How to fire architect yet still use plans

Shelle Craig
August 19, 2019

We hired an architect in March 2018 to design an addition for our house. It has been a nightmare working with him as he doesn't listen, nickels and dimes us (e.g., charging us hourly for reviewing zoning code - shouldn't he already know it!?!), and worst of all he imposes his own will on the project (i.e., we asked for some changes to design and he refused saying he didn't like the way it looked and it was his design!?). He has held us hostage throughout this process and even though we haven't hired him for interior design he refuses to release his plans if we don't provide him with the HVAC plan, the kitchen cabinet design, etc. Things that should be irrelevant to him as we aren't changing the exterior of the plans. It is now nearly September 2019 and we are still struggling to get a complete and accurate work product from him to submit for building permits. The most recent issue is that he is insisting that we install egress windows in a particular room in the basement. Since there is a "closet" in that room he feels this is necessary, though this is just now being brought up as an issue. An egress window would fundamentally change the appearance of that area from the exterior of our house. Our house is 95 years old and we don't want to have to dig down to add an egress window in a non-bedroom. I contacted the city building department and our reviewer said if we get rid of the closet we won't need an egress issue, so remove the door and close up the opening, problem solved. Once again the architect is refusing to do this.

We have paid this architect almost double our agreed upon price and have truly been at his mercy throughout this whole process. We just want to get building permits and build our house. We are not interested in continuing our working relationship with him once we get permits, but unfortunately, our contract states that we are unable to use the "instruments of service" if we terminate his contract. He is basically forcing his involvement in the project despite the fact that we have mutual contempt for one another, we will have already paid his fees in full, and we have been beyond patient in this process - it's been 18 MONTHS!!!!! and we still don't have permits. He has already told our contractor that if we fire him we can't use the plans to build and that he plans on being at the project, whether invited or not and that he won't check with anyone if it's okay to come.

Can anyone provide any advice? Basically what I want to know is what would be the standard for substantial completion of the house - he created a floorplan, but didn't do any interior design, so once we have the shell of the addition built can we fire him at that point? Can we prevent him from being further involved as we will have paid him, his design work will be done, and we don't want him on site? Do we have any recourse? I don't know why he's forcing his involvement other than he seems to enjoy having control and feeding his own over-sized ego. We are so frustrated and cannot believe we didn't read the contract more closely, but the wording is tricky and I think that's probably on purpose. Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading this long post!!

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