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Institution Forums > General > Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice View modes: 
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Member (MIStructE)
Member (MIStructE)
enm1sg - 06/06/2018 22:13:42
Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
I need your kind advise & help to explore my legal rights 

I worked for one of the private clients for carrying out structural design calculations for internal removal of load bearings walls by  providing steel beams supported on steel column with Pad foundations 

After the design is completed, the clients and builder on its own constructed the eccentric foundations and cast the pad foundation for steel columns without informing us and without we providing the design for the same 

Now clients ask us to make us the design calculations for eccentric pad foundation, as constructed at a site for submission to Building regulation department of the local council 

We refused to carry out these calculations as we can not afford to take a risk as builder and clients constructed the foundations without any design provided by us at first place and these sizes may or may not found safe structurally.

On our refusal, clients are now making lots of fabricated stories and threatened us with the legal notice for the complaint to IStructE  and court action for a claim 

So I want to know what is the best course of action for me and my legal rights in that case. Can I complain to local council building regulations 

I want to solve this issue amicably without making an issue of it  

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Reginald Beeton - 07/06/2018 07:43:03
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
There are several questions that may affect the situation.

Are you saying that the design you prepared (calculations, drawings etc.) were NOT issued to the client, but the client instructed their builder to construct something that was not compliant with your design (given that they did not have your design)?

Did you issue anything to them? Did you tell them anything verbally?

Did you agree, in writing, your terms of engagement?

Have you raised an invoice or have you been paid anything?

Did the builder or client notify the Building Contol Officer that the works had commenced, as they are required to do? If so, did the BCO visit the site or make any communication?

Did they notify you of the works commencing?

Do you have proper professional indemnity insurance?

Have you visited the site or seen the work in progress or complete?

Depending on the answers to those questions and more, the situation could one of various. It may simply be that you write saying, "It is nothing to do with us." However, it may a little more involved than that. In any case, you should notify your insurers and they should offer advice.

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Member (MIStructE)
Member (MIStructE)
Sundeep Gupta - 07/06/2018 16:58:51
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
Thanks for your kind reply 

Design were issued to the clients and he has already paid for my services . He has submited the design to Building regulation approval to local council and pad foundations , being ecentric , council write us to do the sketch and calculation for underpinning 

But the clients in consulation with builder , opt for ecentric pad foundations and construted the same without informing us at first place on its own 

Now clients wants me to make the foundation calculations of the ecentric foundations with the sizes  already casted .

So I refused to take risk as my re*****tion and insurance is at stake so clients start to behave nasty and threatening of court proceeding and institution complaints 

I am not aware abou the comments made by building control inspector commented anything as cleints has not informed me anything .I have also not vissited the site as cleints does want to pay for the site visit 


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Reginald Beeton - 07/06/2018 21:03:57
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
Firstly, I'm not an expert and, although I try to help, you should try to find some authotitative advice. Perhaps your insurers could help.

That said, it sound to me that this is the essence of the story:

1) A client engaged you to produce a design for some works.
2) You designed it, it was submitted to building control and accepted.
3) You received payment for those services, so far.
4) The client and builder decided, between themsleves and without referring it to you, to execute a different design (even if their design is not a design in the formal sense, but something they constructured of their own devising).
5) The client wants you to provide verification calculations and details to justify the construction that they have made, which is not to your original design.
6) You have been given no reasonable opportunity, prior to the work being carried out, to make any changes to your design to account for any conditions on site that may have prompted a change.

I guess that the outcome would depend on whether your design was broadly similar to what any othe reasonable engineer would produce; that it could be constructed and would be adequate to comply with the building regulations and health and safety.

If they found, on site, that they could not construct according to your design, for some reason, they should have informed you and you could have visited and made any necessary adjustments. In this case, the worst that could happen is that they refuse to pay you for some of you work if they could prove that you could reasonably have foreseen the condittion that forces a change of design. Even so, that would be harsh. I would consider it unreasonable for them to not inform you and give you opportunity to adjust the design.

If they found, on site, simply that there was an easier or cheaper way for them to do the job, then that is different. It would be much harder for them to justify withholding payment or litigating.

Subject to other, more expert, advice you may find, I would say that the first thing would be to write to them, formally stating that they have unilatterally opted to construct to a design other than yours and you can take no responsibility for that work. You may go on to say that, in order to provide verifiction of the works, it will be necessary to visit the site and to make quite detailed investigations to determine the nature and characterisitics of the work that they have designed and constructed so that calculations may be carried out and that this may require destructive investigations to uncover concealed elements of the work, for which buidlers' work in connection with this would be required. For this you would require a reasonable fee - you could estimate what you think it may cost, plus builders' work as mentioned. Give them an estimate, make it clear that it an estimate and state the hourly rate so that a fair settlement may be found if the amount of time estimated is exceeded.

I agree that you should try to keep things as amicable as possible but you also need to be 'businesslike'. Commonly, people in difficulties can make difficulties for you if they scent an opportunity to get something to which they aren't entitled.


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Member (MIStructE)
real engineer - 09/11/2018 16:29:13
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
The problem with IStructE is that many bad clients can abuse the complaints procedure to make false allegations against members; to threaten and use as leverage to whatever they want, free work when they don't want to pay and for example what they are trying to do to you here even when it's bad.  Members are not supported by IStructE in any way in dealing with complaints and in fact I was told "the Institution cannot be seen to be favouring members" in disputes with clients. IStructE also offers no dispute resolution help. I hope you resolve this as it seems to me a case of a very bad client you have. 

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Member (MIStructE)
Member (MIStructE)
Robert Brickwood - 10/11/2018 09:12:54
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
Most domestic clients do not have any construction sector experience. Accordingly the probability of a domestic client acting irresponsibly (in our view) whether wittingly or unwittingly is much higher than professional clients with construction sector experience. Providing consultancy services to domestic clients usually involves abysmally low fees and curtailed duties such as no opening up works, one site visit at best and no monitoring of the works. Given the foregoing it is inevitable that the unfortunate position our fellow member Mr Gupta finds himself in is going to happen relatively frequently when providing services in the domestic market

Moving on to builders who work for domestic clients. In many cases they do not have formal contracts with their domestic client, they don’t wear PPE and don’t have any formal construction training.  The probability of a builder working for a domestic client ignoring The Engineer’s design is, I suggest, very much higher than a contractor formally appointed by a professional client who is experienced in the construction sector

Unethical and or threatening behaviour by clients?   A thorny issue but I will limit my input to saying these undesirable client qualities are present in all construction sectors and all types of client i.e. domestic and professional.

Working for domestic clients is in my view bottom of the food chain. Hard graft for little return and probably little job satisfaction on a day to day basis. Domestic clients often have vastly unrealistic expectations of quantum of professional services hours £500, say, can purchase because the vast majority do not understand what we do and what is involved.   I find it difficult to believe that structural/civil engineers or any other construction professionals such as architects with a choice would actually choose and prefer to work for domestic clients. Apart from the much higher likelihood of experiencing the stress and hassle Mr Gupta is undergoing, either low remuneration or compensating by working very long hours must be very unattractive. Is there anyone out there, who is in a position to choose, who actually prefers working for domestic over professional clients?

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Reginald Beeton - 10/11/2018 10:47:34
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
Hear, hear!

It would be very good if someone, or some organisation, could do something about this. It is tempting to attribute responsibility to the engineer and we have probably all seen the somewhat hackneyed argument that we should '...educate our clients...' So, in addition to shouldering ever increasing responsibilty, having to be ever more omniscient, accepting greater responsibiltiy and workload arising from deskilling of downstream disciplines, keeping up with technology, training ourselves and keeping up CPD, being obliged to put more explicit detail into routine building jobs... I could go on... we are also obliged to take on the responsibilty of enlightening an increasingly litigious, increasingly ignorant (not not necessarily meaning that rudely) public with increasingly higher expectations (sometimes fuelled by the likes of Grand Designs!).


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Former Chartered Member - 07/12/2018 10:33:13
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
I personally would like to ask more other members if they are happy with(in my opinion) the complete lack of support that IStructE provides to its members in times of trouble such as was the original case in this topic? I am most certainly not.
I notice that there is clearly advertised a guide for clients doing residential work on this very  website, very prominently in fact, but I am not aware of anything designed to help structural engineers working in private practice in a similar format, particularly those with no prior experience in running a business and dealing with "real life" clients. I personally started private practice after the 2009 crunch to tide me over until I hoped that consultant's work load would pick up again.   It is the case of course that there are many members who have had to work privately to try to stay in employment requiring direct contact with clients. I can also say from experience that IStructE provides no assistance of any kind to members who are in dispute with their clients.
I have noticed that there are some one day courses on the subject of contracts and dealing with clients but in my opinion these are ridiculously priced for sole traders. For example I have seen within another message chain as an example that a structural engineering working for a private client could well be expected to design an entire loft conversion steelwork set (say 6 beams) for a grand total of £165 pounds! Therefore it also seems to me that the people delivering these courses are merely trying to make money from members. They are say £345 + VAT per day per attendee! 
I also point to the fact that many clients will not enter into contracts at the outset of their projects as they are looking to do work in a rush and want the work immediately not a lengthy contract to peruse over. The rush the engineer into the work and then change the scope of works after the fact. It seems a very common tactic that some clients employ. It is easy to say don't work with such clients but they are often quite frequently encountered. Also I notice particularly in London there is a culture of "something for nothing" when domestic clients are doing work. They would actually take the greatest pleasure in being able to get work for free.  I have encountered many clients trying to design their own residential projects to save money for themselves.
It is true the Structural Engineers serve their clients and IStructE cannot exist without clients who pay members but it is, as far as I am aware, practicing members through subscriptions who pay for IStructE to keep running so why aren't members given an equal or even fair proportionate consideration? In this such case I think that the Institution is seriously failing it's own members. I don’t mean to be rude but I feel that many residential clients have absolutely no respect for the structural engineer and just see us as someone they have the greatest contempt in paying for. I understand clients  are paying building costs and perhaps other professionals such as architects but I often think to myself if these clients don’t want to pay for the work what gives them the right to try and get and worse still in some cases expect a lot of work for free?

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Member (MIStructE)
Member (MIStructE)
Roger Faires - 14/02/2019 17:26:54
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice

Can i just put in some reasons to work for domestic clients -
1. You'll be surprised but domestic clients do pay, in many cases within 24 hours! When working for "professional clients" I've found them to be very tricky with paying and you get paid a month after you invoice. 
2. Small jobs get built, i've worked on big jobs, i've seen others work on things for years (think Garden bridge) only for some funding stream to be cut and suddenly years of your life seem a tad wasted. 
3. Variety, you don't have to limit yourself to just domestic work, you can do bits here and there. Even in domestic jobs there is variety within the properties, so your always learning. 
4. More design less meetings, some of us are hardened engineers, we love the numbers. We love to detail and design and make a damn fine job doing it. I am good in meetings, I can write programe reports and project manage projects, but I like to get my head in the numbers. 
5. Flexibility, I'm not working 9-5 "for the man" I'm working for me, I have lie ins, I go out, I have holiday days, I'm on pure flexitime. 
6. Pick your clients, in the right area there is an abundance of work, you just need to be more selective and charge what your worth. 

So please Robert, don't refer to us as bottom of the food chain. Some of us are having a mixed grill feast down here.

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Member (MIStructE)
Member (MIStructE)
Robert Brickwood - 12/03/2019 15:35:20
RE:Client threatening of Complaint to IstructE & court Notice
You make a good case for domestic projects Roger i.e. you have shown all the positives. I on the other hand showed all the negatives so the happy medium is probably somewhere in the middle.

Working in the domestic sector is not the only sector at (or near) the bottom of the food chain IMHO. I suggest most consultancy based structural engineering is also a bottom feeder. The expression, the further one is away from the jam pot the less sticks on your fingers is in my experience a truism

Call me mercenary but money is my prime motivation - seek the best sector and obtain the the best return is raison d'etre. For the last 12 years i have worked in the rail sector and moved away from Consultants practices, through Client organisations  on to Contractors and finally in my current berth as Chief Engineer for a Developer - reassuringly close to the jam pot - in fact we own the jam pot, dole out the jam we have left over -  currently finishing off a 100 million project in central London 

To summarise - (this is very tongue in cheek - i hope no one is taking this seriously)
 Consultancy is pants these days. Bullied by D&B contractors and restrained by ridiculous political correctness in the office. Stock exchange listed companies chasing a buck, corporate strategy determined by shareholders, outrageously commercial. The days of the Gentleman Engineer who put vocation above reward and refused to work on D&B are long dead or tottering dinosaurs about to expire. I rate consultancy second bottom in the food chain but above domestic sector

Public  and Governement  organisations. Mostly populated by under achieving under productive has-beens or never beens who are petrified of ever having to actually do anything. I cite LU, NR and DLR as prime examples in the rail sector. Well paid though and a good skive if you are that way inclined. Public and Government third from bottom of the food chain.
Contractors. reasonably well paid but no status unless you can as a structural engineer get a pivotal role such as CEM on a rail project. Hire and fire mentality so security of employment is tenuous. Design Manager roles for D&B projects offer scope to wreak revenge for any engineer who has spent a substantial amount of his career  catering to the petty vanities of architects. Good fun and little in the way of political correctness. Working for Contractor's is in the top half of the food chain (marginally and only if in right role )
A quick way to rise to the top half of the food chain is to desert structural engineering and become a Project Manager.  This is particularly suitable to engineers who have weak technical skills, object to putting in a shift  and have an inflated view of their own ability / importance. Particularly suited to those who like to pass around paper without adding any value. On the down side ex engineers purporting to be Project Managers  often suffer from Imposter Syndrome
Anything  and everything else is likely to be in the top half of the food chain.  Anyone over 40 and earning less than a 100k is a loser caused by their own lack of imagination and inability/lack of confidence to move into a more lucrative field by maximising their skills. Carpe Diem.  

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