• Compliance with Professional Licensure Laws: The Cost are Worth the Peace of Mind
  • January 18, 2013 | Author: Ashley G. Moss
  • Law Firm: Vandeventer Black LLP - Richmond Office
  • Architects and engineers must obtain state-specific licenses before providing, or entering contracts to provide, professional services.  In most states, a firm of design professionals must also obtain a separate license, permit, or “certificate of authority” to provide services in each state where it intends to do business.  An employee or principal’s individual license to practice in a certain state is not sufficient for the firm’s practice.

    The requirements for licensure vary from state-to-state; however, there are many universal prerequisites.  For example, to obtain a firm’s license to practice architecture or engineering, most states require basic background information, such as officer and shareholder information, the appointment of a person who will be responsible for the firm’s practice, and evidence regarding that person’s work experience.  Firms must also pay certain application or registration fees and annual or semiannual renewal fees.

    The repercussions of overlooking the licensure requirements can be detrimental for both firms and individual design professionals.  For example, New York’s laws criminalize the unauthorized practice of architecture.  The laws provide that “[a]nyone not authorized to practice . . . who practices or offers to practice or holds himself out as being able to practice in any profession in which a license is a prerequisite to the practice of the acts, . . . or who aids and abets an unlicensed person to practice a profession . . . shall be guilty of a class E felony.”  Other states similarly subject persons who practice without a license to fines and civil penalties.  Further, some states, such as New York and New Jersey, bar a design professional from recovering fees for their services if they did not first obtain a license.

    Although obtaining separate state licenses to provide professional services for small or limited contracts may seem inconvenient and costly, working without a license carries its own costs.    The lesson for individual design professionals and firms alike is simple -- confirm your licensure or, if necessary, obtain new licensure before you agree to provide services.  Attention to detail now will save your practice in the future.