Reporting a dodgy architect and builder?

I am enquiring on behalf of an English friend who has been rightly 'done' by an English architect and an English builder here. It is a year long saga, but the salient points are that the house was not ready when they arrived, so they lived in a gite (at premium prices) for three months, they had to fire the builder, there is a lot of shoddy workmanship and the architect says he cannot cover the cost of repairing those issues (or finishing off what was never finished) as the builder is in another legal dispute and his insurance won't cover it. There is no reception chantier and there are a lot of problems in the house and this has cost them a lot of money.

They don't speak much French and are very disheartened about which way to turn. I said I would have a look on the net to see if there is a professional body that they can report them to. They did mention it to a French solicitor, who said they wouldn't touch it, should they seek advice somewhere else?

Any advice would be most welcome?

Thanks guys.


Hi Caroline,

UK hit TV show Cowboy Builders is currently searching for cowboy builders abroad.

Have you been ripped off abroad? Has a language barrier cost more than it should have?

Has your dream place in the sun become a nightmare of shoddy workmanship?

Ricochet Television is currently producing a brand new series of Channel 5's Cowboy Builders and is keen to hear from British Ex-Pats who have fallen victim to rogue builders away from home. We would like to hear from anyone who has lost money on building or renovating a dream new abode or holiday home in the XXX area as a result of under qualified workmanship. So if you've been ripped off by a British or English speaking builder and you want us to expose them and maybe even help to fix your property, then please contact the Cowboy Builders team on / +44 1273 224 829.

Ricochet Television is one of the UK's leading independent television production companies that produces high quality Factual and Entertainment programmes for broadcast by major networks in the UK and the US . Recent, award-winning shows include Food Unwrapped, Britain's Empty Homes, Hollywood Me and Cowboy Traders. For more information please visit our website

you would end up looking like Ian Hislop....then what would we do!

Hi Caroline - You mention that the architect is DPLG, which suggests to me that he is probably working regularly in France and must therefore be a member of the Ordre des Architectes. It's easy to check, just go to and put in his name. If he is a member, and if he has acted in an unprofessional manner, then it is this organisation that would deal with any problems.

Does your friend have an architect's appointment contract? This would set out the architect's mission for the project and the extent of his involvement during the construction period. The contract would also have registry details for the Ordre des Architectes or ARB (UK), also the architect's insurance details.

Regarding the builder, do you have any details of his insurance whether in France or in the UK? There is no reason why you cannot approach his insurers just because he is involved in another dispute. Although if it is a UK insurer, it would be unclear whether he would be covered in France. When we have used UK based contractors in the past, they have specifically requested extensions to their insurance for European work. Again, is there a contract? Without it, any disputes would be difficult to regulate.

Good luck


Very sound advice Nancy, hope you and Dennis are both well!

Interesting idea Mark, I will give it some thought.



Hi James it may be useful to offer a 'closed' or locked debating forum. Put simply a room for open exchange of info that the contributor/member may not wish to post in an open forum. This structure would be timely, secure with free content and exchange. A precursor to one to one comms...

You are correct Liz. It's very important to spend time up front getting the brief correct and making as many decisions as possible before the contractor gets appointed and with minimum if any changes thereafter. Many clients on private house projects find it difficult to take decisions until they see it there and then if it has to be changed the builder will want money for taking it down, rebuilding it and the delay as well. The architect will want more money too. We had a project in London a few years ago where the single lady client couldn't take decisions and managed to upset all tenderers by insisting on meeting them before they submitted quotes. We eventually managed to get a contractor to take the job on but he refused on anything other than a cost plus basis. I fully explained the risk to her in writing as well as verbally. No weekly meeting with her could be for less than four hours (but we confirmed everything in writing). She couldn't make up her mind about one window (although we had drawn it as sixteen different variations) and then went to a "Window expert". Even that didn't help. She had a very limited budget but said that she expected to get some money soon. In fact the builder left site as the money had run out and the famous window opening was simply filled up with plywood. We received no fees from the day the job started on site although we religiously continued to service the project. She then tried to sue me but that was abandoned after her solicitor saw the mountain of evidence I had. No doubt she is still going round telling of her awful experience with an architect!

I have a cupboard full of true stories along similar lines. I hear from the UK that the architects working there have very little work and fee levels are perhaps less than a third of what they were. However people still feel entitled to the same level of service and attention to detail. At the same time "architectural" services providers (draughtsmen) are going round undercutting and sometimes holding themselves out to be architects, without any proper training or insurance.

To train as an architect takes five years at university and then two years professional experience. One will ratchet up huge student loans and bearing in mind the average architect's income in the UK being £31,000 it's rather difficult to see where the profession is going other than very much smaller and much more specialised. We used to love doing all sorts of building types and sizes, but that is scarcely possible now. Thank heavens my son decided not to be an architect!

All I know from personnel experience is that building often, usually ends up taking longer than planned especially if some decisions get tweaked late on, so delays are pretty much to be expected? However with any build a snagging list should be made agreed and corrected. A lot will depend on how the architect was hired-as a full service project manager in which case he is responsible for the final completed delivery, or as an advisor, in which case he is not…this is a horrible situation and ideally any building project needs some project managing it

An architect does not have to be a member of the RIBA, but may be. As Andre says you can check the registers of both the RIBA or ARB on the web. All architects in the UK have to be registered with ARB. Whilst disciplinary processes may involve blame they won't deal with the matter of damages which have to be either agreed between the parties (the insurer on behalf of the architect) or through the courts. In the UK small claims can easily be made via the small claims procedure, without a lawyer, but I have no idea about the French system. As I said above mediation is frequently the best way forward in what is likely to be a relativley small case, however difficult it may seem to be for all the parties involved.

I am a British architect and can speak with some authority on the matter as I have more than forty years exeperience, including much in the residential sector, and I also acted as a qualified expert witness in cases involving disputes between architects and their clients.

One would need to determine where the contract was made to determine where any potential legal case might exist.

Yes the professional qualifications of an architect would need to be verified. The governing body for the architectural profession in the UK is in fact ARB. They have a website with details of the complaints procedure. There is also a register of architects. An architect has to be registered with ARB and may be registered with the RIBA.

Architects used to be involved with projects all the way through a project under something called the full professional service. There are various work stages from inception (A) to completion (L). The service to be provided is agreed at the start of the project and the level of fees to be charged is also agreed (these are paid almost always in arrears unlike bulder who frequently demand up front payments on small project, this being something to be avoided and for which most architects will decline any responsibility). Ideally architects go through to the later work stages, including getting prices and then administering a building contract and approving payments and they should act as a quasi arbitrator on such stages. Therefore there should be no payment for work not done or incorrectly done.

A full service necessarily determines a higher level of fees than a partial service. During my professional career in London we were extremely hands on and visited site at least every week, providing minutes, taking photos, getting specialist prices etc. In all it was an extremely time consuming execise and the level at which we worked required, and got, fees of about 14% plus expenses and VAT. Most of our work was high end and as my firm reached nearly 40 staff at times over a very long period we undertook literally hundreds of private houses as well as larger scale projects. We did both new build and refurbishment including very many listed building projects.

However these days the process is frequently abridged and the architect is no longer involved on site. If he is not further involved then the risk is obviously much greater.

The building owner in this case needs to carefully consider their position and decide in their mind who is responsible for what. If they think after proper reflection that there is a case to be made against the architect or builder then that should be made in writing and the other person given the opportunity to respond. If there is no response then legal action needs to be taken against the parties and my guess in this case that it should be in France. Legal cases of this nature are usually long and expensive. An architect would normally have professional indemnity insurance and a term of the insurance is that they are not allowed to admit liabilty without the agreement of the insurers who basically take the case over.

Any complaint to a prefessional body is completely separate and will look at whether a professional job was done or not. Where a complaint goes against an architect that results in a fine or perhaps erasure (removal from the register) but does not deal with the matter of damages, which has to be done through the courts or by agreement with the insurers in the case of the architect.

Sadly bulders frequently disappear, or go bankrupt. Occasionally architects do but if they go bankrupt they will be erased.

I have very little experience of the French system as I am effectively retired and only do consultancy work for a UK company.

I also trained as a mediator which is a simpler process than running through lawyers and a court and would generally be preferable but all the parties neeed to agree to using the process. There is also a process called ajudication, and another called arbitration. As is the case with most disputes often the matter is not black and white but shades of grey. I have seen examples of clients deliberately using builder who are too cheap and cannot afford to finish a job, sacking them and then getting another builder in to finish the job off at a price much lower than should be the case. I have also seen unscrupulous builders and I have seen cases where an architect has failed.

Your friend may be sure that regrettably the process will be painful, expensive and long. I have always maintained that the building process is not for people of a nervous disposition. Over the years responsibilites have changed and with exposure on the media everybody is now an expert and a whole legion of project managers, cost engineers, interior designers, etc etc have sprung up. Architects have been paid less and less yet if anything goes wrong they are targetted because they have qualifications and insurance. Things are often not what they seem.

I would avoid offers of "free advice" and would recommend that proper advice is obtained on a paying basis. Otherwise your friend may end up going down the same road again. There have been lots of stories about notaires, estate agents and builders absconding around here, often with large sums of money, but I haven't as yet heard of any architect cases here.

Whilst people frequently scoff about architects and insult them we architects frequently have need to protect ourselves against rogue clients and builders. I could write a book about it!

Caroline. DPLG simply means Diplômé par le Gouvernement. Ie, this is the equivalent of them having passed Architectural school. Nothing to do with governing bodies and ethics in the same way as RIBA.
I’d need to know about more about the details of the case before I’d be able to offer any advice.
Ie need to know what the architecht’s contracted role was and why the builder was late. What plans, specifications and details did the builder have to work to. All that kind of stuff.
I’m quite willing to help and advise should you still require some professional advice. As ever with SFN - Free of Charge obviously.

That would be fine on here too Steve

On another forum I belong to in a different context it's quite ok to email/private message one another with names

Your comment about moving on is the right one. It's hard, but that is what eventually happens any way. Time passes and you have to go on. It always just gets less and less intense. And you start saving more money to get stuff done....more slowly and carefully. It was a hard way to learn the lesson, though/

Thanks that explains the reason british/french defamation judgments are unenforceable in the USA as a matter of public policy and statute.

Absolutely, I would never mention names!

I hate to admit to this but we were taken in about 5-7 years ago for quite a huge sum of money by an English property manager cum renovator to the tune of about 65,000 euros. We were in good company but we had little knowledge of his scams as we were living abroad and were very trusting (I blame ourselves as I think we could have worked more carefully and slowly, having someone check the work completed but.....hindsight is 20/20 they say.) Other people did know about him but didn't tell us the scoop and we didn't know a lot of folks at the time. We did go through the legal process which came to naught when he declared bankruptcy. Bankruptcy seems to be how these folks work to avoid pay back of taken funds. There were people who won their cases against him but never received compensation because of this and others who just lost out. There is not much you can successfully do except affect the person's reputation (and chance for other victims) by sharing the news of the work to the local mairie and other expatriates in the community in a quiet way. You have to be careful and not slanderous, though, and certainly don't put it out on electronic news/communication sites, etc.. I have noticed that these kind of folks tend to pray on expatriates often as they are easy and trusting and in (often deperate ) need of getting work done. You have to be sure of your information when you share it. You usually find that the news is already out or in process of getting out. The key learning point here is that people need to use people recommended by other people who had had work done and only hand out larger sums money upon completion of acceptable work. And, have someone local to check it before you get the project going (you may need to wait till you find or know someone trustworthy to do this.)I think there is a general accepted limit to what most workmen require at the beginning of a renovation of whatever size (any one out there know the sum....15-20 per cent??) As I said earlier, hindsight is 20/20.

Very briefly,(me) the publisher is responsible for the content of their site.

I would prefer to encourage useful and helpful debate on the subject that be potentially liable. This is just one of thousands of discussions. Imagine what would happen to SFN if I were in court continually!