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Contracts for Professional Services

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties in which one agrees to provide some product or service to the other in exchange for some consideration—in most cases, money.

Contracts may be as simple as a one-page agreement or pre-printed purchase order all the way to multiple-volume documents several hundreds of pages long. The shortest document that concisely describes the requirements, roles, and responsibilities is usually the preference.

The OAA offers access to a suite of free, downloadable standardized contracts to make it easier for architectural professionals and their clients or consultants to enter into fair, balanced business relationships.
Click the links below to learn more about these resources, alternatives, and why it is important to have a written, effective contract for construction projects.

Why Do I Need a Written Contract?

Providing architectural services without an express written or oral contract is considered professional misconduct under the Architects Act. Contracts are critical for both the client and the professional.

As long as there are no misunderstandings or disagreements, there is little practical difference between verbal and written contracts. However, when there are disputes, the value of a written contract is clear. Without a written contract, disagreements are often reduced to one party’s word against the other, with no external evidence to support either side.

Sources of Standard Contracts

There are many sources of contracts for the construction industry. There are standard contracts for use between owners and contractors, such as those produced by the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC). There are standard contracts for use between owners or contractors and consultants, such as those produced by CCDC, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC), ACEC-Ontario, and the OAA. There are also standard contracts for use between consultants and subconsultants, such as those produced by ACEC and OAA.

Information about these contracts may be found on the websites linked above. (Note that CCDC 31 Service Contract Between Owner and Consultant is neither intended to be used nor endorsed by the OAA for use as a contract for architectural services.)

The RAIC contracts are suitable for use by architects. They are preferred by some corporate and government clients who want a single form of contract for use on their projects across Canada. Coming from a national organization, the RAIC contracts are not optimized for use on projects in Ontario.

In addition to these standard forms of contract, custom versions may be developed by owners, consultants, and contractors for use on projects with which they are involved.


Advantages of Standard Forms of Contracts

The use of standardized construction documents for your construction project brings many advantages.

Standard contracts build trust. They are usually created using consultative and collaborative processes, are written and organized to be easily understood, and use the same language.

Standard contracts used consistently from one project to the next can result in greater clarity of intent, increased goodwill between the parties, and less anxiety about legal issues.

Standard contracts simplify bidding and contracting. They are usually designed to work easily with other common contracts used in the construction industry. Over time, they become familiar and understood by all parties, and become trusted means to procure services. This means the processes governed by the contracts are smoother and more collaborative. Less time is spent reviewing and understanding the contract, freeing more time to developing the project.

Standard contracts are usually balanced, allocating risk fairly among the parties. They are not designed to promote the interests of one party above the others, as to do so would limit adoption of the standard contracts.

OAA Standard Contracts

The OAA is not an advocacy group for its members. It is the regulator of the practice of architecture in the public interest in Ontario.

OAA contracts are written in consultation with groups representing owners, with construction law specialists who represent owners, contractors, and consultants, and in response to a review of Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and questions posed to OAA’s Practice Advisory Services.

For each of the contracts in the OAA 2021 family of contracts, there is a guide document to the use and contents of the contracts. Please read the Guide to get the best use out of the contract. The OAA 2021 family of contracts is organized similarly to CCDC construction contracts with three main parts: Agreement, Definitions, and General Conditions. This should make them instantly familiar to most people in the construction industry.

OAA 600 and 800 series contracts are suitable for use with CCDC 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5b, and other construction contracts used for stipulated price (lump sum), cost plus, unit price, and construction management for services and for services and construction.

They may also be used with other project delivery methods when modified using appropriate supplementary conditions.


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OAA Contract Suite

Did you know the OAA offers free contracts for its members and the general public? These downloadable standardized contracts make it easier for all to enter into fair, balanced business relationships.