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Trouble with unreasonable novice - what are my options?

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alex445

Hello, I need advice on how to deal with someone whom I hired to design a 2-story ADU in Los Angeles. I know small claims court is an option but it would delay our project. I'm looking for any other ideas.

Here's the story

After we paid this person  in full, we found out from contractors who reviewed the plans, that she made numerous mistakes, including very poor referencing, missing detail (i.e. missing drains and slope) and existence of numerous detail that don't belong to our plans, bathrooms that are so small (5'x5' 3/4 baths - see attached photo) they are not functional for larger people and many expensive features that render construction way beyond our budget (double walls, non-standard windows throughout, mitered-cornered windows, large steel very expensive canopies, tall ceilings). 

We had asked her to design a simple ADU for rental in Reseda, California, which is populated mostly by middle-class or below middle  immigrants. Her design is pretty but would cost double our budget.

Small example of many: door and window schedules are incomplete. They refer to things that don't exist or don't contain the right sizes. Or she put in all the inside doors at 7 foot, instead of the standard 6' 8" (which would require custom orders, long wait and at least double the cost). Or aluminum windows throughout when we can afford only vinyl.

The detail pages contain details for a "garage door" when we don't have a garage! Or numerous 2-hour or 1-hour fire walls, when we don't have any fire walls. The floor plans not only are missing numerous measurements and references, sometimes they are missing crucial items. Like there's a hole in one wall and just half a window, no measurements and no mention of this in the window schedule (see attached photo). The balcony railing is labeled as glass. It's actually metal. 

To this date we still don't know which of the floor and wall details are the ones that are to be used. There are virtually no bubbles pointing to the corresponding details.

We took the plans to multiple professionals and even the city plan checker who approved the plans. All confirm plans need to be corrected. 

At first she would not respond to any of my emails. Then she referred me to structural engineer whom she had hired and I had never met. Then on telephone she said her plans are perfect and others are just bad mouthing her. After we finally managed to see her in person,  she said she is willing to correct the errors but then called the next day and said I insulted her because I sent an email asking to confirm her promises and told us never to contact her again. 

We persisted through her mother, who is my wife's classmate and had originally made the introduction. Today, after almost seven weeks of chasing her, she said she would correct her the errors but to change the floor plan and get rid of items to meet our construction budget, she wants to get paid for 17 hours @ $150 hour just to change the plans (get rid of the double walls, put in standard windows, enlarge the dysfunctional bathrooms, etc.). Then we'd be on our own to go to the structural engineer and the city plan review. 

She says she is not responsible for designing something that is way beyond our budget because we approved a floor plan and 3D drawing she emailed us after we hired her. We had no meetings with her during the 10 months she took to design and walk through the permitting process (double the five months she had originally promised) because we were mostly overseas. She just put in the expensive features (like the double walls, mitered-corner windows, canopies, 7-foot doors, double walls) without advising us of the cost.

The worst thing has been the sheer emotional exhaustion of dealing with this person. She screams at us, constantly telling us how we are hurting her emotionally! We have to watch what and how we say things lest she again gets up and tells us to leave her office. Every mention of the word "mistake" can cause her to erupt, accusing us of insulting her. She never lets us to finish our sentences, constantly argues, accusing us of wasting her time or needlessly repeating ourselves. 

She says we don't have any business questioning her work because we're not professionals. Protocol calls for the contractor to contact her with any questions, she says.  "Why are you even here? I don't have time for this," she says over and over. (Our contractor had called her in the past but she managed to scream at him too. He says he doesn't want to deal with her. )

She says she will successfully defend herself in any court and would countersue us for numerous things she claims she did for free outside our agreement (which we never asked her to do). 

Everyone we've talked to says that she deserves being sued. One contractor we spoke to says he will come to court and testify free of charge, "just because what you're going through is so unfair."

But we want to build now and we've lost precious time already. 

Plus she has the design files. To hire someone else would require drawing everything from scratch.

I'm guessing she doesn't care about negative reviews. She only has a presence on HomeAdvisor.com and no reviews. She uses multiple names online and claims to have 16 years experience on her company website when in fact we can document only a six-month stint at another firm before starting her office in 2017. 

Can anyone recommend anything other than going to court? I know it's not a lot of money but after all the crap we've had to tolerate and time we lost, to hand over more money to this person, it really really HURTS. 

 
Jan 26, 19 11:32 am
( o Y o )

Why would you want the plans if they aren't worth a shit?

Take credit for getting yourself into this by hiring someone without doing the proper vetting (client references, etc.). I'm guessing the poor service reflects a dirt cheap price. Professional service isn't cheap.

A good strategy for small projects is to start with contractors and let them recommend architects.

There is nothing to be gained from further engagement with this person, that bridge has burned. Either walk away or go to court, in either case you need to start over. Try not to let this experience color your perception of all architects. It's just like everything else, they are good ones and bad ones.

Jan 26, 19 12:09 pm
alex445

Perhaps I should've explained more:

alex445

We've already paid her fee of $7,500 and about $3000 to a structural engineer she hired and we never met. Then we paid nearly $10,000 to the city of Los Angeles.

The plans are already fully permitted. Yes, dealing with this person is very painful but we don't have the budget to just walk away and start from zero. She knows that and hence she feels she can be abusive and demand more payments. 

The reason I posted to this forum is for ideas on how to deal with this person. From what I know so far, going to small claims court is really the only option. But even there she can claim we are ignorant about her profession. We would have to bring an expert with us. 

If only there was a place at the city's building and safety or some other place where people could take their conflicts and not have to go to court.

SpontaneousCombustion

If the plans are already permitted then some of the items you've mentioned really don't need to happen. For example, removing things that probably originated from her generic template, such as details for garage doors that you don't have, and fire walls that you don't have. Those should have been removed, that's true, but it's really not uncommon for a firm's whole standard wall types list and details to remain in a set even though some don't apply to that particular project - the designer could just issue a direction for the contractor to ignore the unused types. Also if you want to swap all the 7'-0" doors for 6'-8" doors, that sort of thing can happen by written change order - she really doesn't need to redraw them all. If you absolutely can't afford the time and $$ to start over with another architect then I'd suggest trying to calmly negotiate a shorter list of drawing changes with her. Stick to those items that can't be explained/changed by written change order - i.e. major design issues only - such as reconfiguring the bathrooms and adding vital missing dimensions.

Non Sequitur

this is a great clusterfuck. Push for small claims to recoup something and move on with a real professional. 



Jan 26, 19 12:23 pm
alex445

do you know what would take to win in small claims court? Her claim is that the city permitted her plans so how could that be bad plans? We have nothing written on the budget we gave her.

RickB-Astoria

I'd say begin with getting a real architect and verify that person has an architect license with the California Architect Board. That person is obligated by law to release their architect licensing or registration number for you to do a valid review. If they don't they have something to hide like not actually having a license and is engaged in fraud. A real professional won't hide that from you.

RickB-Astoria

After that, I would suggest pursuing any appropriate legal actions as necessary or appropriate or reasonably feasible. 

citizen

Two novices in that scenario: designer and client.

Except now you're no longer a novice.  You've learned the (painful) lesson to ask for client references and to see examples of built work.  Whether or not you recoup her fee, the lesson is the most valuable part of this for you.

Jan 26, 19 1:50 pm
alex445

Yes, I agree. It has been a painful and expensive lesson. But at least I know more.

archi_dude

Next time if you use a standard AIA agreement there’s a clause that states they have to redesign for free if the design goes over budget. Granted this means you both agree to a budget before the architect starts.

Jan 27, 19 10:39 am
alex445

We gave her a budget and repeatedly stressed that we want something modest but we have no written proof of these conversations.

RickB-Astoria

emails? With projects involving more than $2000, ALWAYS have terms in writing and signed including written memorandum of understandings and the like via email but better in print with signing as the officializing the approval of such. This paperwork is something clients SHOULD insist and so should professionals. It is so we all have a clear record of communication not off the cuff outside of scheduled meetings. 


RickB-Astoria

Note: The $2000 noted above is not a hard-fixed number but something I advise. Contractors in Oregon has to use written contracts when the aggregate contract price exceed $2000. Why should it be any less expected even by the contract price of design services.

It's one thing if the contract price was $20. You wouldn't worry about the loss but when it's several hundred of over $1,000 then you might want to have things in writing. 

Verbal contracts should no longer be legally valid unless recorded because in practice its always "you said / he or she said" arguments that can't always be satisfactorily addressed in court.

OneLostArchitect

how much money was sunk into this hack? 

Jan 27, 19 11:16 am
alex445

We've already paid her fee of $7,500 and about $3000 to a structural engineer she hired and we never met. Then we paid nearly $10,000 to the city of Los Angeles.

alex445

We've already paid her fee of $7,500 and about $3000 to a structural engineer she hired and we never met. Then we paid nearly $10,000 to the city of Los Angeles.

OneLostArchitect

Wow

OneLostArchitect

So you are on the hole for 20,500. You have two options

Dangermouse

you can sue and you'll lose.  going over budget and making small bathrooms aren't violations of her standard of care--if that even applies, because it sounds like she isn't licensed. 

  

Jan 27, 19 11:25 am
alex445

No she is not licensed. We know she recently passed the exams at NCARB. Does that make her a licensed architect?

SpontaneousCombustion

Passing the exams alone doesn't make her licensed - but if she's passed all of them, and met the education and experience requirements for that state, then she'd be eligible to get licensed - all she'd have to do is file the appropriate application and pay fees. If she wasn't licensed when she did the work then it would be very difficult to collect anything in court. If this is a lmulti-family project it may require an architect by law, depending where it's located.

BulgarBlogger

I am licensed in California among other states. In cA- you also have to pass the Califronia Supplemental Exam.

RickB-Astoria

in addition to the ARE exams (NCARB's administered exams).

BulgarBlogger

California has some very very strict rules about calling yourself an architect if you are not licensed... if could be extremely bad news if she offeres services prematurely. what a clusterfuck...

RickB-Astoria

I agree.

JLC-1

funny you never mentioned the byfold door in the mini bath. That is an odd bedroom, where do you put the bed?

Jan 27, 19 11:29 am
alex445

Very odd indeed. Her plans are totally deficient. But we simply didn't know. Look, she sends us the plans by email and tells us they are great! We just didn't have the capacity or knowledge to sit down and try to imagine where the bed should go. If we had we would know v impossible to put a queen bed in this bedroom. But we didn't. We just trusted. But isn't that one hires professionals? We were stupid to trust? But then when I hire a pro aren't i entitled to trust and not have to measure everything myself? I'm speaking out loud. I am trying to figure out how much I'm to blame.

SneakyPete

"We were stupid to trust?"


Yes. You decided to build a building with no knowledge of the process, no idea of what you wanted or needed, and no concept of how to get a good contractual agreement in place. You made your bed, now you're sleeping in it.

BulgarBlogger

I disagree on showing examples of "built work". Everyone needs to start from somewhere and if everyone adopted this mentality (and to some reason there are many who have), architects would take any fee (or no fee) to do a project and get it built. 

However, I definitely agree on references...

I would also definitely not give contractors too much faith as they have a conflict of interest in residential projects. They would rather shit on the architect to get the project(s) themselves. 

Jan 27, 19 11:48 am
citizen

^ Rethinking my "built work" comment, and you're right. However, clients hiring a designer who (admittedly) needs to start somewhere runs a risk in exchange for the low fee and little experience.

curtkram

that's why we have mentorship requirements. you can't start from nothing. you have to be able to at least show built work you did working under someone who knew what they were doing.

natematt

like BB said, you're putting a lot of faith in the opinion of contractors. Sit down with an actual architect and ask their opinion. I'm not saying they didn't do a bad job, but as to the degree, I wouldn't trust the opinion of someone with conflicting interests.



Jan 27, 19 12:35 pm
jla-x

It’s shocking to me that a person can run a business like this.  How do you sleep at night?  I would get a different architect and just cut your losses with her.  Legally, it all depends on what your contract spells out.  Did she breach the contract?  Can you prove it?  



Jan 27, 19 12:40 pm
alex445

The contract is a short affair, simply stating the steps will be taken from "explore design options" to "submit drawings for plan check." It says nothing about client's needs or budget. We don't have something on paper saying what our budget was. Only hope would be to bring an expert to court to explain deficiencies and that her plan is not economically feasable for Reseda, California, and she should've known that. Does that sound like something we could argue in front of the judge?

jla-x

Was it talked about? You should ask a lawyer, but without you stating your budget, or clarification that you want to match the cost of the surrounding construction, she doesn’t have any legal duty to do so. She is not a mind reader to be fair. Sounds like a lack of communication + an inexperienced designer. That said, she should have talked with you about costs throughout the process. I NEVER do work for clients that cannot be physically present to meet. It’s way to difficult to work remotely with clients. My last bit of advice, as a client, you need to put the time in to work with your next architect. You need to meet with them at intervals, communicate budget, needs, etc.

randomised

Vinyl windows and 6'8" doors, just to name a few, nothing lost there...but who cares about a quality project when the clients are just poor low class migrants, right? At least your architect tried to provide some quality for your future tenants, good for her!

Jan 27, 19 2:28 pm
alex445

What good are plans that are not economically viable? You're suggesting architects should ignore client's budget? How would 9-foot ceilings and 7-foot doors and mitered-corner windows help "low class" (your words) immigrant tenants when project can never be built or if built they could not afford to live there anyway?

archi_dude

You’d be surprised at how many architects have this nonsensical mindset. Thus past references from builders is a must.

randomised

Well, if you want horrible cheap, unsustainable cookie cutter crap to stuff as many low class migrants into your buildings as possible, should've thought about hiring someone that has experience in designing prisons.

Rusty!

There are not enough movies about Architects. This would make an excellent script about one. Call it "Devil Wears Pella Vinyl Windows"

Unless there are code issues, just run with contractor's recommendations. Standard doors, standard windows, standard walls, etc. Issues with layouts are owner's problem. They were approved at some point I hope.

What was designed and what was eventually built is a significant process on any project. This is actually what distinguishes top and bottom tier Architects. You hired bottom tier. A lot will have to change in coming up construction administration.  

Jan 27, 19 2:57 pm
OneLostArchitect

the corner window in the bathroom is great. I want the whole world to look at while im pinching off a loaf.

Jan 27, 19 3:44 pm
alex445

Also she didn't provide any details on how to build the corner window.

SneakyPete

At your budget level windows are rarely "built" by the contractor. They're bought and installed. You whine a lot, but seem to as yet have neglected to accept your ignorance has a huge role in this story.

alex445

My God. I didn't realize so many people responded. I was expecting the system to send me emails when responses are posted. I apologize for late response. I'm going through responses now. Thank you. 

Jan 27, 19 9:05 pm
RickB-Astoria

First off, this person is not an architect. If she claims to be an architect but don't possess the license AND you have proof in writing from her (email or printed) such as contract agreement or a voice recording then you have a claim for deception/fraud and something you can also report to the licensing board in California. [ California Architect Board ]



Jan 27, 19 11:34 pm
RickB-Astoria

I am not certain everything the OP said is true but I from what I can tell, it seems like the person providing the services is even licensed.

alex445

On her business card she calls herself "Principal, Architectural Designer." In her contract she says she is "designer". So no, she has not claimed to be licensed architect.

alex445

Hello RickB-Astoria, my understanding is that you don't need to be licensed to draw things. I was told in Los Angeles these so called "designers" or "drafters" proliferate because the licensed architects charge much more. For small jobs like ours, people typically hired them instead of going to a licensed architect.

RickB-Astoria

Well..... the "Architectural Designer" part might actually be claiming to be a Architect. In Oregon, she would be fined. Business cards are instruments of advertising. The title should have been "building designer" or "residential designer" but not "architectural designer". However, there may still be a case for fraud. I do think that California may still consider someone who is not licensed using title such as "architectural designer" to be an unlawful and violates: § 5536 of California statutory law. With that, she may have lead you to believe she was an architect. Since you came to this forum, she failed to make it clear that she was not and she was likely misleading. 

I'm a building designer. I frequent this forum and others. However, I would be clear and it would be very important I don't use the word "architect", "architecture", and "architectural" in any service offered and/or performed for clients in any place I am not licensed UNLESS otherwise permitted under law of those places in the world where title or otherwise is not regulated by licensing programs. It will also be important to be forthright and candid to the client and correcting them in that regard when a client refers to the "building designer" as an "architect". I see a number of potential issues that is sub-professional from her based on what you indicated. However, there is multiple sides to the story. Yours and hers. 

Based on what you said, she seemed to have been copying & pasting details from other projects or plans. It's improper to do that.... at least the way it seemed to have been indicated. It is more than just the contract which you probably or may not have thoroughly read or made sure it was read through and understood line by line or whatever grouping of lines. Did she represent herself on her website or other advertising as an architect or offering "architectural services" (in a context relating to designing of buildings) ?

RickB-Astoria

"Hello RickB-Astoria, my understanding is that you don't need to be licensed to draw things. I was told in Los Angeles these so called "designers" or "drafters" proliferate because the licensed architects charge much more. For small jobs like ours, people typically hired them instead of going to a licensed architect." 

Yes but that doesn't mean she can violate the architect title law even though she practices in an exempt area of law. She maybe a hair away from licensure but honestly, I think she needs more supervised experience in preparing plans before she practices as an architect stamping anything based on what is indicated. You don't show details depicting fire rated wall assembly when one isn't there. Yes, sometimes the building code may require a 1-hr. fire rated wall assembly between some types of spaces. However, when you don't have a garage and the details are depicting a garage and garage doors, there is something wrong. Professional standard of responsible care does apply to unlicensed design professionals as they do licensed design professionals. You don't improperly copy & paste details.

natematt

"you don't show details depicting fire rated wall assembly when there isn't one" .... Honestly, some of this stuff just sounds like standard details that didn't get vetted out very carefully. It's not good practice, but depending on how it's included it may not be that big of an issue. A garage door detail should have gotten removed...

RickB-Astoria

Right. It should have been vetted or properly implemented with the actual building's design. Indeed, you maybe right in it might not be that big of an issue but it is alarming enough to raise concerns. Construction Documents / Submittal Documents is not the time to be lazy or sloppy. It is fine in at some earlier pre-submission draft. If she is reading any of this, I hope she uses this as the prodding to do better. Clients deserves better as standard expectation of professional services. I know in my career, I have been sloppy which are lessons to learn from and do better.

natematt

If she left in a sheet of fire rated details that's one thing, if it's a wall type schedule... that's just a contractor blowing smoke.

alex445

Dear RickB-Astoria, you might be onto something. Her business card, as I wrote, identifies her as "Architectural Designer" and we thought we had hired an architect. Calif law you cited says it's unlawful "to advertise or put out any sign, card, or other device that might indicate to the public that he or she is an architect, that he or she is qualified to engage in the practice of architecture, or that he or she is an architectural designer." We don't see such claim on the contract. On her website, she advertises "Appartment Buidling Design" and "Craetive Building Design" (all her misspells) and " offers high-quality building design services for clients who want to construct a new home, apartment, hotel, or any other type of property." It's painful to read this crap. She actually has 3D model of our design on her website as an example of astounding work she does.

RickB-Astoria

Do note that if she practices in multiple states, sometimes some projects that are non-exempt in California is legal and exempt from requiring an architect in another state. The point is, she's borderlines some issues and in some cases, it can get her into trouble. I understand she's trying to become a licensed architect and so close to licensure but I see issues where she should gain some more experience preparing construction documents under supervision of a more experienced architect because while she may have got the "hours" for AXP in (but the quality of those hours is a big variable) and pass the exams but they aren't exams on drafting or how to prepare construction documents exactly. I think most architects will agree that even on projects as small as an A.D.U., you shouldn't copy & paste improperly. There are plenty of available generic CAD blocks that she could have used that would have worked better. On one hand, if it was me, I would take her to the side and have a little chat with her about over-representing herself in a misleading manner and being sloppy with the preparation of the documents. If not careful, it can be disastrous and deadly. She should be careful when using the title "architectural designer". I'll further add to note the California Administrative rules: ( https://www.cab.ca.gov/act/ccr/title_16/division_2/article_5/section_134.shtml ) While I don't see any specific state defined title for interns or whoever just before licensure in California (I could be overlooking it). They definitely have strict rules against the use of architect, architecture, or architectural in business name or other devices uses to represent under such titles unless licensed or person in the business with ownership stake is in charge of architectural services. If you read the definitions to be used, she would be in a technical violation. However, I would likely give her a pass on that issue being the minor part of the issue but that her work being sub-par being the real issue.

SneakyPete

The blind leading the blind.

RickB-Astoria

SneakyPete, remember, we have here is the OP's side of the story. The title violation is the smaller issue. It's the rest of her work. As close as she is to licensure, I wouldn't necessarily want or think that should be the career killer or something that would bar her from practicing as an architect for many years. I have concerns if I take the OP's concerns entirely for what happened. There is always a greater desire to here each side for some stuff are likely to be omitted by each side in telling their side of the story such as this.

SneakyPete

Why are you even participating in this discussion?

RickB-Astoria

She's not licensed yet. Is the designer in question reading this thread? There is a desire to hear both sides. However, there is certain information that has been substantiated that raises concerns. While I am willing to hear the OP's side of this issue, I am open to hear the designer's side. So relax. There are a few issues that I am not sure the designer can appropriately justify not following the licensing laws and rules.

SneakyPete

You're missing the point of my question. Why are YOU participating in this discussion?

randomised

If anyone knows what it means to "work" in this field without a license, you're dealing with an expert, ha!

BulgarBlogger

Guys- ADU's are exempt structures... No license required. However, if licensee is working in one, he must stamp all instruments of service under his responsible control, not just technical submissions,

Jan 28, 19 12:31 am
RickB-Astoria

conventional wood framed single family detached ADUs are exempt.... yeah. I don't think that's the argument. I think there are other issues where she might have violated some of the statutes due to not properly using the right words for titles and the right words for the type of services offered. Some technicality issues but still enough for the board to slap someone with a fine over. There are other issues that I see as well if I take everything the OP said as fact. I prefer to hear both sides of the story than just one side of it.

alex445

Hello, this person offers to build "apartment buildings and hotels" on her website. In her portfolio, she is displaying plans for a 20-unit apartment building. Can she legally design an apartment building without a architect's license? She has an address on the plans. We checked it out on Google Maps. There's a single family home there.

5839

She can't legally submit plans for a 20-unit apartment building without a license.  Whether she can draw one is another issue: for instance If it was for a past employer, where she was supervised, then she could do so -  and if she has permission to use it as an example of her work then she can do that - though she still can't offer to provide architectural services if she's not licensed. 

But as for her business address being a single family home: that's the case for a large percentage of sole proprietors and small architecture firms. As someone who designs hotels while working from a tiny home I'd be in trouble if that was against a real rule here. You could check whether home offices are allowed by local zoning, but making a stink about that won't result in anything that will help your time or money issues.

RickB-Astoria

That's true. Most people don't rent commercial spaces unless they are in a position for hiring employees. The benefit to cost doesn't usually pen out for sole-proprietorships. This isn't a real issue. It's basically a home occupancy. 


BulgarBlogger

Ok- yeah: she's violatiing the practice act. Report her to CAB.

Jan 28, 19 7:28 am
5839

Reporting her to CAB is a good idea, but it will just get her fined, and possibly delay her being able to get licensed in CA. The OP should understand that it won't help them with collecting anything from her - CAB doesn't adjudicate fee disputes.

tintt

Sounds like she is taking her employer's work and recycling it. She should lose her job as that opens them up to liability. 

Jan 28, 19 8:21 am
Non Sequitur

ding ding ding

Formerlyunknown

There was enough info in the thread for me to find the firm in question.  They dance around the title issues well enough on their website - she calls herself "designer", "building designer", "certified designer" (referencing an interior design certification and a foreign certification), but not "architect" or anything with "architectural" in it.  However she is offering design and permit drawings on larger projects - hotels, large apartment buildings, etc., even though she and her listed "consultants" are not licensed in CA. 

So yes, you could certainly report it to CAB.  The most likely outcome is that she'll receive a warning, and she'll revamp her website.

But looking at her website I think it should have been immediately obvious that working with this person would be risky at best.  Besides the lack of built work (there's only one photo of a real house on the site), the firm's logo and background images are clip art, the firm's name is borrowed from a Vistaprint commercial, and the captions of half the hideous 3D models on the site are "Click Here to Edit Title".  The whole "firm" looks like some fake place holder.  It's a little hard to feel bad for the client when I'd expect anyone with common sense to run from this "firm" quick!  Why did you pick her?  Did she have any references?

Unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do to recoup fees or force this person to re-design for free.  There's no agreed-upon budget in writing, no contract requiring re-design, she delivered the plans and they got permitted - that's all the contract required. 

Jan 28, 19 10:04 am

You'd be doing a public service by posting the link here.

Formerlyunknown

https://www.myatriumdesign.com/

The OP's project is on there, titled "Professional Accessory Dwelling Unit Design".

Non Sequitur

great googling skills.

tduds

"She has obtained her Bachelor degree in Architecture, a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture, and her second Master's Degree in Interior Architecture all from well-known universities." 

You don't avoid saying the name of your alma mater if it's actually "well-known." Also those designs are.. how do I put this nicely.. Target-Brand PoMo.

SpontaneousCombustion

Come on, you're not impressed with a firm that has a spacecraft propulsion scientist listed as a consultant?

RickB-Astoria

Hmmm.... thanks for researching it out. He mentioned something about her using architectural designer on the business card. However, it could have been one of those "business cards" she had while she was employed where the firm's internal use of the title "architectural designer" is sometimes used. However, if she is using it for her own business and she's not currently an employee of such firm.... that could be a problem. It's still marketing and representing oneself out as... or could be argued as one whether intentional or not.

Non Sequitur

Pretty bad design thru and thru.  No wonder this is a extra saucy clusterfuck.

Jan 28, 19 10:27 am
jla-x

Wait? Is that the house in question? I swear that logo is from a vista print commercial. I’m blessed with a near photographic memory despite my pot habit.
https://www.ispot.tv/ad/A2R4/vistaprint-business-cards-architect

jla-x

The lady from that commercial is hot.

Formerlyunknown

Yeah from the Vistaprint commercial - I'd noted that in my post above.  Some of the other images on the firm's site are just straight copied from other firms - for instance the hand reaching out with the 3D model.

gibbost

But they couldn't use that pesky word 'architecture' so just add 'design' instead. Good catch JLA-X . . . i knew it looked familiar.

jla-x

You beat me to it formerly unknown. Didn’t see that :)

OneLostArchitect

NS how did you find it!? Wow

Formerlyunknown

I posted the link to the firm's website above. I found it by googling some of the info that the OP provided - spelling mistakes and such.

Non Sequitur

yep, I did not do the googlin.

jla-x

Owner of that firm is hot too. Wow. Im guessing that is part of the reason she feels she has the right to yell at people. Attractive female privilege is a real thing.

Almosthip7

It was nice of her to include the address of the ADU

OneLostArchitect

wow who rips off Vista print?


Jan 28, 19 12:37 pm
Formerlyunknown

She's got at least two other firms, in addition the one I posted above: 

Altri Design: http://atrshana.wixsite.com/at... 

And "LA Design", which doesn't have a website but is registered at the same address.

It reminds me of contractors who keep staring new companies.  Usually it's best to avoid those unless they come with stellar references and you can visit actual examples of their work.

Jan 28, 19 12:56 pm
jla-x

Best firms are the ones that use their real last names imo. When you put your name on something you have to own it. Jus saying

tduds

Everything about this screams "scam"

BulgarBlogger

Has anyone tried getting in touch with them and confronting the fact that they have an illegal practice?

Jan 28, 19 1:07 pm
RickB-Astoria

I would but I think it would come with a little more credence if someone who is a licensed architect in California talk to them about that *before* filing complaints to the licensing board itself. It has been suggested to me in the past. 


Formerlyunknown

As for the original poster:  seeing the renderings, the project is simple enough that you may not need this designer to do anything more.  You've already got permits, and it seems you're not that concerned with aesthetics (i.e. cost is the driving factor), so you don't necessarily need to involve a new designer either.  Any decent builder should be able to work with you to make the changes you've listed:  switch the 6'-8" doors, vinyl windows, change the one mitered corner window to a standard window in just one wall or the other, eliminate the "double wall" cladding details, and widen the bathrooms to make the toilet clearances work.  None of this should involve anything structural.  It may not add up to the substantial cost savings you're looking for though.  Some of these things just aren't that expensive (like 7' doors - that's a standard size - the price difference is fairly minimal.)

Of course, the room layouts aren't all that practical.  Also the head clearance on the stair looks iffy - I can't read the dimension in the section so can't say that it violates code, but good luck getting any large furniture to the 2nd floor. 

If you want to substantially improve the design and functionality then you need a new architect or designer.  But if you just want to cut some costs and move forward as quickly as possible, your best bet is probably just a builder who will listen to you.  Make sure you've got a good contract and that numbers are in writing this time!  Actually call their references and visit their projects.

Jan 28, 19 1:10 pm
RickB-Astoria

A competent contractor should be able to correct the problematic details as most of them should know a little drafting or have a draftsman in their employ as they would make shop drawings but should be able to make corrections on a project of this simplicity. I agree with Formerunknown pretty much on both points. As I said earlier and reinforce the point for a lesson to have been learned..... have it in writing. Preferably where the parties to the contract sign it.

I used to live in California. I would never consider doing anything in California without a written contract or you get your time on Judge Judy or People's Court or something like that.... if you're lucky (or not).


kjdt

I have some concerns about the contractors they've been talking with too though, or whoever is giving them cost-cutting advice. For instance why are they under the impression that 7 foot doors cost twice as much, and are custom orders? This designer sounds like a nightmare, but don't just move on to a nightmare contractor too.

Formerlyunknown

Well, it is true 7 foot doors aren't always immediately available, in the sense that their builder probably can't pick them up on the sales floor at Home Depot. I'd grant that some advance planning would be required. As for them costing twice as much: I'd like to see what door exactly they were pricing. Usually 7-foot is about 20-25% more than 6'-8". There's some small cost savings to be had there - but it's hardly going to make or break the project.

RickB-Astoria

I do to. It strikes odd but certainly having one custom made might cost more than the cheapest interior doors you can buy from home depot or lowes. However, a 7' interior door from Home Depot (32 x 84" door can be purchased at $350-450 or so (pre-hungged)). You can sometimes get cheap crap as for under $100. But it isn't a big deal to correct the plans to say 6'-8" tall doors (32 x 80 being the common interior door size.) However, 7-ft. tall doors for interior use is not as common and are usually a little thicker. It is possible to use such a door on the interior but you have to frame appropriately but you don't have to custom make the door. You just modify the framing to support the door. Of course you might not want to use the kinds with glass or window or any such in the door.

RickB-Astoria

"head clearance on the stair looks iffy" - if it is not legible on the actual plans then it's not code compliant because meeting submission requirements of legibility is a "soft"- code requirement. Plans can be rejected because it is illegible. Aside from that, I get your point. I wouldn't be able to see the stuff on-screen as an image necessarily as I might in print. So, hands up in the air on that one.


BulgarBlogger

In california, a written contract is required by law unless:


- An architect provides services to a professional engineer or licensed land surveyor.


- provides services to a repeat client where the work is very similar to work you have done previously with a signed contract.


- You have express written notice from Owner that a contract is not required


- You offer services for which no compensation will be given







Jan 28, 19 2:00 pm
Formerlyunknown

They have a written contract - but it doesn't contain the owner's budget.

RickB-Astoria

They have a mix bag of written and verbal agreements. Messy.

RickB-Astoria

BB, for starts, I'd say there is an issue when she isn't yet licensed. There probably should be a law in California (and other states) to require ANY person (licensed or not) that engages in any design services involving buildings and physical structures to use written (and signed) contracts. It's too bad that it isn't quite legislated like that. 

BulgarBlogger

I think "confusingly similar" is the key here:


  1. It is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, for any person who is not licensed to practice architecture under this chapter to practice architecture in this state, to use any term confusingly similar to the word architect, to use the stamp of a licensed architect, as provided in Section 5536.1, or to advertise or put out any sign, card, or other device that might indicate to the public that he or she is an architect, that he or she is qualified to engage in the practice of architecture, or that he or she is an architectural designer.


Jan 28, 19 2:02 pm
Formerlyunknown

CAB will definitely tell her to stop using business cards with "architectural" on them, and stop advertising hotel and apartment building design. They may fine her, maybe $500, $1000, $5000 if she's obnoxious. If she really makes somebody at the state angry they might put one of those 3-year blackouts on any license application she files. That will help protect the public, but won't do much for the OP though except maybe make them feel like they got some retribution.

RickB-Astoria

She appeared to have slipped a very thin line if we take the OP's word regarding the business card given out and potentially other information. I won't be submitting the complaint and leave it to others to do so if they feel its necessary. I hope we don't have to go to such extreme measures over the title use. Oregon had been recently slapped by courts over excessive enforcement practice of the word "engineer" when used by non-"Professional Engineer". It may impact California due to Federal court decision.


RickB-Astoria

Formerlyunknown, you wrote: CAB will definitely tell her to stop using business cards with "architectural" on them, and stop advertising hotel and apartment building design. They may fine her, maybe $500, $1000, $5000 if she's obnoxious. If she really makes somebody at the state angry they might put one of those 3-year blackouts on any license application she files. That will help protect the public, but won't do much for the OP though except maybe make them feel like they got some retribution.

I agree and a good point there. It will only protect the public to a very limited extent. It won't necessarily stop her from designing some buildings and still done improperly. That would take further action by a court injunction. Not an easy one to obtain unless they feel a danger truly exists that needs that level of action.

BulgarBlogger

She markets herself as a "building designer" which is confusing similar per CAB...


https://www.homeadvisor.com/rated.AtriumDesign.64175677.html

Jan 28, 19 2:34 pm
RickB-Astoria

building designer alone is not an issue. "architectural designer" is an issue but also use of titles such as "licensed building designer" or "Registered Building Designer" is an issue. Remember, California did have a "registered building designer" program and that the "registered building designer" title is protected but they don't have an issue with someone referring to themselves as NCBDC or AIBD certified professional building designer. They don't care if someone calls themselves a building designer in California. They care if you represent that you are licensed or registered by California as a building designer. That's the actual distinction line. A little nuanced.

AIBD's California society had been relatively close in communication back and forth with CAB for decades. We all understand why CAB doesn't want building designers representing themselves as being licensed or registered by the state when they don't do that. There is a history trail on that but might be someone difficult to find on the web but with determination, could be found. 


RickB-Astoria

She might run into headaches with the board because of the category "Residential Architects and Engineers".

RickB-Astoria

Representing herself as a building designer wouldn't have been an issue.

Threesleeve

This is really easy, and doesn't need her business card or her side of the story. Her website states "Atrium Design offers high-quality building design services for clients who want to construct a new home, apartment, hotel, or any other type of property." That's an offer to provide services that she's not allowed to provide without a license. It doesn't matter what she calls herself.

RickB-Astoria

That's fair enough for complaints by architects like yourself to file a complaint to the board. It is the other pertinent issues related to the project itself. Threesleeve, I see issues on that as you said especially as projects seems to imply the service is offered in California instead of being delineated.

RickB-Astoria

Don't confuse me not being anxious to issue a complaint to the licensing board or anything I said to imply that her calling herself or representing herself as an architect is not important or worthy of concern. Building a case of evidence is important. I rather have architects step forward to issue complaints on these issues if it's necessary. I've been asked to exercise restraint on filing complaints to licensing boards in the past by some on this forum so I'm exercising that at this time.

BulgarBlogger

Rick B- good luck with that argument...

Jan 28, 19 3:38 pm
RickB-Astoria

Actually, I don't have to make that argument. The board doesn't regulate the title building designer. They regulate the title Registered Building Designer. They never had that degree of authority granted to them by California not even when they were licensing "registered building designer". The issue isn't "building designer". The issue is the use of "architectural designer" from time to time and other misleading advertisements that may cause a reasonable member of the general public to either think they are registered or not. If they had an issue with building designers calling themselves building designers then wouldn't they be going after every member of the California Society of the AIBD that practices in California? Wouldn't they be issuing fines to every building designer that spoke to the CAB at the board when they refer to themselves as building designers? 

There is multiple times in the past 30 years where CAB and California society of AIBD had direct dialogue at the board meeting. They would have even tried to force the shutdown of the society if they did have a problem and also if they had the authority. Guess what, they haven't. We both can agree she violated the law & rules but it isn't "building designer" alone in and of itself. She represented she is authorized to engage in the "practice of architecture". 

She is complicating the issue of the title building designer. It is somewhat complicated. It can be said that all architects are building designers but not all building designers are architects in this sense of understanding the law. Of course if someone is saying they are a building designer and registered or licensed by California, it can be essentially saying that the person is a licensed Architect. Since there is no such thing as "Registered Building Designer" and its a legacy from when there was a two tier licensing system of sorts. Now, using the words "registered" and "building designer" together as a title or implied by offering services that requires a license, a person violates the law but the title "building designer", in and of itself would not normally constitute a violation. Lets remember that the title "building designer" alone is not regulated. It's no different even in any other state in that a non-licensed/registered person shall not represent themselves as if they are licensed/registered. 

There are plenty of building designers in California that properly complies with the laws and rules while using the title "building designer" but there are some that violates the laws and rules because they have not grasped or understand the laws/rules and the history of regulatory changes from initial enacting bills to each amending bill and rule changes that follows.


RickB-Astoria

It is a misdemeanor, punishable as specified in subdivision (a), for any person to advertise or represent that he or she is a "registered building designer" or is registered or otherwise licensed by the state as a building designer.

Key words registered and licensed. Even without the words used directly in the title. If elsewhere it is implied that a person is licensed or registered to provide such services in the state then that would be an issue. The title 'building designer' ordinarily on its own would be a non-issue. She made it an issue but essentially implying she is a licensed architect without using the word architect. She's crossed enough lines for a justified fine.

RickB-Astoria

It should be clear that while merely using the title building designer would not ordinarily be a case for violation. It is when combined in other ways in the instruments of advertising for services that she implied in such a way that a reasonable person can infer and reasonably assume the person is licensed or registered by the state by offering to perform services that exceeded the scope of the exemptions.

BulgarBlogger

No- what I meant was that your argument of calling yourself a building designer is DIFFERENT from calling yourself an architectural designer. That argument is bullshit and you know it.  The term "building designer" is confusing similar" to architectural designer, and therefore using that title is in violation of the CA practice act.

Jan 28, 19 4:00 pm
randomised

Leave the John Cage of architecture alone!!1!! Her "Click here to edit title." are my favourite projects...

Jan 28, 19 4:29 pm
Bloopox

If I'd run across that firm's website without knowing this client's whole backstory, I'd totally think it was fake.  The obvious stock images, the Vistaprint rip-off, the first house project that looks like a lego-inspired burger joint...  I would so believe it was a great spoof.  Maybe it is, and the disgruntled client who wants vinyl windows is part of the brilliance. 

Jan 28, 19 6:47 pm
OneLostArchitect

Dick Busch Architects has some competition!

Jan 28, 19 6:55 pm
OneLostArchitect

If you think about it...




Jan 28, 19 7:00 pm
bowling_ball

Genius!

alex445

Hello, I'm the person who started this forum post. I was shocked this morning that someone managed to find this "architect's" website. When I posted I just wanted advice and purposefully did not disclose her name. But the cat's out of the bag and really don't know where this will lead. This is someone that twice tried to throw my wife and I out of her office at the mere suggestion of criticism.

I want to thank all of you wonderful disciplined architects. You take your business seriously and restored my faith in your profession. You've confirmed that my wife and I are not losing our minds, that drawing a bedroom like you see in the picture I posted is NOT good work and we have reason to ask for remediation and should not be yelled at or told pay $150/hr to fix things. 

To those who blame us, the clients, for hiring this woman, you have reason. Her website is ridiculous. We didn't ask for any reference. A check of the California Architects Board would have shown she is not licensed. A check of her facebook page would have relieved she had started her firm just a year earlier and the only mention of other job on her Linked-in page is a 7-month stint at another firm. 

Last January we were days away from having to go overseas for several months, and we just believed her representing her herself as a "architectural designer" (on her business card) and her promises to give us great work and have the permit done within a few months, while we were away. We thought we were lucky to have found someone doing work while we were away, not realizing design work requires close thoughtful work with clients, not just email the client a floor plan and a 3D exterior drawing and then begin the city permitting process. 

Nearly a year later (she took 10 months instead of 5 months promised originally), I've gained enough experience to write a small book about 1. what careless fools we were and 2. all the stress we've been exposed to and 3. the many things a client should check out before hiring. For something that ultimately will cost hundreds of thousands, why would you not even demand references? I ask myself over and over. I read a dozen reviews when buying a faucet on Amazon! Why would I not do at least that much with a project costing thousands of times more? 

But that does not excuse what this person has done: 1. Misrepresent herself as an architect. 2. totally ignore our budget and designing something incongruous with our budget, purpose and location of the project, 3. Hand us deficient plans that lack many measurements and references, filled with pages of detail that have nothing to do with our project, 2x6 construction and double walls that have no place in our humble neighborhood, dozens of non-standard doors and windows and insanely expensive steel canopies that would balloon our project by tens of thousands, bedrooms that can't even hold a queen size bed, three 5x5-foot 3/4 bathrooms that can accommodate only skinny people, missing drains and slopes, erroneous door and window schedules. The list goes on. When I was hopeful she would see light of the day, I sent her 11 emails reporting feedback from consultants we visited.

But all of the above could have been fixed if this person simply accepted the obvious facts, listened to the professionals we've consulted with (including a licensed architect and the city's own plan checker) and corrected her errors.  

What has dragged this out this far - and this applies to every professional dealing with the public - were the bizarre denials and insolence and anger we were subjected to. Instead of welcoming valuable feedback this early in her career, she first ignored us, then told us this is just industry badmouthing, then told us to get lost, claiming she can't tolerate "insults" (she meant the slightest insinuation of any wrongdoing), and then finally, after seven weeks of chasing her, she agrees to correct some items (but not others) in return for thousands of dollars more money and then send us out on our own to find a structural engineer and to the city plan checker. 

My wife, a lawyer licensed in another country and a master of negotiations, and I still don't understand the denials and insolence. I stopped contacting her because she said my emails tortured her. "I'm a designer, not her to read emails all day," she screamed at my wife over the phone. My wife instead tried to negotiate with her in her native  language. But last Friday I realized this is taking a huge toll on my wife, who feels awful for having made the introduction a year ago. She arrived home after after enduring another avalanche of insults at the architect's office. One of her latest excuses is that my wife is ignorant because she is a recent immigrant and doesn't speak English well.

This is what brought me to this forum. Every consultant we've seen in person, has told us to either sue or abandon everything and start anew. I came to this forum for advice on other options. But how do you get someone to do the right thing without the enforcement of law? I don't want a court case. I just want my crappy plans corrected and build asap. 


 


Jan 28, 19 7:35 pm
Non Sequitur

I honestly have nothing constructive to add as I don't deal with residential clients nor am I licensed in the USA, but I do need to say that this discussion has been the best and most educational thing in the forum for a long time. Sucks that this lesson has cost and drained so much. I've mentioned it a few times here before, but there was a time in my very early career where the office I worked in mostly survived on clients like you... people who hired sub-par draftsman and found out quickly that they could not get permits with the products they paid for. You learn very quickly about the "weekend warrior" type designers and certainly does not make me miss residential work. Thanks for sharing. We could put this person's office's email on a bunch of spam lists... it is the internet afterall. 8-)

RickB-Astoria

While I can not judge the validity of what happened or compare the story. On face value, it raises flags. I don't know what words were exchanged that lead to her "blowing up" and threatening to throw you and your wife out of the office. I don't know the lead up, if there was any reasonable basis from being objective. These are the aspects that needs from an objective, and best served with hearing both sides. 

However, I can say that it would be unprofessional conduct of customary of any design professional (licensed or not) if the professional threatens to throw the client and/or client's spouse out of the office UNLESS there is proper justification because of what the client and/or client's spouse done such as unreasonable behavior. Criticism in and of itself is not justification for throwing client's out and is just not appropriate. For one, it's just not the way to treat clients. There is only limited circumstances for such extreme actions.

RickB-Astoria

alex445, 

I also will want to make sure that you understand that not all unlicensed building designers are bad. As a lesson for the future if you ever decide to build another project that doesn't require a licensed design professional to do more in vetting the designer and choose a time to do that when you have more time to discern and check on them. I would recommend consideration (and appropriately vetted) of certified professional building designers that are certified by the AIBD's National Council of Building Designer Certifications unless you decide to use licensed architects. I wish you best going forward.

alex445

Non Sequitur, thank you for your kind words. I am a firm believer that transparency and asking for help, helps both the person who asks for help and the person who helps. This is one of the wonderful things about the American culture, being able to freely speak your mind and ask for advice and feedback and admit one's mistakes, without the fear of being looked down upon. Desperation drove me to this forum and I'm glad if it helped others.

alex445

RickB-Astoria, the episodes that caused her eruptions: as I wrote earlier the drama is mysterious to me, coming from a culture where customer service is paramount, and my wife, who comes from a culture were negotiation and compromise are skillfully sought and prized. 

RickB-Astoria

I can see why you are at awe and perplexed about why it turn so sour. It may take time thinking out the courses of events and actions, statements said, etc. All I can say, it is most certainly stressful. Personally, I come from a school of thought where it would be inappropriate unless the client was threatening and otherwise actions raising concerns to that level. Verbal abuse might be a line where I would try to close the meeting to be rescheduled for a later for all parties to calm down.

alex445

I'm going through all the posts about whether an unlicensed architect can legally call herself an "architectural designer" (on her business card). 

So I called the California Architects Board. I was told in no uncertain terms that this is not lawful. "You can't use the 'a word' anywhere ever," I was told by a helpful person, probably the most unharried and patient state employee I've ever spoken to. The law: https://www.cab.ca.gov/act/bpc...

Designing small residential projects, like ours, is permitted by an unlicensed person. But it is illegal for this person to solicit design of apartments and hotels, like our architect is advertising on her website. 

I was encouraged to immediately file a complaint https://www.cab.ca.gov/docs/fo...

Jan 28, 19 7:45 pm
Non Sequitur

as you should file one.

RickB-Astoria

I second it. (FYI: I'm not sending any complaint filing to CAB.) 

While she can call herself a "building designer" but she can't call herself an "architectural designer" or imply she is licensed or registered with the state of California by any means and methods until she is licensed/registered with the State. If she prematurely does so, it's a violation of law.

BulgarBlogger

Rick- NO YOU CANNOT CALL YOURSELF A BUILDING DESIGNER IN CALIFORNIA.... IT IS DECEPTIVE AND "CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR" TO ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER. Stop saying that you can call yourself a building designer in California. You are wrong and are giving people false information.

RickB-Astoria

CAB has never applied such interpretation. They apply it when someone uses the title while offering architectural services. They flat out do not legally have the statutory authority to completely prohibit the use of the word "building designer" as it is not a protected title. They would run right into violating the U.S. Constitution. If I offered to perform services in California that requires an architect license while using the title "building designer" then I would be an issue but if I work on exempt buildings, they are EXEMPT buildings. Houses are buildings. Sheds and other outbuildings or accessory buildings are buildings. The ONLY protected title is "registered building designer" not "building designer". 

The word "registered" and similar protected terms like "license" when it comes to occupational titles are protected when the person implies they are licensed or registered. A person runs into trouble if they say they are "a building designer licensed in California". As far as I can tell, NO ONE HAS SINCE THE 1950s or 60s or possibly as far back as the history of exemptions EVER BEEN FINED IN CALIFORNIA FOR MERELY SAYING THEY ARE A BUILDING DESIGNER. There is more factors needed to issue a fine. They must justify that the person is implying they are licensed. If anyone was ever fined, it was overturned in court or there actually was other factors where the person fined was representing themselves as licensed or registered or otherwise authorized to design buildings that do require a license. I have talked to California Architect Board before. 

The title "building designer" is not "architectural designer". The reason is "architectural designer" contains the word "architect". Note the bold letters.

( o Y o )

To the OP: the cost of starting over with a real architect will be less than the cost of building out this half-baked piece of crap. You're trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Aside from that, every time you look at the building you're going to be reminded of this lousy experience. Better to flush twice and begin anew.

Get some architect referrals from contractors (and vice versa). Check references, look at the work. Talk to the clients. Walk through construction sites in progress - are they clean and organized, are the workers happy and engaged? Quiet observation can tell you a lot. When you feel comfortable, move forward. You will have a much better result. 

In the meantime file your complaint, document it, and use it in small claims. Lucky for you the limit us $10k - here in NY it's a worthless $3k.

Jan 28, 19 8:24 pm
alex445

( o Y o ). Thank you for your comments. I agree with "trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit" and the building of course will remind me of this unforgettable episode. 

But please note what others have pointed out that perhaps lawsuit won't be successful because contract terms was fulfilled. She did get a permit from the city (although the plan checker who stamped the plans now admits "these are no well-referenced plans and need to be correct." Thank you. Now you notice???) My budget or specs were not in the contract.  Plus I've already paid the city $10k on permitting fees.

alex445

There's a lot discussion and better to start new comment to address them:

About contract, yes, I signed a contract as I wrote earlier, it is a simple affair, 4 pages, saying the firm "will provide building design, drafting and permit expediting services for:" and then she wrote by hand: "(new) accessory dwelling unit up to 1200 so ft." 

Now I know I should have demanded much more detail. One of the demands, I now realize, should have been a mention of my budget. Isn't that reasonable. I gave a budget verbally before signing, saying this is what I'm shooting for. She didn't say it was too low. Her design is pricing out at nearly double my budget. Now she says 1. costs have risen tremendously in the year since 2. the budget is not her concern, that "I'm a designer, not contractor." 3. I didn't speak to credible contractors. She then picked up the phone and called a contractor she knows and asked him how much per sf to build a 1200 sf ADU. She put him on speakerphone. He gave a low price but he had no idea about the mitered window, the steel canopies, 9-foot ceilings, non-standard windows and doors, the roof with long windows in the back, etc. Then she hangs up and says, "see I told you. Your contractor doesn't know anything." 

But people we've spoken with say architect should design to budget. What is the value of a design that is not economically possible? One consultant told us he always prices out his designs BEFORE starting the permitting process. 

Am I wrong to expect design congruous with my budget?

Also another consultant said her design is a mismatch to the existing two buildings on the property (4-bdrm front house and a rear 600 sf guesthouse), both of which he called "traditional" designs. It's the architect's job to guide the client to something that is harmonious with the existing infrastructure and neighborhood. "You have two very ordinary buildings and then suddenly you spend all this money to put something that belongs in Santa Monica in the back of your property, that no one even sees. It doesn't make sense," he said.  
 

Jan 28, 19 8:30 pm
RickB-Astoria

If I was serving a client in a similar scenario, I would have at least followed up in email record the budget so there is a written record of the verbal understanding. Email is considered "written" for court purposes even without a hand signature. It can be reasonably inferred.

RickB-Astoria

If you or someone like you were my client, I would tell them that I would strive to design a solution that best meets your budget if it is realistic and budget should have been adjusted as needed. If I can not find a realistic design that could meet your scope criteria and your budget, it would be my responsibility to inform you (preferably long before we get to construction documentation phase). I would have also try to provide some guidance on how you can move to a successful project. Sometimes, it means something has to change be it size/scale/scope or budget or a combination thereof. A building designer or an architect can not guarantee price or meeting a budget as ultimately, the builder bids and so forth. However, we shouldn't be ridiculously out of line with bids if we are competent. We should have some general idea or ballpark figure and even suggest a contingency factor.

RickB-Astoria

FYI: An architect or designer can not guarantee the project will come in under budget but they can try to make a design solution that will. There is always some factors of unknowns that if we plan right and have the appropriate capital contingency in place, it could ultimately work out. If they are good with cost estimation, their estimate and design coming within budget will likely pan out if a SNAFU doesn't happen. However, it is not a 100% guarantee.

alex445

Something else about the contract: there is no place for her signature. Just a place for my signature. Is that kosher? 

We never got a copy of our signed contract. She gave us a copy without my signature. Another puzzle. 

Also the last page of the contract says: 

COMPLETION OF THE PROJECT:

This project is completely done by "[firm's name]", and the client is completely satisfied with the services received for this project.

Client name: _________________ Signature - Date ____________

Since I never got a copy of the signed contract, I have no idea if I could've signed this also or not. 

I know, I am an idiot. 

Jan 28, 19 8:37 pm
RickB-Astoria

That's better to be asked to a lawyer that specializes in contracts. In my opinion (IANAL - I Am Not A Layer), It's better for both parties to sign. If she issued the contract, it can be conferred that she agreed to the terms she stipulated but she has to be a party to the contract and indicated in the contract.

It is better practices if she gave you a copy of the signed contract at the least for your records. You probably should have took it to a copier or scanner and either copied it and scanned it so you have a copy in your own records.

Threesleeve

To the original poster:  if you're uncomfortable that the designer was identified, you can email the site's administrators and ask them to remove the thread.   From what you've told us, she's already threatened to sue you, and she's very temperamental. 

The website is hilarious and all, but it might not be great if the designer does find this thread and your comments about her.

The whole thing has eerie similarities to the legendary "California Intern" who plagued the AIA's old "e-architect" forum.  It's definitely not the same person - that one became a high school teacher after she sabotaged her architecture career - but they have similar design leanings, and from the sound of it the same volatility.  There's a cautionary tale in there though: "California Intern" escalated scarily, to having to be removed from an AIA meeting for threatening, and to posting fantasies (we think) of gun violence against her AIA chapter's then-president, clients, and former professors.  As entertaining as this thread has been, it might not be worth having to look over your shoulder all the time for vengeful designers.  

Jan 28, 19 8:46 pm
RickB-Astoria

You could conceivably have certain posts deleted or amended to remove certain identifying information.

Non Sequitur

Good thing it's archived for future reference.

RickB-Astoria

thank you.

5839

I find her website inspiring in its inventive appropriation. It never occurred to me to put my spouse-who works-in-an-unrelated-profession on the "Team" page of my architecture firm's site. If she can put her husband the rocket fuel guy as a consultant then surely I can put my film-professor-life-partner as my "visualization specialist" or something!

citizen

Don't forget the dog, the gardener, and Alexa. That's a team!

5839

bwahaha. I'm getting some black glasses to put on Alexa tonight for her head shot.

proto

wow...just wow

OP, i'm sorry you had to go through this

Jan 29, 19 5:20 pm
JBeaumont

I'm not feeling a lot of sympathy for the client here, because it's a classic you get what you pay for scenario. He paid 7k - any way you figure it that's a fee south of 5% of construction cost. Sure there are some architects who go that low for something like a Dunkin' Donuts, where one is the same as the next and all they have to do is make sure it meets their state code's minor idiosyncracies - but for residential design with an inexperienced client that's way, way into ultra bottom feeder depths.  These clients cheaped out big time and now they're whining because they're going to end up having to pay to have someone competent what they're worth, to clean up the mess.  That's not sad, it's just predictable.

Jan 29, 19 5:59 pm
RickB-Astoria

JBeaumont, 

That's bullshit. While I don't feel "sorry" for the client. However, regardless of the amount charged, if you represent yourself as professional and qualified to do the work by offering to perform such service, YOU are suppose to fulfill the professional standard of care and yes they DO exist even for unlicensed persons. As a building designer and any other designer worth a damn will hold themselves to a higher standard. The designer was sub-par and it should not matter what they charge. 

If they charge too little for the work performed then thats just poor business and I don't feel sorry for the designer in that case. HOWEVER, the price should NEVER be an excuse for incompetency. This designer supposedly had AXP training, architectural education, and passed most if not all of the ARE.... should have known better by this point. A client is ALWAYS entitled professional competent delivery of services NO matter what the price is in ANY OCCUPATION.... PERIOD! NO EXCEPTIONS. 

Therefore, "you get what you paid for" argument is total bullshit kind of chicken shit weasaling out of responsibility just because you charge too little for the services. If I gave that argument, outright, people would call "bullshit" on it. Right? This is not a criticism of you JBeaumont but that of the argument.

JBeaumont

I'm not defending the bad designer. I'm saying that anybody who offers to do the project for less than half what it would typically cost should send up red flags all over the place. Nobody competent and experienced would do that project for that fee - unless maybe it was a favor for a relative or something. The owner was cutting big corners. It's like people who drive around obvious gates and get squashed by trains. Boohoo.

RickB-Astoria

JBeaumont, I agree with you that no self-respecting competent and experienced professional should charge a fee that low except in certain cases but we really don't need to go there. What customer or client won't be willing to accept paying less than what the competent services should be charged at? So if the designer chose to charge $7K for a service that would normally be two to 3 times that amount, what client would not be willing or try to get as much and pay as little and if possible.... nothing.... for it? Who wouldn't? I guess.... maybe some ethical and self-conscious to a fault type a person that feels guilty if they even short change a person 1 penny. Sure. 

However, most people don't know the hours required or spent. That's not taught in public school and if they are not of this field where they get an idea as to what it takes, they aren't going to learn it or about it in their studies towards their vocation. In my opinion, what's to gain by belittling the client who realizes they made a horrible mistake by selecting this client. 

Why make someone already feels bad that they were trying to pay as little as they can on the project because they can and kind feel like a "dumb ass" and bad about it then have a bunch of people publicly calling them that or inferring that? It's not like any of this stuff we think the public should know is actually taught outside of architecture schooling. If they aren't taught it in the mandatory schooling years, they aren't going to get it in college when people are tailoring their college education to their career aspirations or whatever.

randomised

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys...

RickB-Astoria

It should NEVER be justification of the PROFESSIONAL to get away with substandard delivery of service. The PROFESSIONAL has the DUTY OF CARE not the client. When I say professional, I mean the one providing the service to the client. The professional who doesn't charge what he or she should charge for the work involved is an idiot but the client is always in their right to expect professional quality of service at whatever the agreed price the professional agreed to. It is the professional's contract. If you provide a service then you are in the role of the professional and have the duty, responsibility, and the liability to any wrongdoing, incompetence, negligence, error and/or omission when performing those services. 

If you offer a service then you are representing yourself as a professional with the knowledge and skills to fulfill and deliver the service. That is basic expectation that all customers/clients are to expect of the professionals they contract. If you don't meet up to this standard to that customary that other professionals providing the same or substantively similar services then you are misleading, potentially fraudulent, and unprofessional, and are failing to meet the standards of consumer protection laws and the justice system that applies to ALL people in the United States and all the states of the U.S. and any other country with similar principles of justice. The client has the right to take advantage of great prices because you charge too little for it but you have to deliver your service to no less than the customary standard performed for same and similar services. This is for all occupations not just architecture but pretty much any consultant-client relationship. 

I hold the professional to the duty of care not the non-professional... the client. The definition of client infers they are the Non-professional in the applicable context. If the client was the "Professional" in the context then they wouldn't be contracting the professional to provide the particular service. Professionals do the services (in the occupational fields) in which they are a professional in. The responsibility of the duty of care rests on the professional not the non-professional. However, when a non-professional represents themselves as professionals to another non-professional and takes on the responsibility of a professional, they take responsibility of the duty of care, own the responsibility to any mistakes they make, ect. as a professional. If you take on the role, you take on all the responsibilities of the role. 

As professionals in a professional (consultant) / non-professional (non-professional) relationship, we are held to a higher standard of care, and hold the duty of care to deliver our goods and/or services professionally and competently to the professional and customary standard of responsible care as is customary of our profession. While a client will still have certain responsibilities contractually but we have the duty to inform the client of their responsibilities.

randomised

Yes, but a true (licensed) professional will not take on certain jobs when the pay is substandard and the equivalent of peanuts So, as a client you're stuck with the substandard "professionals" if all you are willing to pay is peanuts.

RickB-Astoria

A true professional (regardless of licensure status) will not or at least should not customarily take on certain jobs when the pay is substandard and is essentially equivalent of peanuts. I agree with you emphasizing to clients and prospective clients to a professional that if they agree to pay a "professional" at substandard pay (peanuts). Now, how will they know the pay is substandard? We must assume for the most part that any prospective client isn't going to know what the standard pay is. They can't know. They don't know what is involved. They rely on the PROFESSIONAL to tell them what it is to pay. There are too many in this field that are willing to charge ridiculously low prices. We are built on a consumer culture where we select based on price because our economic system cultivates price wars. For any size residential project, the price for services is all over the place from $0 to multi-million dollars. There's this flood of different price points that a client with no background in architecture would be overwhelmed with conflicting information. How can they get through that mess. 

The internet just makes it worse because they have as much volume of stuff and opines on prices to fill the entire Library of Congress 1000 times over even if if they used Blu-Ray DVD-RW discs or Micro-SD cards. We would have to guide them so they don't have to go through that all that nest of confusion. They don't come in knowing better because our profession and pricing is totally alien. We don't use uniform pricing as that's an antitrust violation. It used to be simpler when we used the once published AIA architect fee schedule. AIA basically discontinued that due to an antitrust lawsuit. Another story. Even us unlicensed building designers don't have such things. FTC/DOJ vs AIA antitrust lawsuit is still quite the cautionary tale. It is upon us professionals to tell our prospective clients what a reasonable price you are willing charge based on the specific scope of work outlined with the estimated hours and other associated costs you can assume and see occuring over the duration of the particular services and factoring in a margin for a profit. You are in business to make a profit not run a so called "for-profit" business like you are intentionally trying to go out of business. It needs to be reasonably justified. 

Most of the pricing problem begins with us in the profession charging maybe your employee based labor rate not your billed hourly rate for your hourly cost estimation. Too many just don't know how to charge for services as an independent business. Some treat this business as just a weekend gig. I would expect a small ADU to be a modest fee. 

At nearly a 1400 sq.ft. footprint and basically ~2750 sq.ft. between the two floors (quick and dirty) is a modest house. A modest guest house to what maybe a larger main house of two to three times larger. This so called "A.D.U.", I would charge what would be charged as any regular 2700 to 2800 sq.ft. single family residence. However, where I am, an ADU would be something between 500 and 1000 sq.ft. given the scale of main residence and the ADU being a smaller accessory structure with a minimalist level of dwelling closer in scale to the traditional 1 room cabin. I would be looking at a footprint of 400 to 600 sq.ft. and maybe two levels especially if the main dwelling is 3 stories and have twice or more the footprint. ADUs isn't something I can just linearly charge less than what it might cost to design a modest SFR of 1500 to 3000 sq.ft. The hours required won't be that much less and be close to the same so there isn't much to gain in design service price to build smaller. The cost saving would be on some material costs and that's about it.

It somewhat makes me facepalm at the price charged for a secondary house on the same lot (I guess).


randomised

"A true professional (regardless of licensure status) will not or at least should not customarily take on certain jobs when the pay is substandard and is essentially equivalent of peanuts."

A professional simply won't take such a peanut job.

"We must assume for the most part that any prospective client isn't going to know what the standard pay is."

They (should) know, hiding behind ignorance is no excuse. What do they get paid in order to earn the money for them to go into investing in properties to house poor migrants in substandard housing in the first place? Maybe they have a peanut business.

RickB-Astoria

They should know only if it was part of formal mandatory education. It is always nice if the client was credibly informed but that's a rare exception not the rule. Who is going to teach these over 300 million citizens in the U.S. There isn't a publicly known definitive standard pay because there is no standard prescribed fee schedule. We only know what to charge based on a detailed process of estimating costs and experience about similar work and hours they typically range in and we dial and adjust the amount from one like project to another similar. If the client was that attuned to how the work of architects are then they would have the knowledge and skills of doing the work themselves and that won't need us. 

We can't leave it up to the prospective client to sift through all b.s. they are going to go through trying to sift through the internet. How are they going to know one source is more credible than another? To them, they are all credible or not credible for all they know. That's the biggest challenge in all this. We need to be the ones informing them. Most clients in the SFR realm, it is their first time "hiring" (contracting actually) an architectural or building design professional to design such a project. Most people don't tend to have multiple experiences working with an architect or designer in their entire life. 

I call upon all professionals in this field to step up their game, step up to the plate of being part of informing the public, prospective clients at the on-set, use honest pricing practices, and explain why you price things a certain way in a respectful and professional manner with substantiation, and ALWAYS treat the practice as a business which you want it to be financially sustainable (in other words, planning a reasonable profit margin from the on-set, estimate hours needed with reasonable float (padding the hours for variability that may be caused by "unknowns" that come from minor variability between projects, clients, etc.). Major alterations of scope will certainly require reassessing the fees charged and possible additional services charges.

SpontaneousCombustion

Most people do a little research when they're looking for professional services of any kind: talk to others about their experiences and to ask if they can recommend someone, educate themselves a bit on the type of projects, etc. Meet with a few professionals. Check their references. Check out their past projects.
Reading the OP's complaints about things like the style of the design, it seems like they never even looked at her work or her website.

RickB-Astoria

That is true but often some of that doesn't really educate a client on what it will cost or what is a standard price. These "little research" can also lead them to a lot of myths and misinformation to diffuse as well as lot of other conflicting information. We have to do our part in clearing up the mess and be clear about what we are going to charge and why and in effect educate them. I purposefully avoided getting into the issues of "style of the design" and critiquing the quality of that. It is good to meet with say 5 to 10 professionals. If we are all honest with our prices then we should all be relatively close. Yes, there are architects and designers that will promote a certain style and only work in that style or their personalized version of that style. There are architects who promote work often in a particular contemporary style but also do work in other 'styles'. Maybe the client thought she would be adaptive in working the the styles of the architecture to compliment the main dwelling. That's another issue I rather not dwell on with only one side of the story to hear (well... read) from. I definitely support your point above as suggestions.

JBeaumont

A client is ALWAYS entitled professional competent delivery of services NO matter what the price is in ANY OCCUPATION.... PERIOD! NO EXCEPTIONS.

That's pretty hypocritical coming from you Rick. Go back and visit your theater thread(s) - compare this philosophy to your excuses about the health/safety/welfare violations design there:  high cost of UL manuals, client's tiny budget; ignorance of how to use a tape measure...

RickB-Astoria

I was criticized about it.... right? One, it was one of my earliest projects. There was also a number of deviations by the builder/client.

RickB-Astoria

My opinion on best practices and what should be expected from professional have evolved or changed over the years even from when I did that theater project.

SneakyPete

So when does this cross the line into doxing, folks?

Jan 30, 19 10:57 am
threeohdoor

I flagged the post and I think it was removed. For a bit it seemed like we were heading into 4chan territory...

OneLostArchitect

Who is doxing who?

randomised

What was removed? This thread is still here...and so are the links.

threeohdoor

Someone posted an NCARB Record page (the ARE status page) of a woman with the caption of "is this the person?". The image indicated that the poster had logged onto the NCARB account. So either the poster was outing herself or there was some fishiness.

5839

Hard to say without knowing what was removed. Anything currently visible doesn't cross that line, because all the info that's been shared is from the designer's public marketing presence.

SpontaneousCombustion

She posted a screenshot of her NCARB record on her own facebook page, in a post set to public visibility.  I'd say that's not doxxing.

threeohdoor

Ya know, in this day and age, I shouldn't be surprised that no one cares about privacy, but dang.

RickB-Astoria

In this thread or another?

RickB-Astoria

Sponty, thanks for clarifying my question. Didn't notice it when I started my reply threeohdoor.

SpontaneousCombustion

I think they mean somebody posted the NCARB record here in this thread - so they assumed that somebody had gotten into the designer's NCARB account. But the designer has the screen shot of her NCARB record posted publicly on her fb page. So, no real fishiness there.

threeohdoor

Yep yep, as Spontaneous mentioned above. I was quick to think someone was actively trying to doxx the designer. It didn't occur to me that she would post her NCARB profile photo to her Facebook page...

RickB-Astoria

threeohdoor, first.... people seem to think Internet is private. It's not. There was a common principle that dates back to way back to dial-up BBSs and dial-up computer networks, if you don't want certain information to be known publicly, you don't post that information on those systems. This was what all of us who began using the internet in the first 10 years of "public internet" (vs. semi-public or the DOD's era as ARPANET) where you don't disclose private information or other information you don't mind being public on those systems. In other words, you kept it off the net. Just like you don't disclose your passwords, social security number, and other personal identifying information. Think of the internet like a public sidewalk where people write information down on (waterproof) paper in (waterproof) ink and staple (or tape it to the utility poles. You don't know who may come across that information. Responsibility to privacy ultimately begins with you not disclosing personal identifying information or other information you don't want others to know.

JBeaumont

Things posted here all seem fair. The initial identification of the designer seems to have been possible because of criticisms that the OP related about her website (phrases containing specific spelling errors). If you post something on your firm's website, it's not unreasonable to think that others might share info and opinions about it. Maybe the lesson there is that spelling actually matters.

I do kind wonder whether it would be doing a service to let this designer know about the thread. Maybe at least she'd make some changes to her site before Vistaprint and/or CAB descend on her.

threeohdoor

Hi Rick, I appreciate the lesson from on high but fear not, this internet denizen is well-versed in the ways of the internet.

RickB-Astoria

In reply to JBeaumont:

Nothing (except yourself) stops you from contacting her 'office'?

SneakyPete

I was concerned that a line was being approached that shouldn't be crossed. I also don't believe anything freely posted by the individual on the public web is on the other side of that line.

RickB-Astoria

I agree. If it is posted in a public fashion that a person could view without requiring special access and permission by that person then it is pretty much no longer private. It was already edited to remove NCARB Record # from being viewed. Even Facebook platform has ability to set whether information on their account is "public" or viewable only by friends or just themselves. It is apparent the information is made available in a public fashion that anyone with a Facebook account can view without requiring hacking. I say.... so what, anyway. Nothing special.

RickB-Astoria

threeohdoor,

I've well versed in the ways of computerize telecommunications. 


Jan 30, 19 2:15 pm
Non Sequitur

except for spelling.

RickB-Astoria

Ha! We used to have to be very creative in writing one-liners. That's not the excuse for spelling issues. It's just laziness and the intent to get the message or responses to messages out there in as near real-time timeliness as possible.

OneLostArchitect

Well I’m guess she is actually licensed... what do you do now?

Jan 30, 19 7:56 pm
Formerlyunknown

She isn't licensed. She finished the ARE less than 2 weeks ago, and said on facebook that she's going to start studying for the CSE next.

alex445

Hello, I'm updating the forum with the latest on our case with Atrshane Alimohammdi (a.k.a. Audrey Atrshan Alimo) of Atrium Design. We tried again to get her to correct her plans but she refused without getting paid another $2550 and that's just for the corrections. She refused to get us the necessary supplemental permit. We would have been on our own going to the city for the permit.

Her father, who goes to the same school as my wife, offered to mediate. My wife went to her office on the promise that the issue would be resolved the same day. Alimohammadi showed up an hour late and immediately announced that everyone, including her father, had to leave because "you need an appointment to speak to me" and refused to return the copy of the plans she had borrowed from us earlier to make the corrections.

Our very last conversation was unforgettable. She argued on the phone for an hour claiming all along she knew the 5x5-foot bathrooms or the misconfigured bedroom (I posted with my original post) didn't make sense and now if we really want to see her expertise, we should pony up for a new floorplan. She told us she's recording the call. Apparently, she doesn't know about California's two party consent law against secretly recording calls. 

We spoke to construction attorney, whose comments reflected some of the advice I got in this forum:

1. it would be insane to pay her more money after all we've been through, 14 months after we hired her.

2. The person who does the corrections needs to take responsibility for getting the supplemental permit, otherwise impossible to correctly answer city officials’ questions.

3. An experienced architect needs to take over the project and we should stop losing time trying to work with Alimohammadi, considering that our permit expires in a couple of months.

We are pretty drained. Here's a HomeAdvisor.com review on how the stress has affected us. https://www.homeadvisor.com/ra...

But we're also relieved that despite the loss of money and time, at least we don't have to deal with Alimohammadi anymore.

We filed a CAB complaint and they confirmed that an unlicensed person cannot use the title of "architectural designer".

Next challenge is to find a new architect to do the corrections. That might be a challenge because apparently some don't want to deal with flawed work of someone else. And it has to be someone skilled in dealing with the city's bureaucracy - or we've been told.

The plan is here: https://drive.google.com/file/...

I could really use the forum's advice: 

We don't have the CAD files, of course. Just PDFs. Can anyone tell me how many hours of work it would take to rebuild the plans? I'm wondering which pages have to be redone. 

As written before, we want to  

1. change ceiling heights to 8-foot from the current 9-foot. 

2. Get rid of the double walls.

3. Replace all the non-standard windows (which are almost all the windows) with standard store-bought windows. Replace 7-foot doors with standard 6'8". Replace all those fancy exterior sliding doors with standard ones. 

4. change the floor plan to have fewer and larger bathrooms. 

5. Get rid of the avalanche of superfluous detail. No our project does not have firewalls or a garage! And figure out which detail actually belongs to our project.  That might be a challenge. 

6. Add references so the contractors can tell which wall or floor detail are to be used.

Or at least these are the issues we see so far. 

(Another issue we might face is the engineering drawings, yes, drawn by hand! She hired him with blank checks we gave her. Contractors say they can't find sufficient foundation detail and it is unnecessarily over built.) 

I fully remember forum posts advising me to abandon the entire thing and start from scratch. We've spent at least $11,000 on city fees. Attorney says the only thing we could get back is the school fee of $5,300. 

But money aside, our time is limited because of family responsibilities that await us overseas. We need to build quickly to get on with our lives. Alimohammadi promised 5 but took 11 months to get our permit. But I'm guessing even a competent person would require at least 6 months.  



Mar 19, 19 9:13 pm
Non Sequitur

You got scammed and it sucks... but for fuck's sake, look through your city's residential architect directory and hire a real professional and get something you want instead of salvaging this travesty. Those drawings are worth jack-shit (I'm being as nice as I can, honestly) and would need to be redone, likely at a cost higher than you've already tossed into this hole. Also, lawyer up and bring this fraud to court.

( o Y o )

You gave her blank checks?! 

You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Don't try to get someone to 'fix' the disaster, abandon it and move on. This is a simple project that has been made needlessly complex and expensive - without considering the difficulties you've been put through. 

Hire a pro. Iit's going to cost time and money but in the end you will save a bundle and eliminate the headache. Never hire without references. Talk to builders and interview architects they like - this is not about fancy design but rather about getting a competent professional who will efficiently guide you through the process. 

You should indeed file a complaint about your "architect" with the state board, if for no other reason than to try to protect others from such abuses. The money isn't enough to lawyer up over as the fees will likely be more than the disputed amount, although small claims remains an option. Also consider the stress of prolonging your engagement in this mess, and consider yourself lucky that you didn't get in any deeper. 

Apparently you are not from around here (U$A).

Mar 19, 19 10:09 pm
citizen

There seem to be a lot of these seemingly confident but unscrupulous, unqualified hacks out there.  I always figured it's because they work cheap.  I guess sometimes it's because they know how to find trusting novice-clients who don't know when they're getting bamboozled for real money.

Mar 20, 19 2:54 am
Volunteer

The person the OP hired, whether licensed or not, is obviously unqualified to make changes and appears to be mentally unstable. If the contractor is a good one ask him for a reference of an architect he has worked with before and one that could determine if what he has now is salvageable or not. If the OP keeps going back to this woman any major flaws that do slip by, whether money or safety-related, are on his head now. 

Mar 20, 19 9:11 am
5839

You've gotten plenty of solid answers all through this thread already about which of the items on your list really matter for permitting and construction purposes and which don't.  For anything further you need to stop asking here for free advice - you need to take your project to a new architect (check references and their history of built work this time!!!!!) and ask all these questions of them, 

Yes, a reputable, competent architect is almost certainly going to want to start from scratch.  Their license depends on it.  In CA an architect can't stamp drawings for which they weren't in responsible control of production - and even if they could, nobody's going to want to start with this hack designer's drawings anyway.  A very ballpark reasonable figure for design fees for a reputable, licensed architect on a new residential project is anywhere from 7 to 12 percent of construction cost.  If someone is significantly lower, as was the case here, you must ask yourself why in this market would they take on your project for peanuts?  Usually it's because they're inexperienced and hungry for first built projects for their portfolios.  Don't go down that road twice.

Mar 20, 19 9:29 am
randomised

What are trying to get out of your update, that someone here feels sorry enough to fix the mess someone else put you in? Architecture is costly for a good reason, it takes time and dedication from both client and architect. You've found out the hard way that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. And lots of peanuts add up in the end too. 

Mar 20, 19 10:15 am

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