The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) is responsible for administering the Architects Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. A.26 in order that the public interest may be served and protected. The Act restricts the practice of architecture to licensed members of the OAA providing professional services through a Certificate of Practice issued by the OAA. The practice of architecture includes:
the preparation or provision of a design to govern the construction, enlargement, or alteration of a building;
evaluating, advising on, or reporting on the construction, enlargement, or alteration of a building; or
a general review of the construction, enlargement, or alteration of a building.
It is an offence for an unlicensed person (including a corporation) to use the term “architect” or any derivative. It is also an offence to hold oneself out as engaging in the practice of architecture without a licence issued by the OAA.
Misrepresentation of the protected title “architect” and misleading claims or advertising (inadvertently or purposely) could lead the public to conclude they would be receiving architectural services from a licensed and regulated professional.
Under the Act,1 the OAA is tasked with ensuring the following.
- Projects requiring an architect must have an architect. The OAA works regularly with architects, professional engineers, planners, building officials, and owners to assist in determining whether a particular project—or project stage, such as a formal application to a local government—must have an architect.
- Only those who are appropriately trained, qualified, and licensed with the OAA are permitted to hold the occupational designation of “architect".
1 46. (1) Every person who contravenes section 11 is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable for the first offence to a fine of not more than $25,000 and for each subsequent offence to a fine of not more than $50,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. A.26, s. 46 (1).
(2) Every person who is not a holder of a licence, certificate of practice or temporary licence and who,
(a) uses the title “architect” or “architecte” as an occupational designation;
(i) an addition to or an abbreviation of the title “architect” or “architecte”,
(ii) an occupational designation, or
(iii) a term, title, addition or description,
that will lead to the belief that the person may engage in the practice of architecture; or
(c) uses a seal that will lead to the belief that the person is an architect,
is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable for the first offence to a fine of not more than $10,000 and for each subsequent offence to a fine of not more than $25,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. A.26, s. 46 (2).
- Only through a Certificate of Practice can architectural services be offered or provided to the public. Certificates of Practice are listed in the OAA Directory.
The OAA’s regulatory mandate includes taking action against those unlawfully providing architectural services. The Architects Act and its Regulations outline specific exceptions, but outside of these, the OAA may take legal action. In most cases where illegal practice is identified, the OAA will contact the project’s owner and advise the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) that permits should not be issued to projects proceeding illegally.
Process of Act Enforcement
Anyone can report a potential breach of the Architects Act. Members of the OAA (Architects, Licensed Technologists OAA, and holders of Certificates of Practice) are required to report unauthorized practice—failure to do so could result in a finding of professional misconduct.
If you are aware of a possible infraction:
- Determine if the individual or practice is registered with the OAA by searching our online directory . In most cases, if the individual or practice is not listed, it is not affiliated with the OAA. However, the OAA issues temporary licences to out-of-province architects who work on specific projects in collaboration with OAA architects. Temporary licence holders are not listed in the directory. Please contact Jakanah Sambavalingam, Coordinator, Act Enforcement, at 416-449-6898 ext: 208 or email@example.com if you have specific questions.
- Collect as much information and documentation as possible. Photographs of a project sign, copies of permit applications, business cards, title blocks, articles, relevant correspondence, and/or drawings are very useful. Include contact information for the alleged contravener, if possible
- Submit the collected information by mail or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to:
Jakanah Sambavalingam, Coordinator, Act Enforcement
Ontario Association of Architects
111 Moatfield Drive
The OAA will investigate when a possible infraction is brought to its attention. If it appears illegal practice has occurred, the OAA may do one or more of the following:
Send an inquiry letter advising of the concerns, and request specific corrective action. This is a common first step in the case of misrepresentations.
Request the individual sign an undertaking and covenant agreement, which includes an acknowledgment of the breach of the Architects Act and agrees to compliance in the future.
Pursue financial damages or injunctive relief through the courts.
Please note: OAA staff are prohibited from providing any updates or information about complaints relating to the breach of the Architects Act (the Act). Once the information has been received, all persons engaged in the administration of the Act are required to preserve the confidentiality of all matters relating thereto.
The OAA releases information in the aggregate about actions it took to enforce the Act. The graphic below summarizes the OAA’s enforcement activities for the first three months of 2021. Download the PDF.
Of the 36 investigations thus far this year (end of March 2021):
• 2 were resolved by written agreement with legal counsel;
• 5 were resolved by written agreement with the Office of the Registrar;
• 11 were found to be unsubstantiated or to not contravene the Architects Act, and were discontinued;
• 1 could not be located; and
• 17 remain ongoing.
To identify a possible infraction, first check the OAA’s Find an Architect to ensure the individual is licensed with the Association. If you think someone is misusing a title, contact the Office of the Registrar by emailing email@example.com.