Complaint Professional Conduct Architects Tribunal Title Protection
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On this page there is information about

  • complaints about architects, and
  • complaints about people who are not architects holding out as architects - scroll down to Complaints about non-architects "holding out" to be architects (Breach of Title) below.

Complaints about the Professional Conduct of Architects

Section 18 of the Architects Act 1991 ("the Act”) provides that the Board, "on its own initiative or on the complaint of any person, may inquire into an architect’s fitness to practice or professional conduct”.

The Architects Regulations 2015 ("the Regulations") contains the Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct that is binding on architects.

If you are considering complaining about an architect or wish to discuss compliance procedures please read the information on this page and then phone the Board and ask to speak to the Compliance Consultant.

How complaints are handled:

The procedure followed by the Board when a complaint is received is explained in detail in this document:
Information on Complaints Procedures. This document can be found in "Compliance Resources" (located in the drop-down menu under the "Compliance" tab on this website).

In summary, the process followed is that when a complaint is received, the Board notifies the architect and asks for a response, two Board members (an architect and non-architect) review the matter and report to the Board, and the Board decides whether or not to refer the matter to an Architects Tribunal inquiry.

The Board has a Policy to assist it in determining matters for referral to Tribunal: ARBV Policy on Referral to Inquiry by Architects Tribunal (PDF). This document can be found in "Compliance Resources" (located in the drop-down menu under the "Compliance" tab on this website).

The Act (section 42 (2)) provides for a person to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for review of a decision by the Board not to refer a matter to an Architects Tribunal inquiry.

Complainants should be aware that it may take several months for a decision to be made regarding a complaint.

Architects Tribunal Inquiries

Professional conduct inquiries are conducted by the Architects Tribunal which is independent of the Board. A Tribunal panel is appointed as required, from a ‘standing panel’ of suitably qualified people approved by the Governor-In-Council.

An Architects Tribunal is constituted as follows:

21. Membership of Tribunal
(1) A Tribunal must consist of —
    (a) one person who is a practising architect; and
    (b) one person who is not an architect; and
    (c) one person who is a representative of consumer interests.
(2) The members of a Tribunal must be chosen from a panel of persons appointed by the Minister under section 21A.
(3) A member of the Board cannot be a member of a Tribunal.
(4) At least one member of a Tribunal is to be a person with legal experience and knowledge.
(5) A Tribunal must elect one of its members to be the Chairperson of the Tribunal.

The procedures followed by the Tribunal are explained in detail in this document: Information on Complaints Procedures. This document can be found in "Compliance Resources" (located in the drop-down menu under the "Compliance" tab on this website).

In summary, the process followed is that the Registration Board draws up a Notice containing specific allegations regarding the architect's conduct. A Tribunal is appointed, and the parties to the matter (the Architect and the Board) present their cases and the Tribunal makes its Findings regarding the allegations.

If the Architects Tribunal finds allegations against an architect proved, it makes Determinations regarding Penalty and Costs. The Board is required to enforce the Determinations made by the Tribunal.

The Act provides for the Architect to apply to VCAT for review of a Determination made at an inquiry (s 41 (c)).

Complaints about non-architects "holding out" to be architects (Breach of Title)

One of the purposes of the Act is to protect consumers by controlling the use of the title "architect” and the phrases "architectural services”, "architectural design” and "architectural design services”. Only persons. partnerships and companies whose names appear on the Register of Architects are permitted to use this language in connection with building design. (The terms are not restricted in contexts unrelated to building design, e.g. "website architects".) The Act also contains more general provisions against non-architects holding themselves out as architects.

The right to use the title Architect is determined through the process of registration, which requires attainment of an accredited qualification in architecture or its equivalent, a period of two years' supervised practice, and then passing of the Architectural Practice Examination (APE). Once registered, architects are required to comply with the Regulations, are subject to the disciplinary powers of the Board, and if in practise are required to provide annual proof of Professional Indemnity Insurance.

Consumers should be able to expect that someone representing himself/herself to be an architect actually is one.

The Board investigates allegations of illegitimate use of the controlled words, or other types of "holding out”, whether as a result of a complaint or on its own initiative.  Where there is evidence available, the Board contacts those responsible, advises them of the legal situation, and requires their compliance with the Act. Persistence in breaching the Act leads to prosecution. The Act provides for maximum fines of 60 penalty units per offense. (One penalty unit is $147.61 in the 2014-2015 financial year.)

The Board has a Policy on Prosecutions for Offences against the Architects Act 1991. This document can be found in "Compliance Resources" (located in the drop-down menu under the "Compliance" tab on this website).

Architectural graduates who have not yet registered as architects are advised to exercise great care in how they describe themselves and what language they allow others (e.g. employers) to use in describing them. Use of terms such as "graduate architect" by such persons is a breach of the title provisions of the Architects Act.

The term "architectural graduate" is an appropriate alternative.

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