CAN THE ARCHITECT CLAIM SCALE OF ‘MAXIMUM’ FEE IN THE FACE OF TERMINATION
UPDATE: Hardie Development Sdn Bhd. v David Shen I-Tan provided clarity as to the following questions:
The court holds that ‘charging of professional fees by Defendant less or lower than the minimum fees as prescribed by and in breach of the Architects (Scale of Minimum Fees) Rules 1986 does not render the architect’s service contract or contract of engagement with his/her client void or unenforceable so as to deprive the architect of any right to recover his/her fees or remuneration.’
In arriving to such decision, the court hold that:
Applying the principles of law as stated in Co-Operative Central Bank Ltd (In Receivership) v Feyen Development Sdn Bhd; Lori (M) Bhd (Interim Receiver) v Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd; Asia Television Ltd. & anor v. Viwa Video Sdn. Bhd.; Becca (M) Sdn. Bhd. v. Tang Choong Kuang & anor; with the reasoning of Justice Lee Swee Seng in Matrix Concepts (Central) Sdn. Bhd. v. Ar. Lim Yoke Tiang.
In essence, the findings in Matrix Concepts is still the deciding factor and rest assured that such decisions has given the precedent that it is not illegal for architects to charge below the mandatory scale of minimum fee Rules … then the question, why mandatory?
  MLJU 1103
 Hardie [n1] at 
 Hardie [n1] at : cited St. John Shipping Corporation v. Joseph Rank Ltd.  3 All ER 683
 Hardie [n1] at : cited Narraway v. Bolster (1924) Estate Gazette 83
  3 MLJ 313 (FC)
  3 MLJ 81 (FC)
  2 MLJ 304
  CLJ (Rep) 64
  MLJU 1548
The question of law, whether can the Architect charge below its Scale of Minimum Fee (SOMF) Rules? If so, whether can the Architect claim its fee under SOMF Rules when the letter of appointment (LOA) that has been entered upon does not comply with the SOMF? If so, whether ‘letter of release’ (LOR) was obliged to be released without delay even though the Architect holds a lien over the document pending payment of its fee, when the LOA specified in contrast with the provision of the Architects Rules 1996?
The old case of Seniwisma S & O Akitek Planner v Perusahaan Hiaz Sdn Bhd  held that the Architect’s fee was pursued under SOMF but the court was extremely careful in awarding based on SOMF and subsequently set-aside appeal, instead, due to the nexus of facts points toward the approved layout deviates from their proposal, implying that the appellant's layout has not been used as the approved layout. Whereupon the court continues to guide us that Scale of Fee (SOF) without the word minimum is for the purpose of to check recalcitrant consultants who impose exorbitant fees to the public. In the same vein, court is ready to accept the legitimacy of consultant charging below the SOF. As to the question, can the Architect charge below its SOMF Rules, the legal position has always been, ‘yes’ but specifically it remains untested.
A recent appeal case of Ar.Lim Yoke Tiang v Matrix Concepts (Central) Sdn Bhd , posted the following ratio-decidendi, a term in the contract cannot be changed merely by reason of a termination of services; whereupon an agreement that does not conform to SOMF, i.e. on lump-sum, shall not be based upon SOMF as its basis of claim; as SOMF is only binding to the architect but not the contracting party; whereupon LOA is clear that Letter of Release (LOR) was obliged to be released without delay, maintaining the Architects Rules 1996 on a lien over the documents pending to be paid, has no application, when the LOA was prioritised over the Architects Rules 1996.
As for this Ar.Lim Yoke Tiang v Matrix Concepts (Central) Sdn Bhd , we have yet to see if LAM actually takes the trouble to sanction the architect for procuring works below the SOMF and as usual, nobody can have access to Board of Architects (LAM)’s proceeding on issues of professional-misconduct, which may have been conducted in an opaque-manner.
Concluding, just like the saying “unexpected in a case where in a competitive market one has to try to anchor in the work and secure the project”, it is no secret that most Architect has not played by the Architects Rules 1996 in imposing the mandatory SOMF-Rule. The court is ready to accept the reality that SOMF is only binding to the architect but not the contracting party. In response, LAM has since mooted the idea of ‘stakeholder’ to collect fee on behalves of the architects, but that has yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In a nutshell, court will not make a contract for the parties when there is none, more so, court will not apply ‘extra-contractual’ concepts when there is a contract binding the parties, that include superseding any rules contradicting the true-intention of the parties in contract.
 2 MLJ 37
 Mott Macdonald (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v. Hock Der Realty Sdn Bhd  MLJU 342
 Sri Palmar Development & Construction Sdn Bhd V Jurukur Perunding Services Sdn Bhd  6 MLJ 166
 The late Ar. Kington Loo, did mention that there was a test-case on this but it did not survive due to the demise of the architect.
 1 LNS 35 (CA)
 Hughes v Lenny (1839) 5 M. & W. 183: lien to recover its due
 As per studies carried by PAM
I am sharing these information with a caveat that these information is for educational purpose only and shall not be taken as an advice be it legal or otherwise. You should seek proper advice to your case with the relevant professionals. The author cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information so provided here.