COMPLAINTS AND DISCIPLINE INFORMATION FOR ARCHITECTS

The information on this page is to help you know what to expect if the Board, or a member of the public raises a concern or complaint about your conduct or competence. 

Information for members of the public who wish to raise a concern or a complaint can be accesssed here.

Public Protection

The New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB) is a regulatory authority and like other regulatory and responsible authorities, our primary purpose is to protect the public which in turn protects the reputation of the profession.

The Registered Architects Act 2005 (the Act) is the legislation that defines our responsibilities and powers, and the Registered Architects Rules 2006 govern how the profession is regulated, including minimum standards of competence and of ethical conduct. 

Our responsibilities within the public protection area of our work include:

  • Receiving and investigating complaints about registered architects
  • Inquiring into the conduct of registered architects, and
  • Where necessary, disciplining registered architects.

We are separate to, and independent of the various membership bodies such as Te Kāhui Whaihanga/ New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA), Architectural Designers NZ (ADNZ) and Ngā Aho Māori Design Professionals.

Our Processes

We manage our public protection responsibilities within four core processes:

  1. Architectural Service Concerns
  2. Complaints
  3. Board initiated inquiries
  4. Competence reviews

To help us with first three processes, we appoint experienced registered architects to an Architectural Services Advisory Panel (ASAP) and draw from this panel when initiating a concerns process, or establishing an Investigating Panel. Architects who are appointed to the ASAP are not employees of the Board, but are formally delegated certain responsibilities to carry out on behalf of the Board. Similarly, experiened registered architects from the Standing Panel of Asessors carry out competence reviews on behalf of the Board.

1. Architectural Service Concerns

We provide an informal concerns process to try and achieve a mutually agreeable way forward between an architect and concerned person (usually a client of the architect).  It involves an ASAP member talking to the architect and concerned person and is very much a case of listening to both parties and facilitating communication. We (the Board staff and delegates) don’t provide legal advice, insurance advice or opinions on the work of the architect.

If you are the subject of an architectural service concern, a member of the Board executive will phone you to talk you through the process. From there the concern will be assigned to an ASAP member.  You will be provided the concern form, and the ASAP member will talk with you to understand what has occurred from your perspective and will explore the objectives the concerned person has recorded in the form.

The Architectural Service Concern process is not an investigation, nor mediation or arbitration and it is does not result in any formal or enforceable finding.

The concerned person may decide to end the Architectural Service Concern process and any point and engaging in the process does not prevent someone from submitting a formal complaint at a later stage.

If, in the course of the Architectural Service Concern process, the ASAP member has reason to believe that architectural matter in which you are involved, could put the safety of any person at risk, you may required to undergo an out of cycle competence review.  The Board Chair and Chief Executive also retain the power to direct a Board initiated inquiry.  For more information please refer to our Complaints and Disciplinary Policy.

2. Complaints

A member of the public can lay a complaint against an architect or former architect under the Act. It is the Board’s role to investigate that complaint, decide whether there are grounds for discipline, and where there are grounds, decide what penalty is appropriate. We cannot accept complaints against architect practices.

Complainants are asked to identify which part of section 25 of the Act they think the architect has breached; usually the Code of Ethics and/or or that they feel the architect has practised in a negligent or incompetent manner.

What happens if you are the subject of a complaint?

If you are the subject of a complaint, a member of the NZRAB executive will usually phone you to let you know and will follow up by email to request your response to the complaint. Responses must be provided in writing within 20 working days unless an extension has been requested and approved. 

We will let you know the names of the Investigating Panel (IP) before an investigation commences. The IP will comprise two ASAP members and a Chairperson (who is not an architect). There are currently two Chairpersons who serve on IPs; a Barrister who is also a professional arbitrator/adjudicator and a professional mediator/arbitrator. 

The IP is tasked with preparing a report for the Board, which will either include a recommendation on whether or not there are grounds for discipline, or that the complaint is dismissed under Rule 69 of the Rules. During this process the IP may seek additional information from you and/or the complainant.

If the Board agrees with the IP that there are grounds for discipline, we will ask the IP to prepare recommendations on penalty, cost and publication and we will invite you and the complainant to respond to the recommendation, unless you have requested a disciplinary hearing as covered below.

We have designed these processes to be fair and transparent with equal rights of response to a complaint, but we know that going through a complaint process can be stressful for both parties. The Board executive are available to answer questions about the process and what is required of you as you navigate it.

The timeframe for completing investigations varies greatly and is dependent on the nature of the complaint and the amount of evidential material to be analysed by the IP.  As a very rough guide, an investigation can take around six months, but occasionally 12 months or more.

What do you need to prepare if a complaint is made about you?

Below is some general advice which should help you to prepare to participate efficiently and effectively in the investigation process.

  • If the complaint involves a project, check that your office project file (hard copy and electronic) is up-to-date and documents are orderly, so you can be clear about what happened, and locate evidence to provide to support your position.
  • Take time working out the best way to respond to the allegations made in the complaint and, if relevant, take advice.
  • Include a timeline of relevant events.
  • Attach copies of documents that support your position.  Include as a matter of course, the terms of appointment, and the project brief and/ or context.
  • Have your response to the complaint peer reviewed by a colleague, and/or your lawyer.

Disciplinary hearings

When we send you the IP report, we will advise you of your right to request a disciplinary hearing. You retain the right to request a disciplinary hearing regardless of the recommendation of the IP and finding of the Board, but usually a request is made when the architect does not accept the findings of the IP and/or subsequent Board decision.

A disciplinary hearing is a formal hearing with both parties present, usually with legal representation. The persons presiding are exclusively Board members. If a disciplinary hearing is requested, we will engage a Prosecutor who will prepare a charge on behalf of the Board, and you will have an opportunity to defend that charge in person at a meeting of the Board (i.e. disciplinary hearing).

The objective of a disciplinary hearing is to determine whether or not there are grounds for discipline under section 25 of the Act.
The length of a disciplinary hearing depends on the number and nature of the charge(s). Typically a hearing lasts between one and four days.

Penalty, costs and publication

If grounds for discipline are found, the Board will need to consider penalty, cost and publication orders. How we do that is dependent on whether you were on the IP or discipline hearing pathway.

If you remained on the IP pathway, the IP will prepare a recommendation on penalty, cost and publication and you will be asked to provide a submission in response. Whereas after a disciplinary hearing you and the Board’s Prosecutor are asked to provide a submission on what you think the penalty, cost and publication order should be.

Section 26 of the Act provides the penalty options available to the Board. In determining a penalty, the Board will consider the significance of the various penalty options, the nature of the breaches of section 25 of the Act, precedent and the submissions of the relevant parties.

The Board is limited to one penalty order except when considering a censure or a fine.

  • A censure can be ordered in addition to either a fine, conditions on practice, or training.
  • A fine can be ordered in addition to either censure, training or suspension.
  • A fine cannot be ordered if the penalty order follows a finding of grounds for discipline because of conviction matter.

Costs orders are only made when grounds for discipline have been found. We seek to recover 100 per cent of the costs and expenses of, and incidental to an inquiry or investigation unless there is good reason otherwise.  The Board will consider the submissions of the parties and the views of the IP on penalty, costs, and publication before making a decision.

The Board may order publication of an Architect’s name in any way it sees fit, but it tends toward anonymised publication of its decisions. In addition to publication orders under section 26 of the Act, we are required to record penalty decisions against an architect’s entry on the register for a period of three years.

The Board has no power to award compensation. Claims for compensation need to proceed through separate civil proceeding in the appropriate court or tribunal.

Further reading

We have a document called Guidance on Disciplinary Procedures which outlines our complaints process in more detail.   This document is intended to be read in conjunction with the Act and Rules, which provides the primary legal foundation information about our complaints process. We also have a Complaints and Discipline policy.

Registered Architects Act 2005
Registered Architects Rules 2006
Complaints and Discipline policy

3. Board Initiated Inquiries

The Board can initiate its own inquiry if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the that the conduct of a registered architect or former registered architect may fall within the grounds for discipline in section 25 of the Act. 

A Board initiated inquiry would typically occur as a result of a conviction in a court, but is not limited to such circumstances.

The process is the same as that of complaint.  You will be given the opportunity to respond to the notification of and reasons for the inquiry, and an IP will be asked to investigate.

4. Competence Reviews and Competence Concerns 

Every five years the Board is required to assess whether or not you are continuing to meet the minimum standards for registration.  This is known is a competence review or continuing registration competence review.

The Board can also initiate a competence review at any other time. Reasons or triggers for an out of cycle competence review can include:

  • A member of the public raising a concern that an architect is generally not competent or no longer safe to practice.
  • Concerns arising from a single or collection of projects.
  • Information disclosed on an Architectural Service Concerns form.

If you are the subject of a competence concern, we will provide you with the concern as soon as possible after we receive it and invite you to respond to it. The concern and your response will be provided to two Registration Conveners who will assess it and determine if a continuing registration competence review is required.

Disciplinary decisions

Penalties ordered by the Board are recorded on an architect’s entry on the Register for a period of three years.
A summary of past disciplinary decisions can be accessed here.