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Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

  • 1.  Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-18-2020 19:17
    During CA on a small renovation, a substandard footing was unearthed. (from the 1920s - wood branches on rocks!) After asking me to assist with the fix,  my client  didn't like what she was hearing, tried to cut corners and installed a non compliant footing. Telling me that it wasn't in my scope.

    Long story short- I brought it to her attention and the code authorities that that wasn't suitable-and stayed on the job. A structural engineer got involved and the end result is that the structure will be supported safely.

    But, there is no love lost from this client. And the snipping is getting old. Amazing the number of the things that you might be responsible for going wrong, when the client was outside the lines.

    How would you have handled this? Stay or go?

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY
    ------------------------------
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  • 2.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 17:24
    Run.

    But with an appropriate letter outlining the adverse conditions, your recommendations, and the failure to adhere to your advice.

    Good Luck!

    ------------------------------
    John Jones AIA
    Architect
    John Harrison Jones Architect
    Memphis TN
    ------------------------------

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  • 3.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-20-2020 17:53
    Make sure you have a conversation with your professional liability insurance carrier before you take any action. There’s a high probability that this relationship is going to end up in litigation and they will want to be involved at the start of this situation rather than brought in later.
    Best of luck.

    Jim White AIA
    Sent from my iPhone


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  • 4.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-20-2020 18:02
    Good advice - I should have mentioned that.
    Judith

    Bressack & Wasserman Architects
    751 Southampton Drive
    Palo Alto CA 94303 
    ph: 650 321-2871  
    fx:  650 321-1987 
    www.bressackandwasserman.com




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  • 5.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 17:31
    Fire the client. Put in letter/email that you are now absolved of any and all liability related to the project as they've colored outside the lines. 

    Will that hold water legally? As much as the signs in parking lots that say they're not responsible for loss, damage or theft. They are. But they are allowed to put up the sign and it stops most from doing anything. 


    John Hrivnak, Architect,
    ArCH, AIA, MBA, NCARB, LEED AP
    Hrivnak Associates, Ltd.    .     
    john@hrivnakassociates.com

    Chicago 630.770.5900
    Omaha 402.577.0220

    Note 1: If you need to reach me immediately, please text me at 630-770-5900.  I check e-mail less frequently.
    Note 2: Most of my business comes from happy clients and consultants like you.  Please recommend me to others; I appreciate it. 
    The information contained in this e-mail is intended only for the individual or entity to whom it is addressed and should not be opened, read or utilized by any other party. This message shall not be construed as official project information or as direction except as expressly provided in the contract document. Its contents (including any attachments) may contain confidential and/or privileged information. If you are not an intended recipient you must not use, disclose, disseminate, copy or print its contents. If you received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete and destroy the message.




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  • 6.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 17:35
    Write her "the letter" quoting the code and stating your position. If she doesn't comply, quote the paragraph in your contract regarding termination of contract and LEAVE. 
    Judith

    Bressack & Wasserman Architects
    751 Southampton Drive
    Palo Alto CA 94303 
    ph: 650 321-2871  
    fx:  650 321-1987 
    www.bressackandwasserman.com




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  • 7.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 17:51
    These situations are always difficult. Be careful. If she is paying you, stay and try to be courteous, respectful and professional (tough, I know). If you depart under a "she said, she said" scenario It will only result in bad will being spread though the community, your potential clientele. There is also an implied standard of care that goes with our delivery of professional services and it's always a good idea to be around to observe the project in case more things go bad along the road, from a potential litigation prospective. Keep those emails! If she decides to terminate your contract, an you are not allowed on site, good riddance.

    ------------------------------
    Peter Hart AIA
    Peter C. Hart & Associates, Ltd.
    Stamford CT
    ------------------------------

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  • 8.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 18:12

    Kathleen:

    It all starts with setting expectations, assuring your client understand your role in the project vs. that of the Contractor and the client's role as the Owner.  Also, having a good AIA form Agreement covers those roles in a manner that is most common in the construction industry, whether it is for commercial or a small residential project.  This is particularly true with clients who don't regularly engage in construction and don't understand that the Architect cannot be responsible for the actions of the contractor and certainly cannot be responsible for unforeseen site conditions which are the Owner's responsibility as they "own" the ground.

     

    Its hard to suggest with the limited information if you should "stay or go".  If you "go" however you lose all opportunity to fix what might be wrong and protect yourself from liability.

     

    Good luck and be well!

     

    Mark I. Baum, Architect, AIA

    1493040264519_PastedImage

     




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  • 9.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 18:14
    You handled the situation good by staying the course. If you had "gone" and the situation go south in future; you most likely would be part of a claim/dispute.

    ------------------------------
    Ato Apiafi AIA
    Principal
    Ato Apiafi Architects, PLLC
    Bellevue WA
    ------------------------------

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  • 10.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 19:18

    You did the right thing by staying involved and not going. That was the architecturally moral and ethical course of action. Good decision in spite of the difficulties it may have brought you. Francois de Menil

     

    FDM2137_email_signature_150percent_Rev_noaddress-02

     




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  • 11.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 20:56
    You did the right thing, and I would have done the same.
    You have a professional reputation that will outlast this one client.

    ------------------------------
    Anjali Grant AIA
    Anjali Grant Design LLC
    Seattle WA
    ------------------------------

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  • 12.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 22:29
    You have dual responsibility. One is to your client and the other is to the state. You did the right thing to create an environment to resolve the substandard footing. Your agreement with the client should address termination that can be generated by either party. It's a strange experience to terminate a relationship with a client. It was for me. Nonetheless, If your dual responsibilities are in conflict, the choice becomes clearer. I wish you well.

    ------------------------------
    Ralph Rorem AIA
    Ralph R Architect, LTD
    Kankakee IL
    ------------------------------

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  • 13.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-19-2020 23:06

    I've had to deal with similar situations. While I was sympathetic to the client's budget constraints, I made it clear that the design and all remedial work would have to be code compliant. As I told one client (paraphrasing the old Hebrew National slogan) "I have to answer to a higher order- the State of Connecticut."

    You have a responsibility to serve your client but not at the expense of life safety. You did the right thing.



    ------------------------------
    Alexander Esposito AIA
    Alex Esposito Architects
    Southport CT
    ------------------------------

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  • 14.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-20-2020 09:52
    That's the way you respond to these circumstance. Bravo!



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  • 15.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-21-2020 17:59
    Bad clients are problematic and you likely did the right thing. That said, I have dealt with strange and often non-existent "footings" on many historic structures ( planks over cotton bales in Charleston and many 18th c. masonry buildings on the soil left when the sod was removed) and I have to ask, Did the building exhibit structural signs of failure over 100 years of continuous testing due to this footing? If not then likely the footing had demonstrated its capacity more accurately that any computer simulation ever will. Computers and engineering calculations are great and we couldn't do without them but they are only an approximation of reality. They can never apply all the variables of real life. Please look for failure in older/historic buildings before choosing to fix something those poor ignorant builders of the past may have contrived? Just because we don't understand it doesn't make it wrong. 
    Best
    Charles 

    Charles A Phillips, AIA, AIC-pa

    433 Phillips Rd
    Nacogdoches, Tx 75964 


    640 Brookstown Ave
    Winston Salem, NC 27101

    conservearchitecture.com
    336-918-3668




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  • 16.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-20-2020 10:10
    I am so grateful for the kind words and support. I have long valued the collective advice and wisdom of these AIA groups- how nice to find professional affirmation as well. Thank you all.........

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY
    ------------------------------

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join your Knowledge Community leadership!


  • 17.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-21-2020 18:04
    All the advice given has been terrific, so I only feel the need to add my two cents because your situation is all too familiar - projects that begin with the architect heralded as the answer to all the client's dreams devolving (and always triggered by a dispute during construction) into the architect seen as in the way; even pointing out life safety issues somehow seen as unnecessary meddling. 
    I've actually had clients, upon hearing a contractor neglected to install hurricane ties in a review of framing I performed with the engineer, bark "haven't you ever made a mistake?!" I was berated for giving the contractor "a hard time"!

    My take on your situation is simply try to avoid litigation at all costs. Lawyers and arbitrators only value the exchange of services for fees- in other words, yes you would get what you deserve in terms of money and likely indemnification should you need to walk. But, I assume your work, it's quality, and your reputation, is more valuable. We invest so much time and energy into a design, walking away from one is a terrible loss-even if paid in full.

    To that end, I salvaged a client/architect relationship that had turned snippy/distrustful with forcing the client to step outside our contractual interaction just for a moment, and have a meal and drinks together- and just talk like human beings.
    They got festering resentments, I wasn't even aware of, off their chest and I was able to explain that I was on their side and the successful completion of their project was as important to me as it was to them. (My standard line is they will quickly forget bumps in the road if it turns out beautifully, but will be reminded daily if the result is a compromise)

    I don't know what you relationship is with the client, but as I'm sure you already know, it's hard to get back to mutual respect once the kind of back and forth you describe starts. 
    But the effort might be worth it as it's a small world. 

    Best of luck,

    Julian King AIA LEED AP 
    juliankingarchitect.com



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  • 18.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-21-2020 18:12

    Have you tried sitting down over a cup of coffee to smooth things over? Sometimes a little grace can go a long way.

     

    Maybe acknowledge the disagreement, acknowledge your professional liability to do the right thing for her and her project, and let her know you value her as a client and her project and wish to have a good working relationship. Then listen as she talks without interrupting. You might learn some valuable information either way, stay or go.

    Pamela

     

     




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  • 19.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-21-2020 19:12
    I thank all who have written to the group and to me directly with the suggestion for some bridge building/olive branching.

    Will look for that door opening - if not with this client- then with the one who  may follow.

    Happy Memorial Day - stay safe

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY
    ------------------------------

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  • 20.  RE: Bad Actor for a Client- stay or go?

    Posted 05-20-2020 18:30
    You absolutely did the right thing. Good for you!

    Because of the ongoing snipping, I think you should let your insurance carrier know about this, just in case the bad acting on your client's side gets worse. (Who knows - she may decide to stop paying you.) Best to have them guide you regarding what, if anything, you should do now to protect yourself. They will be glad you reached out.

    If the nastiness is unbearable (any added stress is made worse by these unusual times), ask your insurer if its better to stay or go at this point, and to help you terminate the contract if the answer is to leave it behind you.

    Good luck,
    Carol

    ------------------------------
    Carol De Tine AIA
    Carriage House Studio architects LLC
    Portland ME
    ------------------------------

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