Architects can retire from practice and from insurance premiums

The Straight Line Newsletter — Issue #14

Welcome to the 14th issue of The Straight Line, now a quarterly. Why quarterly? Because things in general – liability insurance in particular – seem to be changing more rapidly than ever, even as many of us, stuck in our makeshift home offices, watch time slowly stroll by.

In This Issue

  • Retirement from Practice Program
    If current circumstances have started you thinking about the long term – retirement or career change, for example – this is a good time for us to remind you that, as a licensed Ontario architect, you are eligible for participation in the Retirement from Practice Program – something that is unique to Pro-Demnity. Whether your retirement is likely to be immediate or far-off, conventional or unconventional, temporary or permanent, or not even on your radar, you are highly encouraged to read the description in this issue.
  • An Introduction to Resources
    At the urging of our readers, we are introducing a new recurring feature designed to help architects navigate the mystifying landscape of professional risk. In this issue, we offer a mini-review of a book that has understandably been gaining the attention of students, interns and professionals: Architect?: A Candid Guide to the Profession, by Roger K. Lewis. Candid it definitely is. Readers are invited to suggest books or other material for inclusion in future issues. Please send your ideas to
  • Ontario Introduces New Construction Restrictions
    “In order to reduce the spread, we are shutting down some non-essential construction like shopping malls, hotels and office towers.” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development — April 16, 2021 

Architects Can Retire… from practice and from insurance premiums 

For some of us, the past year has felt like some form of enforced retirement, if by “retirement” we mean not having to face rush hour traffic every day, having time to walk the dog, chat with the neighbours, read a few novels – in other words, a few of the good things about retirement. Which may have gotten us thinking: What happens when I retire for real? And what about the not-so-good things?

As architects in Ontario insured by Pro-Demnity, we have a unique program that gives us one less thing to concern us. It’s called Retirement from Practice Coverage, and, according to our last members’ survey, some policyholders appear to be a little unclear (some entirely in the dark) about what it is and how it works. We hope that this issue of The Straight Line will help clear things up.


First of all, “retirement” isn’t just for older practitioners. It doesn’t mean throwing away your appointments calendar, buying a sailboat, and leaving the rest of the world behind. In this case, retirement may simply mean that you are pursuing a different path. The Coverage gives you the freedom to change your career and move on from your practice, with Pro-Demnity still at your back.

The details of the plan are not complicated. The Coverage benefits individual members of the OAA (current or former) who have surrendered their Certificate of Practice and are employed by another licence holder, have moved on to greener pastures in an unrelated field, or have simply retired in the conventional sense.

The Retirement from Practice Program is unique to Pro-Demnity, providing eligible retired current and former OAA members with professional liability insurance coverage for the remainder of their lifetimes, and for six years after death for estate resolution purposes. For those current or former OAA members who retired prior to January 1, 2003, the Pro-Demnity Retirement from Practice Program replaces similar coverage previously offered through the OAA Indemnity Plan.

The Retirement from Practice Program provides the opportunity for an OAA member, including an OAA member who was an employee of a Holder of a Certificate of Practice, to:

  1. “Retire” in the conventional sense – close a practice, and automatically be covered for previous work as a holder of a Certificate of Practice.
  2. Surrender the Certificate of Practice and seal, but retain a licence (or not retain a licence) and work for another holder of a Certificate of Practice (i.e. another architectural practice) as an employee, or accept employment in government or industry, and automatically be covered for services previously provided as a Holder of a Certificate of Practice. 
  3. Close a practice, and work in an unrelated field – and automatically be covered for previous work as a Holder of a Certificate of Practice. 

Coverage for eligible members or former members of the OAA commences on the Expiration Date of the professional liability insurance following the date of surrender of the relevant Certificate of Practice. The professional liability insurance cannot be cancelled mid-term. Where the Certificate of Practice is surrendered during the Period of Insurance, the professional liability insurance will continue until expiry, at which time coverage for the eligible individuals will automatically transfer to the Retirement from Practice Program


Claim Limit: $250,000 
Aggregate Limit: $500,000 
Deductible: $1,000 each and every claim 
Premium: $ nil 
Defense costs incurred by Pro-Demnity will not erode the funds available to pay damages. 

  • Surrender of Certificate of Practice; 
  • Participation in the OAA Indemnity Plan or being insured by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company for two or more years (not necessarily consecutive); 
  • All financial obligations to Pro-Demnity Insurance Company, or to the OAA Indemnity Plan where applicable, being met – i.e. payment in full of premiums, deductible, taxes or levy applicable to the current or prior professional liability policies covering the individual’s professional services; 
  • If a current or former OAA member continues to be insured for professional liability arising from the performance or non-performance of architectural services by any other insurance policy, the Retirement from Practice Program will not apply as they will already have insurance provided by that other policy. 

Subject to the approval of Pro-Demnity Insurance Company, any member or former member of the OAA who meets the above eligibility requirements will be insured under the program. 

A member of the OAA who retires from a practice which is ongoing is automatically covered by the ongoing practice’s annual practice insurance. However, if the ongoing practice subsequently decides to surrender its Certificate of Practice, then the current and former members involved in that practice will be covered under the Retirement from Practice Program – subject to the eligibility requirements being met. 

  • Retirement from Practice Coverage is an individual coverage. The Retirement from Practice Program applies only to the retired individual (not to an architectural practice) who is not covered under any other architectural professional liability insurance. 
  • Coverage under the Retirement from Practice Program applies throughout the life of the retired architect and is extended to cover the estate of the member or former member of the OAA for a period of six years after death, for estate resolution purposes. 
  • There is no coverage under the Retirement from Practice Program for professional services of a member or former member of the OAA carried out while “retired” from practice. 
  • A member who decides to “unretire” (takes out a Certificate of Practice as a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation, or joins an existing practice as a principal) will be required to come back into the mandatory professional liability insurance program. Whatever coverage would have been provided to the individual by the Retirement from Practice Program during retirement will need to be covered under the insurance provided to a new or existing Holder of a Certificate of Practice. The applicable premiums respecting the individual’s past work “pre-retirement” will be rated according to his/her existing circumstances at the time, using Pro-Demnity’s rating process in place at the time. 
  • The required two years’ participation in the annual practice program provided by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company (or by the OAA Indemnity Plan) do not need to be consecutive years. 
  • Non-payment of premiums, levies, taxes and deductibles due to Pro-Demnity Insurance Company make the individual un-eligible for participation in the Retirement from Practice Program. 
  • Payment of outstanding premiums, levies, taxes or deductibles after cancellation of coverage may result in reinstatement of eligibility for the Retirement from Practice Program, provided that the member or former member of the OAA is unaware of any claim or circumstance likely to give rise to a claim, and subject to approval by Pro-Demnity. 
  • Where “retirement from practice” is triggered by financial difficulties including insolvency of the practice, any post-dated checks provided by the practice respecting the payment of premium applicable to the currentPeriod of Insurance that are not honoured when presented for payment, will disqualify architects who own or are employed by the practice from participation in the Retirement from Practice Program. In such instances, early notification to Pro-Demnity may facilitate alternate arrangements for payment to avoid ineligibility for the Retirement from Practice Program.
  • Should a retiring architect wish to maintain higher limits than are provided under the Retirement from Practice Program, upon submission of an application, Pro-Demnity may seek a quotation for an “excess” limits policy to increase available limits to match those provided by the retiring architect’s professional liability limits at the time of surrender of the Certificate of Practice. The excess policy will be subject to annual renewal by the architect for as long as the retiring architect decides to maintain the excess limits. Premium for the annual excess policy will be the responsibility of the retiring architect.

The foregoing description provides a summary of coverage, terms and conditions only. The policy wording should be consulted for the actual coverages, terms and conditions. In case of a discrepancy between these summaries and the policy, the policy wording shall prevail.

“Subject to the approval of Pro-Demnity Insurance Company, any member or former member of the OAA who meets the eligibility requirements will be insured under the program.”

Useful References for Architects – First in a Series 

Architect?: A Candid Guide to the Profession, Third Edition.
Roger K. Lewis. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 2013

As insurance providers, we are often seen as the safe middle-ground between the perfectly normal optimism of the architect and the entirely necessary pessimism of the lawyer. Our persistent advice is: follow your design dreams, but unless you want it all to come crashing down on your head, take certain precautions.

Here is a book that lawyers, architects and insurers can all love. Lewis’s book is coolly pragmatic. In all things, if there is an upside, there is also a downside. This is best represented by the titles of his first two chapters: 1, “Why Be an Architect?” (19 pp.) and 2, “Why Not to Be an Architect” (20 pp.). The book is not intended to drum up enrolment for architecture schools, but to explain to anyone considering an architectural career what they are getting themselves into. It is also a great read for practising architects who want to refresh their grip on reality.

The author Roger K. Lewis, FAIA is a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, a writer and cartoonist. One of his cartoons appeared in Issue 12 of The Straight Line. 

As an example of harsh professional reality, Chapter 2 includes a section on “Legal and Financial Risks.” Lewis explains the utter necessity of having professional liability insurance, due to the ever-increasing expectations of clients. Whether the claims are legitimate, frivolous, or somewhere in between, the financial and emotional toll of fighting a claim can be considerable. He further points out the paradox that simply by having liability insurance, architects become attractive targets for lawsuits. This section is fittingly followed by a the chapter’s final section, entitled “Disillusionment.” 

One refreshing aspect of the book is that nothing is off the table. Lewis discusses ethics, legalities, and technologies, alongside personality characteristics (architects, clients, consultants and others), human foibles and professional failings.

Lewis’s overall message is summed up in the book’s final encouraging words: All things considered, “no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you look like, if you want to be an architect and have the talent, nothing today stands in your way.”

Changes to Allowable Construction Activities

The following has been adapted and greatly abbreviated from a blog created by Rob Kennaley of Kennaley Construction Law, and appears here with their generous permission. You are encouraged to access the full text online here

Prior to April 17, 2021, s.43 of the O. Reg 82/20 provided that all construction activities or projects and related services were allowed to proceed in Stage 1 areas of Shutdown due to COVID-19. As of April 17, all of Ontario is in Shutdown and s.43 has been significantly amended, with the result that construction activities in the Province will be limited once again.

Generally, and very briefly, the following construction activities are still permitted:

  1. “residential construction activities or projects and related services,” however construction on hotels would appear not to be included within the scope of “residential”;
  2. “landscaping services,” by virtue of s.15 of the Schedule, however this is probably restricted to landscape maintenance, and not “hard” landscape construction;
  3. “maintenance, repair and property management services related to the safety, security, sanitation and operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings”;
  4. virtually all site services work necessary to prepare a site for development, by virtue of s.43;
  5. construction funded (or partially funded) by the Federal or Ontario Government, by an agency of those governments or by a municipality;
  6. affordable housing, or construction intended to provide shelter or supports for vulnerable persons, provided that it is funded or partially funded by specified persons, a registered charity or a non-profit corporation; and
  7. any construction work required to close a site where construction has been suspended.

More specifically, and again very briefly, with regard to non-residential construction, work may proceed where it relates to:

  1. health care or long-term care, or spaces that “could be repurposed for health care space,” (although it is unclear what these sectors include and what construction might meet the repurposing test);
  2. provincial infrastructure – including transit, transportation, resource, energy and justice sectors;
  3. new capacity in the “supply or resources”, schools, colleges, universities, specified child care centres; electricity or natural gas;
  4. maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries;
  5. “industrial” construction necessary for the production, maintenance or enhancement of PPE and specific medical devices “directly related to” combatting COVID, (note that non industrial construction of PPE or such devices is most likely prohibited unless otherwise allowed by s.43);
  6. production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food, beverages or agricultural products; and 7) additional capacity in the operation and delivery of IT or for certain categories of businesses. 

Kennaley suggests that in contemplating any construction project, it is not enough that the construction be at or for a business that is itself allowed to operate during the lockdown – unless the work is otherwise specifically allowed by s.15, 35 or 43.

Last year, the Province set up a Stop the Spread Business Information Line, at 1 (888) 444-3659. That line remains available as a resource to (hopefully) address any questions you might have in any particular circumstance. Refer to Pro-Demnity’s COVID-19 Bulletins, in particular Bulletin No. 10 which addresses construction related considerations.

Rob Kennaley can be reached at: The firm’s website is:

The Straight Line is a newsletter for architects and others interested in the profession. It is published by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company to provide a forum for discussion of a broad range of issues affecting architects and their professional liability insurance.

Publisher: Pro-Demnity Insurance Company
Editor: Gordon S. Grice
Design: Finesilver Design + Communications
Address: The Straight Line c/o Pro-Demnity Insurance Company 200 Yorkland Boulevard, Suite 1200 Toronto, ON M2J 5C1

Pro-Demnity Insurance Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ontario Association of Architects. Together with its predecessor the OAA Indemnity Plan, it has provided professional liability insurance to Ontario architects since 1987.

Questions related to the professional liability insurance program for Ontario architects may be directed to Pro-Demnity Insurance Company. Contact information for the various aspects of the program can be found on the Pro-Demnity website:

Pro-Demnity Insurance Company makes no representation or warranty of any kind regarding the contents. The material presented does not establish, report or create the standard of care for Ontario architects. The information is by necessity generalized and an abridged account of the matters described. It should in no way be construed as legal or insurance advice and should not be relied on as such. Readers are cautioned to refer specific questions to their own lawyer or professional advisors. Letters appearing in the publication may be edited.

Efforts have been made to assure accuracy of any referenced material at time of publication; however, no reliance may be placed on such references. Readers must carry out their own due diligence.

This publication should not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means without written permission of Pro-Demnity Insurance Company. Please contact the publisher for permission: 

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