50-State Architecture Licensing Compliance Guide
An overview look of an architectures blueprints

Residential Design Firm License

Learn about the requirements for a residential design firm license.

What Are Residential Design Services?

Residential designers assess interior spaces and devise plans to recreate those spaces according to clients’ wants and needs. Clients may be homeowners, rental building owners, or landlords. Examples of typical residential designer tasks include:

  • Drafting blueprints
  • Working with computer-aided drafting (CAD) technology
  • Design architectural detailing
  • Communicating with clients
  • Making sure renovations or building projects stay on budget
  • Outsourcing construction work
  • Supervising workers

No matter what type of business you run, it is crucial to understand state and local laws regarding business registration and licensing to ensure you maintain compliance and continue operating your business without interruption.

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Running a Residential Design Firm

If you are starting a new residential design firm or looking to expand your current business to new states, you need to understand the business registration process. You will need to choose your business name and structure, find a facility location, and submit a general business application. As a residential design firm owner, you will be working on private property, so you may also need permits to start accepting jobs.

Insurance Requirements

Depending on the states in which you operate, you may need to purchase insurance coverage to protect clients, employees, and your business in the event of an accident. The two most common insurance policies residential design firms purchase are general liability and workers’ compensation.

  • General Liability Insurance. General liability insurance manages expenses related to accidental injuries and property damage. You may also be able to seek coverage for business property damage, client injuries and property damage, and product liability.
  • Commercial Property Insurance. Depending on the size of your business and whether you are looking to expand to multiple states, you may also want to consider commercial property coverage.
  • Workers’ Compensation Coverage. If you hire employees, you will need to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation manages direct medical costs, ongoing medical costs, and partial lost wages after an employee is injured on the job and within the scope of employment. What you ultimately pay for workers’ compensation is based on state laws, the type of money your business makes, what your employees do, and your company’s claims history.

Obtaining a Residential Design Firm License

Residential designers are typically required to obtain a bachelor’s degree–typically in architecture, interior design, or architectural design. Certifications are available through the National Council of Building Designer Certification. Some residential design firms are required to obtain state licensure.

Obtaining certification from the National Council of Building Designer Certification involves at least six years of professional experience and continuing education credits. Following meeting the experience requirements, a residential designer must pass an exam on codes, interior design, and planning.

Whether or not you need an architectural license depends on the states in which you run your business. In some states, licensure is required by cities and municipalities. If you need to obtain a license to run your business, you will need to apply with your secretary of state. State requirements vary, but you could be required to provide education and training information, business and finance information, and applicable fees.

It is essential to be aware of state requirements regarding business registration and licensing when establishing and expanding your business. If you are concerned about managing the business registration process on your own, you can seek guidance from the business licensing experts at Harbor Compliance. With our professional licensing services, we explain all of the stages of business compliance and provide full-service support and expert software insights.

We make preparing and filing applications easy and handle communication with government agencies on your behalf. With our software, you can track your registration status, license numbers, filing history, fees, and renewals 24/7.

Maintenance and Renewal

No matter what stage you are in with your business, you need to maintain your license’s status. State requirements vary, but renewals are often required on an annual basis. You may need to submit a renewal application, pay a renewal fee, and pursue continuing education. Complying with renewal requirements will ensure you can continue to operate your business without disruption.

Keeping on track with your business’s license renewals can be complicated, especially as a growing company. At Harbor Compliance, our managed annual reporting and registered agent services ensure accurate due date tracking and on-time filing. This way, your business will continue to be compliant with state and local requirements, and you will have the time you need to continue working and expanding your clientele.

If you are currently operating a residential design firm and are looking to outsource your maintenance and renewal duties, Harbor Compliance can help. We are available to review your business status, ensure you are in good standing in the state you operate and explain what steps you need to take to ensure you remain compliant with state and federal regulations.

Exploring Licensing by State

Click on a link below to view licensing information in your state.

Meeting architectural license requirements is not always an easy process. Fortunately, Harbor Compliance offers technology-enabled services and managed licensing solutions that can help. For example, our License Manager software helps architecture professionals maintain their licenses by automating repetitive tasks such as tracking renewals. Through License Manager, you can also access Compliance Core™ data for the states in which you operate, reducing the time spent researching state requirements. Contact our licensing experts today to learn more.

ARE (Architect Registration Examination) - Assesses candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services required to be a practicing architect.

AXP (Architectural Experience Program) - NCARB program for architectural internship, a requirement for licensure that occurs after filling the educational requirements.

BEFA (Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect) - An alternative NCARB certification that allows foreign architects to independently practice architecture.

COA (Certificate of Authorization) - The most common name of the registration required for firms to practice architecture in a given state.

Design Firm - Architectural firm registration is sometimes grouped with engineering and land surveying on a single “design firm” application form.

NCARB Certification - Licensed architects have the option to become Certificate holders to signify that they have met national standards established by U.S. licensing boards for protecting public health, safety, and welfare. Certification also facilitates reciprocal registration in all 54 jurisdictions, 11 Canadian jurisdictions, and can be used to support an application for licensure in other countries.

Reciprocity - This is when a licensed architect in one state can provide documentation (often a NCARB certificate) to more easily apply for licensure in another jurisdiction.

State Board - Often referred to as the State Architects Licensure Board or Board of Architects, an individual state’s board serves as the regulatory authority for architects. The board qualifies and licenses individuals seeking architectural licensure. The board is responsible for preserving the public health, safety, and welfare of individuals who occupy built environments.

National Architecture Accrediting Board
NAAB establishes criteria for and accredits professional architecture degree programs in the United States.

The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)
AIAS is an independent, student-run group that promotes excellence in architecture education, training, and practice.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
AIA is a voluntary professional organization for architects providing advocacy, information, and community.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)
ACSA represents architectural education programs across the globe.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
NCARB is the national organization representing the state registration boards.