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Some time ago an architect friend (who lives in a different part of the country to me) very kindly offered to draw up the plans for a house extension for free (I did offer to pay). So in short, there is no contract between us.

He completed the first stage of the plans and we successfully passed planning permission. After then paying for a structural engineer I am now ready to submit building regulation drawings (which are based on the original plans and the structural engineers recommendations).

However, my friend has went silent on me whenever I message him about this, which I have raised on three occassions now. We still have fairly normal communication otherwise, but I feel this is leading to a difficult conversation which I do not know how to play.

So the question is, how do I approach this with him tactfully to get an answer either way? I need to know one way or the other if he is willing to finish the work, or if I need to go out an employ an architect. The latter is problematic, as from what I've read most architects do not like picking up someone else's work, but if that's the situation that faces me then so be it.

Any advice would be welcome.

  • When you first asked your friend to draw up the plans, were you clear to him from the start that you intended to build a real structure based on his plans? It's possible your friend didn't realise this was a serious venture. – user8671 Jan 4 at 12:47
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The Interpersonal Skill involved here is being able to separate your friendly relationship from the essentially business relationship.

You have to be prepared to let this, let's call it a misunderstanding, go and make sure your friend understands that.

Having been in similar situations, just be direct and focus on this transaction only. It also might be helpful to offer a way out. For example...

Hey, we're ready to submit the plans. Are you available to finish it? The builder's architect can take it from here if not. No problems, I just need to know by Friday.

If they still don't respond, your only realistic option is to commission another architect to complete the job and let it go with your friend.

As a side note, you're right, architects and builders don't like to take over work because once they do, they're now responsible. Been there too... :(

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    I have noticed that you write "I just need to know by Friday". Could you tell us why specifying a deadline is important? Or maybe it isn't? (but nice answer otherwise) – Ælis Jan 4 at 15:19
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    @Noon : "why specifying a deadline is important" -> deadline also means "Plan B" (it's implied most of the time, whether you can submit or not another work). ie. as you can't expect waiting for xx days/weeks and need a solution, no answer by the deadline means that you'll look for another solution. Which is explained by Johns: "If they still don't respond (link to M-W # 2.a), your only realistic option is to commission another architect to complete the job". This seems pretty clear enough and obvious here IMO :) – OldPadawan Jan 18 at 13:16
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It isn't clear if your original agreement between friends was for him to draw up both sets of plans. As this is his job he would know that there were two stages to this - did you know from the outset that the plans for permission would not meet the same standard required for building regulations? If so, did you discuss this with him?

Another answer suggests that there is a difference between your "friendly relationship" with your friend and an "essentially business relationship", but to be honest I don't see that any business relationship exists between you at all. He didn't offer you a freebie as a business arrangement, he offered it to you as a friend.

Consider this example - let's say a friend asks you to give him a lift getting a piece of furniture out of his house, and you agree to this favour. After you have helped him get this heavy item down his stairs and out the front door you find there is a van waiting and he now expects you to drive this van across town to another house to deliver and install the furniture for somebody else. You'd feel a bit put out, right? What you are being asked to do goes beyond the scope of the original favour. Yet if this hypothetical friend had called a removal company and made a business arrangement the details would have been discussed at length, priced and agreed upon. A business arrangement and a favour are very different situations.

Your friend is an architect, that is how he makes his money, so he doesn't work for free. If he drew the plans for you in work time, he lost money; and if he did it in his own time then he lost time with his family, on his recreation time, whatever. Taking what you wrote literally, he "kindly offered to draw up the plans for a house extension for free", and he did just that. If what you now expect him to do to finish the job was not discussed originally then you need to approach him to ask a new favour, not simply expect it.

See it from his point of view - if you are expecting him to do something he didn't originally offer then he may feel like he is being taken advantage of; yet this does not mean he is not willing to do you another favour if you ask! Friends do keep doing things for one another, but nobody likes to be taken advantage of. So, if you are still hoping for another freebie perhaps you should humbly ask:

I hope I am not asking more than you originally offered to do for me - please tell me honestly if I am - but I am at the stage where I need plans for building regulations and I was wondering if you could do those for me? If it is too much work to do for free then I am willing to pay, as I did offer to pay from the outset. I don't want to cause difficulty for you, I just want to move my project along.

On the other hand, if you are absolutely certain that his original offer included him preparing two sets of plans for the two stages of planning then I still think you should approach him in a humble, rather than an indignant manner, because there may be good reasons why he can no longer do this for you, for example, if his spare time or work commitments have changed in some way. Perhaps say:

I'm sorry to mention this, but my building project is held up at the moment waiting for plans. I really appreciated you offering to do them. If it has become a burden to you I understand. If you'd like me to pay for the work please let me know the cost, or if your time won't allow then please let me know so I can find someone else to do them. I don't want to cause difficulty for you.

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