeled "permit set"

i don't think you own the drawings.  having a stamp on them definitely does not imply ownership.  usually this should be clarified in someone's contract.  if that isn't clarified, i'm not sure who ownership would default to, though in that case i think your stamp should give you a pretty good claim to say it was your work.

as a professional, and part of being a professional, is more or less being responsible for everything you do.  that's kind of your life now.  even if you get a DUI outside of your office, your licensing board might want to know about it.  i don't think it's prudent to think that your stamp is tied to when or what you get paid, rather think of it as you are going to be held responsible for everything you do always.  the stamp just make the path to your door a little more clear.

gruen
Nov 1, 13 4:44 pm

I don't think it's that strange that the architect of record might have very little to do with the construction process. This happens all the time in offices, where the architect that stamps the drawings (the boss) is not involved during CA (done by project manager, project architect, etc...). Some projects are built with no oversight by an architect at all. 

You want to make a scene because of something that went awry with your contract with your various employers. That should be separate from your level of professional care that went into production of the documents. 

Think of the best outcome for you. It sounds like you want additional $. However, you also want to be absolved of responsibility if the building is built incorrectly. The advice you have been given by the other posters is good in terms of liability. You might work on a negotiation with your employer(s). Something where you can observe and be compensated, or perhaps an agreement where they remove liability from you. 

I don't see any reason to pull your stamp, that seems like a nuclear option and it sounds like you've been compensated for work to date. 

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 1, 13 4:50 pm

Also, the documents are "yours" in terms of responsibility, but the design typically belongs to - aka is copyrighted by - the design firm.

mislabeled
Nov 1, 13 5:02 pm

"Something where you can observe and be compensated, or perhaps an agreement where they remove liability from you."
to my knowledge there is no legal mechanism to be relieved of professional liability other than removing yourself as AOR.
it all comes down to your confidence in the documents.
if you have doubt - re-review them and address any issues appropriately...hopefully before construction!
I would add: many permits contain conditions which require the architect to certify certain aspects of the work . if so, and it wasn't included in your orginal contract - you have an opportunity to negotiate additional services and to oversee critical portions of the work.

 

mespellrong
Nov 1, 13 5:07 pm

The contract documents should say if the drawings are instruments of service. Was your contract with the client or with the firm that made the design?

If it were me, I would send a letter to the client stating that the standard of practice in your jurisdiction is for the architect of record to perform construction administration. Be clear that this is the standard according to which liability would be adjudicated -- if it wasn't done in the usual way, a court is going to be unlikely to assign liability. Explain that building practice and building code can vary by jurisdiction, which is why architects don't register at the federal level. If applicable, note that an unliscenced party (the design firm) providing architectural services is a violation of the practice act. 

J.W. Smith
Nov 1, 13 5:08 pm

Your best bet is to do the following in your locale: Here in NYC, you can file a withdrawal of the project as a whole (PW1 form Section 4). Therefore if the project was submitted and approved by a municipality/dept of bldgs- you, the AOR, would pull that filing out and then it cannot be utilized for a building permit. You would essentially be off the hook. I think you need to research heavily on what it means to stamp items and how things work in your state/locale. This is a very sticky situation and could end badly for you.

The drawing ownership issue is dependent on the contract between your office and owner/client. Technically they are your drawings, that contract just stipulates what the owner/client can do with them. Most offices I know do not allow use of the drawings unless explicit permission is given (That is the business. We do not want anyone using our dwgs as they want). What Donna said is correct too, definitely put a letter together stating you are the designer but not continuing construction administration (If the above withdrawal doesn't apply where you are).

The others point about what the drawings say, "permit set" vs "100% set" may not matter since it was submitted to a municipality and approved for permit/construction. If they work like here(NYC), then that approved set is valid and a contractor can pull a work permit and begin construction.  

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Nov 1, 13 6:18 pm

If you are able to withdraw as AOR and that results in the permit being revoked you will no doubt be sued by those who paid you to provide work that can no longer be used. Welcome to the minefield.

I'd send a letter of termination for non-payment. After that you can't be held liable for services not provided. The very worst thing you can do is NOT terminate the contract as this leaves you with open-ended liability.

As far as CA goes, it is not unknown for clients to exclude architects from admin in the belief that they are going to save a nickel. You can structure your contracts to anticipate such situations in a number of ways. You might want to think about that in regards to ownership and use as well. In the end though your contract is only as good as your lawyer and how much you are willing to spend prosecuting it.

Jaffe's First Law: The value of a service is inversely proportional to its degree of completion.

Jaffe's Second Law: If you need a lawyer, it's already too late.

Steven WardSteven Ward
Nov 2, 13 4:04 pm

you may be screwed no matter what you do. we completed/stamped some documents for a project for which we were then not allowed to provide construction administration services.

surprise! in a LOT of ways the project was not built per our drawings. structural failures, etc, ensued. we were named in the case, along with everyone else.

it was confirmed in the investigation that the structure was not at all compliant with our documents - in fact that there were construction shortcuts galore! but that didn't free us from the case. we were forced to pay into the settlement...

the letter of agreement recommended above is probably a good idea. if you don't get to inspect, have the owner agree that they understand the implications of this - in writing. you may not be completely safe, but you'll be safer. 

geezertect
Nov 2, 13 5:00 pm

I'm no lawyer (forgive my bragging) but even the letter between you and the owner might not be enough to keep you out of a legal action by a third party who is injured through their non-compliance, even though your drawings are correct.  In your current situation, you probably should try to inspect the work even though you won't get paid--just to cover your ass.

Best thing to do is not stamp drawings by other architects.  If they want to practice in another jurisdiction, let them get licensed there.  Reciprocity isn't that difficult.  The fee just isn't worth the exposure.  My opinion.

snooker-doodle-dandy
Nov 2, 13 6:02 pm

This is true of large firms....They have to be  associated with that not so liked  NCARB organization.  If they are not  best not to be involved with them.  My recollection is it  is not a big task to be licensed in another state, and the fee for it is something any large firm would absorb in  project fee.   Think you should have been asking why they were not seeking registration in your State.  Guess you just  found out......

el jeffe
Nov 2, 13 6:17 pm

contact your prof liability insurer. I've found they can be tremendously helpful in these situations.

andres.villegas
Nov 4, 13 2:07 pm

First, thanks to all for the very valuable comments.
I forgot to mention that I do not have a contract with the owner; I have a contract with the large firm that designed the project. Both contracts have been terminated (owner-large firm) (large firm- my firm). The owner fired the larger firm because they where not providing the services adequately, consequently, the drawings where not finished. They are almost finished.
The building permit contract documents that were submitted were with 60ish% drawings. We submitted it so that we could get grandfathered into the old code because it was changing and we wanted to use the code for which the building was designed for. Consequently, we continued working on the drawings with the old code and we where going to submit an addendum with the "final" CD's. We have not submitted the addendum to the building permit because the CDs only got to 90% before the client fired the larger firm, but the client, which I do not have a contract with, wants me to submit them.
As you can see, the reason I want to stop being the Architect of Record is because the drawings are not final; they were only submitted so that we could keep working on the old code. I do not want more money, I just don't want to be liable for drawings that are not final, and where not submitted as final (submitted as 60ish%). Now the owner wants me to give them the unfinished addendum.

Thank you again for your comments.

Appleseed
Nov 4, 13 2:52 pm

What kind of conditions did the jurisdiction put on an approved permit that only had 60% CDs? Sounds like all parties were cutting corners......

geezertect
Nov 4, 13 5:09 pm

How can you submit somebody else's drawings.  Am I the only one confused by this mess?  Hate to say it but this sounds like a lawsuit in the making.

thisisnotmyname
Nov 4, 13 5:28 pm

Andres, sounds like you have no contractual relationship with this owner at this point, so if you don't want to do the job, don't do it. 

geezertect
Nov 4, 13 6:07 pm

Yes, at this point I think I would lay low and see what happens.  If the owner cancelled the contract with the large firm before he got a permit, he probably made a major mistake.  In any event, if your contract is with that firm, your hands are tied.

Appleseed
Nov 4, 13 7:24 pm

^ OP said the permit was approved; but I'm guessing one of the reasons for this addendum submission request / requirement is all the holes in the 60% Set. Curious to hear more on how it got this far.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Nov 4, 13 8:45 pm

Pressure seems to be on the client, thus patience may reward you. In the meantime you might want to make an inquiry at the building dept. re permit status (approval, expiration) as well as revocation of AoR. Expiration would make the everything academic.

Did you get the other firm's side of the story? I'm sure they won't have anything good to say about the client, but between the two of them you should be able to suss out a reasonable assessment of the situation. There might be an opportunity here for you.

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