Get your fees and scope agreement agreed and signed

Terms of engagement and fee arrangements should be clearly documented and signed by BOTH parties (or at least by the client), preferably (for NZIA members) using one of the standard NZIA Agreements for Architects Services.

NZRAB ethics now require this, and failure to attend to it exposes architects to the possibility of a complaint to NZRAB, quite possibly as leverage for the client to renegotiate services or fees, or to open the door for a wider claim.

The agreement should have the terms of engagement, scope of work, and the basis for calculating fees clearly spelt out. Any variations to the standard terms, or specific provisions and additional services should be clearly identified: if that is done by way of a covering letter, then that letter should be referenced within the standard terms.

Clarity about what is NOT included may be more important than what is included!

Very often, the scope and circumstances of the project are vague at the time the architect is instructed and only become clear after initial design input. The original version of the agreement should reflect that possibility, and as the project evolves, the agreement should be reviewed and updated or augmented if the scope of work, or the client identity, or the “chain of command”, or the contractor procurement process changes.

Perhaps, once signed, the agreement might be filed away and never mentioned again; but if it is not clear, or not signed, or not updated to reflect the circumstances, it may be interpreted against you in the event of a dispute.

The time spent in attending to this agreement could save a whole lot of grief!