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Alternative Dispute Resolution and Formal Complaints Processes
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Guidance

Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes

The RIBA's alternative resolution processes for parties in dispute, including architects, their clients or parties to a construction contract.

Alternative Dispute Resolution and Formal Complaints Processes

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The RIBA provides the following alternative dispute resolution processes to parties in dispute, including architects, their clients or parties to a construction contract:

  • Arbitration
  • Adjudication
  • Mediation (including Fixed-Fee)
  • Third Party Opinion
  • Expert Register

For an overview of these options and alternative dispute resolution in general, see the document It's Useful To Know.

For more detailed information on each of the available options, please see the below summaries and accompanying resources.

Arbitration

Many building contracts and contracts for architects' services contain clauses that provide for disputes to be resolved by arbitration. Frequently, the President of the RIBA is named in these contracts as the appointer of an arbitrator. Such clauses normally provide that if the parties are unable to agree on a person to act as arbitrator within the 14 days following notice of arbitration, either party may apply to the President to make an appointment.

Where there is no existing arbitration agreement, the parties may agree after a dispute has arisen that they wish it to be resolved by arbitration and that the matter be referred to a person to be appointed by the president. In such a case both parties jointly request the President to make an appointment.

A request for an arbitrator to be appointed by the President should be made on standard application forms. An administration fee of £300 plus VAT is currently charged in respect of an application. A cheque should accompany the forms when they are returned. For information on payment by BACS, please email ProfessionalStandards@riba.org.

The President's list
The list is comprised of those whom the President has chosen on the recommendation of the President's Arbitration Committee. They are individuals considered by the committee as capable of discharging the duties of an arbitrator, being sufficiently knowledgeable in the law and possessing expertise appropriate to the subject matter of the disputes for which the president is likely to be asked to make an appointment.

The list includes individuals who are professionally qualified as architects, engineers or quantity surveyors. Of these some are additionally qualified as lawyers.

Further information
For further information and guidance on the arbitration service, the process and the required documents for requesting appointment of an arbitrator, please see our arbitration resources at the bottom of the page.

Adjudication

The RIBA maintains a panel of around 70 expert adjudicators. The panel is drawn from professionals across the construction industry including architects, surveyors, engineers, construction consultants and construction lawyers, allowing for every type of dispute to be dealt with by a specialist in the field.

View the full list of adjudicators on our panel.

Many building contracts and contracts for architects' services contain clauses that provide for disputes to be referred to adjudication. Frequently, the RIBA is named in these contracts as an adjudicator nominating body.

Where there is no express provision for adjudication the parties may nevertheless have a right to refer a dispute to adjudication by virtue of Part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. This provides a statutory right to adjudication in most building contracts and contracts for architects' services (a notable exception being a contract with a residential occupier). In general terms where the right to adjudication is supplied by the act and the contract does not name the adjudicator, nor an adjudicator nominating body other than the RIBA, either party may apply to the RIBA for a nomination.

To request an adjudicator to be nominated please use the application form (print version also available). Alternatively, contact the Dispute Resolutions Office at the RIBA: adjudication@riba.org or +44(0)20 7307 3649. An administration fee of £300 plus VAT (or £120 plus VAT for disputes arising under the JCT Building Contract for Home Owner/Occupier) is charged for an application. A cheque must accompany the completed forms. For information on payment by BACS, please email adjudication@riba.org.

So that an appropriate adjudicator can be nominated by the RIBA, when requesting an adjudicator please send the application form together with a copy of the Notice served on the responding party, notifying them of the intention to refer the matter to adjudication.

The RIBA then has up to seven days to nominate a suitable person.

Once nominated, the adjudicator has 28 days to reach a decision (21 days for disputes under the JCT Building Contract for Home Owner/Occupier). The parties may, however, agree a longer period, and the adjudicator, with the consent of the referring party may extend the 28-day period by up to 14 days.

Further information
For further general information on the adjudication process as a whole, see the guide to adjudication published by the CIC.

Mediation and Fixed-fee Mediation

Mediation is an informal process that does not impose a resolution to a dispute and only becomes binding with the consent of all parties.

Mediation allows the parties the freedom to explore ways of settling the dispute with the assistance of an impartial and independent person (the mediator). It is essentially a process in which the mediator assists in negotiations between the parties to arrive at a settlement.

The RIBA Fixed-fee Mediation Scheme is offered as an alternative to the established form of mediation, as well as other dispute resolution procedures.

The Fixed-fee Mediation Scheme is suited to disputes (generally of a relatively low financial value) where the matter can reasonably be expected to be resolved in a relatively short timescale. It is only suitable where the parties have a genuine wish to settle. Mediators are selected from those listed by the RIBA for appointment under the Scheme.

Further information
For further information on the RIBA Mediation Scheme and for an application form for the appointment of a mediator, please see the available resources at the bottom of the page.

For more information on the RIBA Fixed-fee Mediation Scheme including costs and procedures, see the guidance notes and application forms in the available resources section at the bottom of the page.

Third Party Opinion

Third Party Opinion is an alternative to more established dispute resolution procedures. It involves an independent professional being appointed on behalf of the parties to provide a professional opinion and recommendation for settlement.

Third Party Opinion is suited to disputes concerning matters of valuation or of a technical nature such as the performance or installation of a product or service, where the matter can reasonably be expected to be resolved in a relatively short timescale. It is a procedure entered into by consent, rather than forming part of the contract terms.

Further information
For more information on the RIBA Third Party Opinion scheme, including costs and procedures, see the guidance notes and application form.

Expert Register

When contemplating dispute resolution or litigation, it may be useful to obtain an expert view of your situation. Alternatively, you might require an expert report or expert witness to support your case.

Further information
The RIBA holds a register of expert members, including detailed CV for each expert, who can provide these services.

For information on applying to join the expert register, please download the application form and application guidance.

Code of Conduct

As an alternative to seeking some form of redress, you can make a formal allegation of professional misconduct or incompetence against a RIBA member or Chartered Practice.

All RIBA members must abide by the Code of Professional Conduct and all Chartered Practices must abide by the Code of Practice. If you think a RIBA member or Chartered Practice has breached the relevant Code, you may wish to make a formal complaint to professional.standards@riba.org.

Please note that RIBA members and Chartered Practices are expected to have an internal written complaints handling procedure available to potential complainants upon request. The RIBA will not consider formal complaints until such time as the internal complaints handling procedure has been exhausted.


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