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Fines for false property advertisements

5 December 2017

Real estate agents could be fined $11,000 for using terms like ‘architect-designed’ in property advertisements when it isn’t.

In addition, a real estate agency could be fined $22,000 for falsely claiming someone is an architect, or a property is architect-designed.

Every State and Territory in Australia regulates the use of the title ‘architect’ via an ‘Architects Act’ or equivalent, which is administered by a Board. In NSW that’s the NSW Architects Registration Board.

NSW Architects Registration Board Registrar Tim Horton said: “We regularly see advertising and editorial content that claims someone is an architect when they are not. Common examples include a property advertisement that claims to be ‘architect-designed’ when it isn’t.

“If an agent sells a home on the illegal use of the title ‘architect’, does it become misleading and deceptive? Let’s hope we never need to take the legal action to find out.

“Make sure you know if the person or company you’re referring to can use the title, or you may be held responsible.”

Ignorance is no defence

Mr Horton explained how recently an advertisement was placed by a prominent real estate agency that made the assertion that a property was “architecturally designed”.

However, the designer wasn’t an architect, making it an illegal representation. Tim adds that the agent may not have known but that ‘ignorance is no defence’.

Any business that claims to provide architectural services must have registered architects involved.

When is the term ‘architect’ restricted?

Mr Horton explains that the term is only restricted where it relates to services being provided in the built environment such as in design, architecture, building and construction etc.

An employee of an architect can call themselves an “architectural assistant”, “architectural technician” or “architectural drafter” and titles like “landscape architect”, “naval architect” or “computer systems architect” are also allowed.

A person who holds an architectural qualification is allowed to describe themselves as holding that qualification; and an organisation may use the word “architectural” if describing the business of supplying goods in connection with architecture.

How can you confirm if a person is an architect?

  • Ask the individual for their NSW Architects Registration Number
  • Ask a firm for the name and registration number of their nominated architect
  • Check to see whether an individual is listed on the NSW Register or Architects or the corporation or firm is listen on the List of architect corporations and firms on the Board's website
  • Contact the Board for staff the check the status of an individual or corporation or firm
  • Use the name of the designer, whoever they are. For example; "this John Smith-designed home."