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Old 27.06.2007, 15:49
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Ending a relationship with an architect

We have been working with an architect on renovating our new (old) house.

For many reasons we have decided to end our relationship with him.

We are at this stage & situation in the process:
  • He has designed the plans for the extension
  • He has submitted these for planning permission to the Commune
  • He has been getting quotes but has not yet submitted a final estimate for the work
  • His fee, he says, is approx CHF44,000 for the entire project (22% of the building cost)
  • We have already paid him CHF14,000
  • We have no signed contract with him
The crux is that even though we do not yet have planning permission, nor any final estimate, he says we owe him yet another CHF14,000.

Total: CHF28,000 and a spade has not even gone in the ground!

We have been told by another source that to end our work with him we need only pay him 22% of the fee which he estimated.

Can anyone shed any light or information on what is correct?

I know we have no contract with the architect so we are, as far as I understand it, not liable for anything (but please correct me if I'm wrong).

However we want to do the decent thing by him. But asking for CHF28,000 is way too much of a decent thing. At least in our opinion.

Advice, tips, links, anything to set us straight would be mightily appreciated (though I know this question may be rather specialized :-)
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Old 27.06.2007, 15:52
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

Get him to itemise the bill for one.
Get a legal expert to help. Might cost a few grand but will probably save Johnny Foreigner getting a shoeing.
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Old 27.06.2007, 16:21
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

Ta for this. We have the full Legal Insurance with TCS, but I'm hopeful it won't come to that. I'd rather use our "get out of jail free" clause of no-signed-contract if it started to go that far.

Or maybe that is exactly when I'll need the legal eagles :-)
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Old 27.06.2007, 16:22
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

I'd check what TCS covers legal-wise. I would assume car-related?
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Old 27.06.2007, 16:43
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

My curiosity begs me to ask: Why did you not have a written quotation from the architect before you engaged his services?
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Old 27.06.2007, 16:58
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

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Ta for this. We have the full Legal Insurance with TCS, but I'm hopeful it won't come to that. I'd rather use our "get out of jail free" clause of no-signed-contract if it started to go that far.

Or maybe that is exactly when I'll need the legal eagles :-)
Beware because in Switzerland verbal agreements can be considered as binding (maybe Richard wants to expand a bit on this) - especially since your behavior up to this point was consistent with the existence of a (albeit unwritten) contractual agreement.
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Old 27.06.2007, 17:18
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

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Ta for this. We have the full Legal Insurance with TCS, but I'm hopeful it won't come to that. I'd rather use our "get out of jail free" clause of no-signed-contract if it started to go that far.

Or maybe that is exactly when I'll need the legal eagles :-)
I donít think that the TCS insurance would cover this situation. They offer two types of cover and the first is just related to motoring and the second, while more extensive, would not appear to cover this situation.
A full legal insurance policy would cost about CHF 400.
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Old 27.06.2007, 17:30
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

Been there, done that, wallet is lighter and I still don't have my Wintergarten.

LR is right - Get an itemized bill, and then get a lawyer!

(What is it with architects here? I've heard so many horror stories.)

We fired our architect after he spent two years not working on our project. Save all communication, especially anything that documents dissatisfaction, failed expectations, outright lies , etc.

I would expect that you'll have to pay for any service authorized by you and delivered by the architect. As mentioned, verbal agreements can be binding. Whether you have to pay for for services not delivered or for unauthorized work is why you need a lawyer.

You may want to have a chat with the folks at your building permission office - find out exactly what the architect has submitted, and where the permit process sits. If the local or canton building office is still deciding, or if they have denied your permit, you may not have much of a case, assuming the architect submitted the application correctly. If the permit has been delayed because the architect has not correctly submitted the application or was in some other way negligent, you are in a better position.

I learned the hard way that payment of the honorarium should be tied to winning the building permit.

And, if I am ever mad enough to attempt another renovation, I'll make sure an architect isn't needed. A general construction manager is often a better solution.

Hope this works out for you...
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Old 02.07.2007, 12:24
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

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My curiosity begs me to ask: Why did you not have a written quotation from the architect before you engaged his services?
How it works is that they do the plans, when you agree the plans they get you various quotes for carrying it out, then they oversee the construction. 3 stages in an all-in-one job. So you can't really ask for the quotes for the building work till you've carried out the 1st stage. Or at least that's how I understand it. Kind of mad, I agree.
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Old 02.07.2007, 12:55
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

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Been there, done that, wallet is lighter
Looks like I'll be joining you :-)

A magnificently useful post - many thanks for this.

(And cheers for the info on TCS - I have the "fully comp" one - but I guess I've been misleading myself - ouch)

I'll also post back here anything I learn in the coming months in case it can help others in the future.

3 things I do know now if it helps anyone:

* An architect may show you an official sheet which shows the rates they should be paid based on the cost of this project. Whatever the % shown, halve it and negotiate from there. Apparently "no one pays that published rate", I've been told by another architect. We learnt this one too late.

* They charge by a % of total cost, so there is no incentive for them to keep costs down when they go out for estimates (and from what we know, talking around, they never come in under budget). So if you can, do a fixed payment.

* (After more research on my side and so adding to what Meloncollie said) Construction Managers seem to be not only better than architects - less artistic and more pragmatic - they are usually significantly cheaper.

Cheers all.
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Old 11.07.2007, 17:03
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

On the TCS Legal Insurance (the additional bit that you need to pay for separate to the cover you can get for your car) - it does not cover
  • Legal action involved fighting the issues with a construction permit are not covered
  • Legal action during the buying or selling of a house or an apartment are also not covered
  • A contract dispute with an architect that is not associated with these 2 issues *may* be covered.
...just if it helps anyone in the future
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Old 11.07.2007, 17:19
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

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Beware because in Switzerland verbal agreements can be considered as binding (maybe Richard wants to expand a bit on this) - especially since your behavior up to this point was consistent with the existence of a (albeit unwritten) contractual agreement.
Not just in Switzerland but practically anywhere. The difficulty is the proving of the verbal contract but you have handed that on a plate by presenting him with the first 14K. If you go before a judge you can hardly argue that he was providing some form of alternative services even kinky ones aren't that much

The situation is thus you have placed an order for services and he is in the process of delivering the services. Quite how far he has got only you and him will know. Unless there are good grounds to terminate the contract you will be left picking up a bill - like it or not.
So where do you go from here?
You need to actually write down all the reasons you have for "ending the relationship".
Is there anything there that can be deemed as negligent or not to the standard expected. If so list those out. Are these reasons alone a reason to terminate the contract. If they are then you have an argument. If they are not then you have a damage limitation exercise.
Here you have an upper limit which is the additional fee he has requested. This he will probably be able to justify by loss of earnings and planning time to do your work which he can no longer replace at such short notice.
You must then look at your list of reasons and the amount of work he has done thus far and work from there. Offer him 5K cash and see what he says for example.

With the limited information you have provided that is the best I can suggest. If he has been negligent or has not worked as agreed then you should not only be looking to not pay any more but looking to regain the money spent. Fact is for both not paying or recovering money a written contract helps...
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Old 11.07.2007, 21:08
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Re: Ending a relationship with an architect

Sorry to hear your all-too-familiar story.

Meloncollie is, naturally, correct. Start by asking for the quotes he has received. They are _yours_ - he is acting for you in this endevour.
Getting those quotes will be ultimately useful, since getting any quotes
can be a royal pain. Do note that those quotes will almost certainly be inflated somewhat, as there seems to be a great element of backslapping/under the table bungs going on between architects and the builders - as was said above, there is no incentive to keep costs down. However, having secured the quotes they could be passed on to a down-to-earth building manager who, if (s)he knows the lie of the land well enough, should be able to negotiate these quotes downwards significantly to your advantage.
Amazingly, this can also happen even with the city departments, in situations where you cannot imagine that the fee is negotiable!

Anyway, back to quotes, if he does not play ball you should use this as leverage for witholding money. But as was stated above, you need a breakdown of the costs. A figure as high as 27% of costs is within the SIA norms (Swiss Inst Architects) - i.e. it isn't unusual. But he is asking for 22% of what? He should at the very least give a breakdown with the hours put in on the project - then one could perhaps reckon your bill based on a rate of say 135 per hour.

Its such a tricky one, and you have my sympathy. There absolutely needs to be more posts on here flagging the dangers of uncertain contracts with architects. I for one am just about to go over to another english language site and post comments
in just this regard.

Good luck
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