Registered architects and architectural businesses must adhere to the provisions of the Architectural Practice Act 2009.

This defines unprofessional conduct as:

  • Improper or unethical conduct in relation to professional practice, and
  • Incompetence or negligence in relation to the provision of services as an architect, and
  • A contravention of or failure to comply with
    — A provision of the Act, or
    — A code of conduct or professional standard prepared or endorsed by the Board under this Act, and
  • Conduct that constitutes an offence punishable by imprisonment for 1 year or more under some other Act or law.

Nightingale Bowden, Breathe. Photography by Anthony Basheer.

Initial steps

If you believe the architect or architectural business you have engaged is not providing a professional service you should first establish that you are dealing with a registered architect or architectural business. You can do this by either searching the register on the website, or contacting the office of the Board.

The Board can only investigate a complaint of unprofessional conduct against a registered person or business. If the person or business is not registered and is using the term architect (or derivatives of the word, such as 'architectural'), then you should contact the office of the Board. Only a person or business registered can use the term 'architect', or 'architectural' etc to describe themselves or their services. This provision of the Act protects the public interest, as members of the public are entitled to be assured the person/business they engage is an architect. The Board can take action to prevent persons or businesses calling themselves an 'architect', so you should contact the Board to discuss your situation in this case.

If the person or business is not registered, your options include:

  1. talking to the office of the Board to find out what you can do
  2. contacting the Office of Consumer and Business Services
  3. obtaining legal advice on your situation.

Secondly, once you have determined the person/business is registered, you should talk to your architect and try to resolve your issues and concerns. If you have a signed agreement with your architect (and you should), follow the dispute resolution process specified in that agreement.

If these processed have failed, you may decide to lodge a complaint with the Board.

How to make a complaint

Considering lodging a complaint about an architect? Does your complaint involve unprofessional conduct – that is, the competency or conduct of the architect/business? If you have tried to resolve your difficulties with the architect or business but have not been successful you may lodge a complaint with the Board. Be aware that the Board cannot consider matters involving civil damages or assign compensation, this can only be done in a court setting.

Core considerations:

  • Discuss the matter with the Boards Registrar, who may be able to help you clarify if lodging a complaint with the Board is appropriate for your situation. You should also seek your own legal advice if appropriate.
  • Ask for a complaint form to be sent to you. Complaints must be lodged in writing, using this form. The complaints form is not available from the Boards website, so you need to contact the Board to obtain one. You will need to clearly set out the reasons you believe your architect or business has been less than professional, and include a chronology of events which have given rise to your complaint.
  • Complete the complaint form and attach supporting material. Complaints have to be substantiated so you need to provide evidence of the matters being complained about. (Supporting material could be copies of letters, emails, signed agreements etc). The complaint form will ask you to notify the Board whether you want the complaint to be taken forward as a Registrars complaint, or as a complaint by an aggrieved person. The difference is that
    — a Registrars complaint will be investigated and conducted by the Registrar. This includes evidence gathering, witness statements, etc to substantiate a complaint of unprofessional conduct, if made.
    — an aggrieved person's complaint must be investigated by the aggrieved person (including all evidence gathering etc), and the complaint will be laid by the aggrieved person. You are advised to obtain legal advice and representation if you choose this pathway.

Once you have lodged your complaint, and it is a Registrar's complaint, it will be assessed by the Registrar and the Notifications Committee of the Board.

The flow charts of the Board's procedures in handling complaints of unprofessional conduct (i.e. disciplinary procedure against an architect), and prosecuting alleged breaches of the Act provides more detail on:

  • the investigation process for either a disciplinary procedure or a prosecution
  • the laying of a complaint for unprofessional conduct against an architect
  • the Board's procedure in prosecuting a person or business who may have breached provision/s of the Architectural Practice Act 2009.