Replacing An Architect(Last Updated On: August 30, 2019)
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 would like to outline the protocols for doing this with regards to legal documentation with the Department Of Buildings in New York City. I will also try to share some personal experiences that may be helpful.
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 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 multiple 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 many occasions I have replaced an architect who had been fired. I even once worked 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 but at our architecture firm we follow all the regulations and make sure our work is done with integrity.
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. In some cases if you want free advice for small businesses you can go to NYCBA (New York City Business administration) they can also help. We have another post about help for restaurant or retail projects if you are interested.
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. Your new architect will need to submit a PW1 form signed by the property owner requesting the department of buildings allows the new architect to supersede the original architect. In this situation you will need to replace all documents originally filed with new documents signed and stamped by the new architect. The new architect will also need to provide new plans. Yes that is right the new architect must provide new plans signed and stamped by the new architect.
In many cases the new architect will redo all the plans. The intellectual property of architectural drawings belongs to the architect. It is illegal for a new architect or even the client to use the plans without the architects consent, or in a manner that differs from their intended use. If you intend to reuse some of the previous architects work you will need to 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.
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 will be a major problem. Basically my recommendation is do not withdraw and start from scratch unless you are very early in the process.
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Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.