Dominic Helps’ thoughtful article on the different rules for payment between builder and consultant designer stopped short of discussing why there should be differences for services whose intentions are broadly similar (“Pay slip”, 11 February, page 63).
One obvious reason is that the designer gets to the client first with its own terms – a pre-emptive strike. Naturally, it will not want to tie itself down to completing the design by a given date. Nor would it want to draw attention to the possibility of an “abatement” of its fee for faulty or incomplete services. Much less would it welcome any formula for costing changes to its services similar to the hoops to be found in the building contract.
Too cynical? Perhaps, but I have a feeling that there is something else at play – the British class system, still alive and kicking. When the foundations of the contracts between client, builder and designer were laid down, the builder was a workman, and the designer a gentleman on a social level equal to the client. The builder had to enter the big house via the back door and had his butties in the kitchen with the servants; the designer through the front door for cucumber sandwiches in the drawing room. The builder was a mean and grasping man – cutting corners and maximising his profit. Thus his contract demanded the most stringent conditions. On the other hand, the designer would simply add a discreet 500 guineas to his bill, confident that his client would not dare to challenge him.
Isn't it about time that the professional institutions grew up? These days it is far more likely that the client and builder play golf together, but the designer cannot join them because he can’t afford the green fees. Would not the industry be a great deal healthier if the builder’s and the designer’s contracts were written in the same language?
Malcolm Taylor, Lancaster