Out and About Part Four - Handbags at Dawn!
The last three years or so have been tough, really tough. On many days I have questioned my entire existence as an Architectural Designer. On top of 3 staff members dying I have had 4 separate legal battles to fight and am still paying off a mountain of legal bills.
So this is why I am trying so hard to establish myself as an Architectural Journalist (The Naked Artist), promote my art and other artists (Blue Indigo Art) and start selling some of my house plans online (Houseplanssa). Unfortunately due to distractions and intense periods of stress that have been largely beyond my control I've had to drop the ball with Blue Indigo Art and Houseplanssa.
I haven't had the courage to add up all the monies I have spent in legal fees (I think it's around R70K) and lost business (around R200K and counting), not to mention how many of my clients have been waiting a very long time for their plans or the approvals process to be completed...
So here's the sorry tale starting with the infamous Keegan Reddy and his fragrant wife.
They got in touch with me in June 2015 to draw up a set of plans for a new house in Kyalami Glen Estate in Midrand. After some to'ing and fro'ing we finally started the ball rolling in August.
They loved a previous plan of mine 'House Nobu', but as they only had the budget to build up to 456m2 I had quite a bit of trimming to do.
Here's House Nobu :-
Here's one of the concepts I came up with for them:-
Keegan was v. pleased with my concept, but he was adamant that I had to shave off about 8m2 for them as they did not have the budget to build a bigger house.
I was then quite horrified when I got this email from him a few hours later :-
- Third garage space - We want to use the Servants Quarters as the space for a third vehicle , (length 5.5m). We also want the water inlets & sewage outlets to be put in, just in case we wish to convert to a Servants Quarters area. We do not want to compromise the kitchen space, so please assist to make it fit. We are willing to go down to 5m per vehicle length.
- We want the Study on the ground floor, as per the Plan A you have done. The size is ok.
- We want to push the patio to the building line and increase the inside space of the house. The patio will have an awning cover. See pic attached.
- We want 1 full bathroom to service the guest bedroom.
- We do not want stairs in the passage ways, please minimize on the stairs (not too small though)
- We want the upstairs "Dressing Room" to be enclosed and the bathroom fittings to be moved around as indicated on the pic attached.
- We do not want large balconies , small balconies on the master and 3rd bedroom will be adequate.
- We want a pitched roof over the double garage area.
- We want 1 full bathroom upstairs to service bedrooms 1 to 3, as per the attached pic.
- Please don't forget the fireplace , see pic attached.
- Please include the area of each room in the sketch
- Does the total area include the Balconies/Patio ?
After lying down in a darkened room and sniffing my sal volatale I composed this email :-
"Once you go over a 9m span it gets really expensive... Rather than twice as expensive which is what you would expect - it is going to be 4x as expensive.... This is because instead of the standard 114 x 38 roof trusses you will need 50 x228 trusses which the Engineer might insist are laminated. There will be 2x50 x 228 trusses bolted together and 3 or 4 50 x 228 trusses bolted together at the jack beams (where the roof bends inwards).
We met Claire at site, explained our requirements and sent her our sketches. After some time she produced a basic layout (different to our sketches). We provided detailed feedback to her, after which she responded with excuses regarding the impossibility of our requirements. It felt like she was designing a house for herself. We told her if she felt she could not meet our requirements, to refund our deposit and we would move on. The next time we heard from her, she sent us an invoice that included dubious charges for consultation fees & other costs we were unaware of. She ensured that she covered the amount of the deposit with these dubious charges. We tried to contact her with no success. She replied to our letter of demand, sent by our attorneys but refused to return our deposit. She has successfully evaded the sheriff & other tracking agents over the past 3 months. Avoid Claire Cardwell & Blue Designs
There were also posts on ALL my Social Media pages, both the personal and Blue Designs ones. I had already spent well over R2K on a lawyer and he hadn't even bothered to phone the Reddy's or their Lawyer! Most of the posts only turned up on the Reddy's feed as I had blocked both of them months ago.
I had to return all the fees (about R9K) I had received from another job which I had completed, and got served a summons by a Sheriff from Randburg Magistrates Court. To say I was freaked out was an understatement!
The fall out continued. I went to see John Simpson (who was a close friend of Uncle Bob's and JS is one of SA's top litigating attorneys).
During the Settlement Negotiations I also received a Summary Judgement (this racked up another R5K or so in legal bills for me).
Finally a Settlement was reached, the Reddys would receive their deposit back in full and I would pay their legal fees and in return :-
All posts regarding Blue Designs and myself down from all Social Media and the infamous Hello Peter post to be removed immediately.
SACAP (the South African Council for the Architectural Profession) was not to be contacted and no complaints would be made.
No further legal action (Criminal or Civil) would take place.
After I had paid back nearly half the money I discovered that the Reddy's had not removed their defamatory posts about me on Social Media and the Hello Peter post was still there.
More calls, correspondence and legal bills ensued. Was there any way out of this nightmare I asked myself?
I decided the only thing I could do was to put my head down and carry on.
At the end of July 2015 I was about to fly back to the UK to visit family. I toyed with the idea of paying the Reddy's penultimate installment early, then changed my mind. "Let them wait," I thought to myself, "it's the 30th July and the money is only due on the 1st August"
Thank God I waited. SACAP got in touch. I was under disciplinary action. The Reddys HAD made a complaint to SACAP and had not withdrawn it according to the Court Mandated Settlement Agreement we had made back at the end of March 2015...
The complaint to SACAP was basically a re-hash of the Hello Peter post and they added this :-
"During our investigations it was uncovered that her company and physical address does not exist and she is not a qualified architect which she portrays herself to be. She evaded the Sheriff for 3 months until a successfully orchestrated operation where she was finally handed her summons to appear in court. We are now in the process of pursuing a criminal case against her. She is unethical, unscrupulous, immoral and does not behave with any professional conduct."
They also alleged that I gave them basic layouts after a long time (it was less than a week after our site meeting and I gave them 2 different carefully thought out options to consider). “After some time, a basic layout was produced – this layout did not include any measurements and was very different to the sketches we provided”
As you can see from the layouts I posted at the beginning of this piece (or rant rather!) this was not the case. In addition I was briefly connected to the Reddys on LinkedIn and as you can see from my LI and beBee profile I have been totally honest about my lack of formal qualifications in Architecture. I have been registered with SACAP as a Professional Designer (and so has Blue Designs) since June 2006...Anyway it all ended up OK in the end, OK that is until you consider that the 'legal eagles' at SACAP loved crossing swords with a top litigating attorney. They ran up over R7K in legal bills. I also got a R1.4K fine as SACAP were not happy with my Contract with the Reddys...
At the same time I was fighting a legal battle with Noel Kennedy - my ex business partner. I saw off two sets of lawyers before I got John involved.
Noel had developed a serious drinking problem. He would start the day by cracking a beer, by about 11am his first 6 pack of the day was history. Fast forward to around 3pm (and two further 6-packs) Noel would be incoherent..
He simply failed to understand why I had a problem with this. Why I thought it wasn't a good idea to get in his car and go to building sites to meet clients, or indeed actually work on their plans...
He became increasingly unstable and physically threatening. Eventually in August 2015 I had had enough and fired his ass. I know that you can't fire a 'business partner' but I did. Not only from Blue Designs, but from my life as well.
The upshot is that we finally came to a Court Mandated Settlement Agreement, I would give Noel R15K and in return he would return all paperwork, publications and intellectual property belonging to Blue Designs and not pursue a CCMA Action or civil action against me.
Well the deadline came and went. I extended the Deadline by 48 hours for Noel to comply. He did not. His lawyers were literally tearing their hair out. Can you believe that a) they refused to accept that 'intellectual property' also extends to CAD files and 'soft copies' of plans and documents? and b) they repeatedly LIED - in writing - saying that Noel was not aware of the terms of the Settlement Agreement?
I refused to pay until I received the Intellectual Property. To this date I have not received anything.
Noel has repeatedly slandered and defamed me, he rang a whole bunch of clients and contacts alleging that I am an alcoholic (I only drink 3 or 4 times a month - and that's 3 or 4 drinks single shots a month), drug addict (the occasional spliff doesn't make you a junkie does it?) and was having an affair with a 'coloured' man. I lost a lot of business and some people that I thought of as close friends are no longer speaking to me.
I believe that Noel is using my SACAP License to practice Architecture and submit plans to Council. He is still not registered with SACAP - either under his own name or company name. Legally I will be held responsible for any errors or omissions he makes during the commission of a project. His company CTA Design Studios showcases my work as his own.
I am going to draw a veil over the other two legal actions I had to deal with last year. The upshot was the same, the client got to keep all the plans and paperwork and got their fees paid back in full!
Still, I've got to carry on, got Clients dreams and planning nightmares to sort out.
Call Claire - 011 025 4458
I love Architecture. I think it's vital to talk about all aspects of Architecture - whether it be planning, construction, design or green building. I have written 3 E-Books & over 110 articles. Please feel free to let me know if you have any queries regarding architecture, planning & construction & I will assist you.
I am originally from the UK and moved to South Africa in 1999. I started Blue Designs in 2004 after working as a driver for Avalon Construction on a luxury home in the Featherbrook Estate. In my spare time I am an artist and writer.
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