Replacing An Architect(Last Updated On: January 30, 2020)
People have called me many times asking “Can I replace my architect after we filed with DOB” and the answer is yes of course you can. As a property owner you have the right to fire your architect if you see fit. I will discuss my personal experience doing this with the Department Of Buildings in New York City.
Replacing An Architect
I had a meeting with the deputy commissioner from the Queens Department Of Buildings discussing some issues on a project where the original architect was being fired and I was potentially going to replace him. I told the deputy commissioner that I had advised the client “this is often a bad idea”. He responded “Oh this is often a really good idea.” I realized he has probably seen many situations where perhaps the architect deserved to be fired and replaced. He said “there are lots of unscrupulous professionals.” It made me rethink my opinion. People often call me saying they want to replace their architects. I think this needs to be looked at carefully and I do not recommend rushing into it. On a few occasions I personally replaced architects who were fired. Also I have consulted on jobs where the original architect was retired, went out of business, or died.
On a few occasions I have replaced an architect who had been fired. I even once consulted on a project where the original architect had been blacklisted by the NYC Department Of Buildings. The DOB publishes a list of architect’s and engineers disciplinary action or “voluntary surrender” of privileges. I tread carefully in these situations.
If you are having problems with an architect you can always go to the DOB’s small business and homeowners night if you qualify for a fee consultation. They may be able to help you figure out what to do. And as always I recommend you make sure the people you work with are licensed and insured. We call licensed architects Registered Architects. You should never hire anyone who doesn’t have a license and insurance.
SUPERSEDING AN ARCHITECT IN NYC
If you are in New York City and you have already filled your project with the department of buildings you have one of two choices for replacing your architect. The first choice is superseding the architect.
When I have done this I submit a PW1 form signed by the property owner requesting the department of buildings allows me the new architect to supersede the original architect. In this situation I replaced all documents originally filed with new documents signed and stamped by me the new architect. I also provided new plans.
In many cases the new architect will redo all the plans. The intellectual property of architectural drawings belongs to the architect. It is a violation of intellectual property to to use the plans without the architects consent, or in a manner that differs from their intended use. If I intend to reuse some of the previous architects work I would get written consent. Be careful in these situations you don not want to open yourself up to a lawsuit. Remember even though you paid for the plans you do not own them the architect does. Also if you are firing an architect doesn’t that mean there was some sort of deficiency in the architect. Why would you want to use their work?
WITHDRAWING A JOB FROM DOB AND STARTING OVER
The second option for replacing an architect after you have filed with DOB is to withdraw the entire job and start from scratch. This may actually be more time consuming. If the job has already been approved and a permit issued this can be an issue.
CHANGING AN ARCHITECT
These are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the issues with regards to changing an architect. Every project is unique and must be assessed on its own unique characteristics. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide my personal experience on the topic.
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Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.