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New License Requirement for District of Columbia Architectural and Interior Design Firms

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New License Requirement for District of Columbia Architectural and Interior Design Firms
By Taylor T. Dolan, Esq., Lee/Shoemaker PLLC

Note: The article below initially was published in July. We are reprinting it as a service to our members who practice in Washington, DC, to raise awareness of the new licensing application process for firms. There is no published deadline for compliance that we are aware of, but recommend that all firms practicing in DC register promptly. While the licensure board may provide a grace period for coming into compliance, lawyers pursuing claims against architects who learn that there is a firm licensure requirement are likely to turn a “blind eye” towards the fact that the firm registration requirement is new.

Is your architecture and interior design firm providing professional services in the District of Columbia?  As of July 1, all professional architecture and interior design firms, not just individuals, must now be licensed in the District of Columbia. The regulations are not new – the Board of Architecture, Interior Design and Landscape Architecture (the Board) adopted regulations requiring design firms obtain a firm license prior to practicing in DC in September 2019. Until now, however, there was no process or application for obtaining that license. The District of Columbia Regulatory Authority (DCRA) has now created an application process which makes compliance with the new regulation possible. You may access the registration platform here: https://dcra.dc.gov/architects

Firm License Application Overview

To apply for a firm license in DC, you will need to submit documentation or information showing:

  • At least one partner, officer, shareholder, member or manager of your firm is licensed and in good standing in the District of Columbia (i.e. stock certificates, entity formation documents, etc.);

  • Your District of Columbia entity is properly registered to transact business (i.e. Certificate of Good Standing);

  • Contact information for firm directors and principal officers; and

  • Information regarding professional licenses held in other states/jurisdictions.


Consequences of Practicing Without a License

Compliance with all licensing requirements in the jurisdictions where your firm renders services is essential. Practicing architecture without a firm license has various potential consequences, including (potentially) individuals of your firm being held personally liable, imposition of fees and penalties, the inability to enforce contract terms in disputes with clients, and/or disgorgement of fees earned in the jurisdiction where unlicensed.

Conclusion

While license requirements may be an administrative burden and unintentionally overlooked, ensuring that your firm is properly licensed must be a priority. Prioritizing compliance with licensure regulations and ensuring your firm is properly licensed in a jurisdiction prior to soliciting or rendering professional services could end up saving you significant time and money on the back end. It also ensures that you and other individuals at your firm who are providing professional services can limit personal liability, and focus on what they do best – design. 

Taylor T. Dolan is an Associate at Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, a law firm devoted to the representation of design professionals, in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The content of this article was prepared to educate the reader but is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.

Lee/Shoemaker PLLC is an Allied Member of AIA Potomac Valley.

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