The services of an architect are rendered most effectively when a clear understanding exists between the client and the architect, and is incorporated into a written contractual agreement. This understanding is most effectively accomplished by a thorough, clear discussion and conclusion as to the goals and objectives of the project.
An important observation made by the OAA Complaints Committee is that most complaints could have been avoided had the architect properly documented project expectations in the Standard Client/Architect agreement. The Complaints Committee has found that a large number of complaints concern projects executed under an oral agreement or a non-standard agreement such as a letter. Of particular concern is the number of complaints received from homeowners against architects who have provided services on the basis of an oral agreement.
The major issue associated with the use of an oral agreement is that conflicts are more likely to arise because the expectations of the parties to the agreement differ—sometimes, the expectations are widely different, often with significant cost implications to either or both parties. The same can be said for letter agreements, as typically a letter does not address the very issues at the centre of a conflict, and therefore the matter is more likely to result in a complaint or litigation. A standard agreement on the other hand is designed to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, thereby reducing your exposure to associated business and liability risks.
The OAA strongly recommends the use of one of the OAA Standard Forms of Contract for Architectural Services for each new project. The OAA 600 series has been designed in such a way as to be an appropriate agreement for both large and small projects.