Texas Interior Design Laws

Texas interior design laws can be confusing. Texas passed a “Title Act” in 1991 restricting use of the term “Interior Designer”. Until 1994, anyone with “6 years experience,” could become “registered.” Thousands did. This “grandfathering” phase allowed Texans with no post secondary education in interior design, no accredited degree, and no passage of the NCIDQ exam (National Council for Interior Design Qualifications), to become registered.

In 2007, The Institute of Justice (IJ) and 4 interior design plaintiffs sued the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE), asserting that the designers’ commercial free speech was being violated. The courts decided in favor of the designers and IJ, and against TBAE who were forced to change the “Title Act” to restrict only the use of the term “registered interior designer” not “interior designer.”

Texas does not have a “Practice Act”, which restricts the practice of interior design to only registered designers. When passed, “unregistered” designers will be unable to work in any code-based spaces and forced to work in single-family dwellings only. Louisiana, Nevada, Florida, are the only states with Practice Acts. When Florida passed its law, 600 interior designers were sent “cease and desist” letters to include working on family owned properties.                                                                       Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.22.21 PM

Texas does not issue an interior design license. Texas issues a registration only, “RID”, which means you have the right to use the title “registered interior designer” rather than a “license to practice” as is the case with architects and landscape architects. Texas interior design laws include a Title Act only, not a Practice Act.

In a 2007 deposition, TBAE’s executive director admitted that the public deserved to know the composition of the RIDs, and that their website was inaccurate regarding designers’ qualifications or lack thereof. To date, TBAE still refuses to amend its website to indicate which RIDs are qualified and which are not, thereby withholding critical information from Texas consumers. TBAE continues to represent that all RIDs are qualified which is not the case. In 2013, a staggering 69% of the 5,000 Texas RIDs had not passed the NCIDQ examination.

Since 2009, TBAE has arbitrarily changed its rules, making it increasingly more difficult for new applicants to become registered, especially older second career individuals, and minority designers. TBAE used to accept 2-year and 3-year degrees, plus 4 or 3 years experience respectively, and passage of the NCIDQ, to become registered. TBAE now demands that RIDs obtain a 4-year accredited education, 2-year apprenticeship under a RID, and passage of the NCIDQ, in order to become a RID. TBAE shares leadership/membership with the testing agency NCIDQ (more test takers = more money), CIDA (Council for Interior Design Accreditation) who limit the number of “accredited” university programs (limited competition = higher professor salaries), and the lobbying coalition TAID (Texas Association for Interior Design) whose survive on donations and membership shared with all of these organizations. See here: https://www.ij.org/how-government-imposed-interior-design-cartels-exclude-minorities-a-burden-consumers

In 2013, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended complete deregulation of interior designers. GO here and click on “Final Report with Legislative-July 2013” https://www.sunset.texas.gov/reviews-and-reports/agencies/texas-board-architectural-examiners-tbae

Some of their reasons and my reasons are as follows:

  • There is absolutely no proof that the Health/Safety/Welfare of the public is in danger from unregulated designers in either commercial or residential installations.
  • Interior designers are not the sole, or even primary authority on “building codes”. Codes are implemented with or without designers on a project.
  • Complaints against interior designers are virtually non-existent, and the few that were reported dealt with contract disputes. Interior design has been practiced safely and effectively since 1931.
  • Texas can’t monitor all the interior designers and decorators, especially those who choose not to be registered.
  • It is not the role of government to “validate” someone as a professional. Interior designers can do this for themselves through the free market system and fair competition, rather than paying a “tax” to Texas to be “regulated.” Many claim that deregulation will “dumb down” the profession and discourage anyone from pursuing a degree. False. The opposite will happen. In an open free marketplace, each designer will be the very best they can be which will give them the true edge when competing for projects.  I was grandfathered, and passed the NCIDQ and got my degree, because I wanted to be the very best designer and offer my knowledge, talent, expertise for my clients’ benefit.
  • There would be no need for designers to “stamp and seal” plans if deregulation occurred. If a designer desired to perform the duties of a general contractor, a visit to their municipality to fill out an application, $75 annual fee, proof of insurance and fingerprinting, would suffice.
  • There is no proof that designers are being kept from bidding on government projects. To the contrary, there is written evidence that “unregistered” interior designers have successfully bid on government projects because there are NO federal laws requiring interior design licensing.
  • Interior design regulations are disproportionately discriminatory to minorities, older, and second career interior designers who can’t afford expensive 4-year programs, don’t have the time to invest 6 more years, and must juggle family responsibilities. In fact, after the deregulation bill failed, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, discontinued its interior design program permanently. Other junior college design programs in Texas are struggling.
  • Interior designers are not required to produce stamped construction documents. IRC states: “Section R106 Construction Documents/R106.1 Submittal documents. The construction documents shall be prepared by a registered design professional where required by the statutes of the jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.” Here is the Sunset Advisory Commissions quote: “Recognizing the technical expertise necessary to practice the professions, the Legislature has set thresholds in statute for certain projects that can only be designed by an engineer or an architect. In contrast, statute does not specify any work that can only be done by a registered interior designer. Statute also specifies that a local public official may only accept an architectural or eingineering plan or specification if it is sealed by the supervising architect or engineer; no similar provision exists for interior designers. While interior designers sometimes submit plans to secure commercial building permits, interviews with municipal building officials showed that cities generally do not require a seal by a registered interior designer. Instead, municipalities defer to state law and only require that plans submitted by architects and engineers be sealed.” In other words, those who claim they will be “put out of work if not allowed to stamp/seal plans” are not telling the truth, because there is no Texas interior design law requiring designers to be licensed.

The Texas legislature did not pass the deregulation bill in 2013, but did pass a bill requiring ALL Texas RIDs to pass the NCIDQ exam by September 2017. Those who chose not to take the exam forfeit their RID status. Many “grandfathered” designers were outraged, but failed to appreciate the fairness in establishing one set of rules for every interior design registrant.

The lobbying coalition’s (TAID) ultimate goal is for Texas to pass a Practice Act, which they’ve tried to pass 3 times previously and were unsuccessful. TAID does not “represent the interests of all Texas interior designers” as they claim. They are funded (through the chapters) by professional organizations like ASID (The American Society of Interior Designers), and IIDA (The International Interior Design Association) among others. Ironically, if they succeed in passage of a Practice Act, ASID and IIDA will have used members’ dues, to pass laws that irreparably harm a majority of their members by restricting their right to practice (in any space) as happened in Florida. This is why I resigned my membership after having served 6 years in ASID leadership, most recently as the Texas Chapter president.

In conclusion, and in the absolute absence of any evidence that unregistered designers harm the public, what is the reason for interior design regulation? Money. It’s all about the money. Unfairly eliminating the competition gives registered (and unqualified, or lesser qualified) designers the competitive edge, and increases their bottom line. It’s a classic “supply and demand” scenario: less designers competing for work means price increases for consumers. The salaries at accredited schools stay inflated while viable 2 and 3-yr programs struggle and die. The testing agency makes more money from more testing, etc.

Texas is better than this. Texas should be leading the USA in a pro-business, less regulatory environment. If you belong to ASID, IIDA, or TAID, quit. Stop giving them the money to make Texas less business friendly, less competitive, less free market. Instead, let’s make Texas the example of a successful free market system. In fact, join me in voting for Greg Abbott for Texas governor. Go here and click on “Read The Plan” – https://www.gregabbott.com/making-easier-business/

Additional resources regarding Texas interior design laws, interior design licensing in general, and burdensome occupational licensing can be found here:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/OC/htm/OC.1053.htm

https://www.ij.org/how-government-imposed-interior-design-cartels-exclude-minorities-a-burden-consumers

http://ij.org/images/pdf_folder/economic_liberty/occupational_licensing/licensetowork.pdf

http://www.ij.org/state-interior-design-studies

http://reason.com/archives/2008/11/07/do-you-have-a-license-to-move

Comments

  1. FINALLY, Texas Board of Engineers steps on somebodies toes big enough to take them to Federal Court where State will loose on 1st amendment grounds.

    http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/their-name-on-the-line-texas-engineering-regulator/nq6Ff/

    • Kelley Barnett says:

      Robert, thank you for sharing the article. I had seen it previously. TBAE was sued by The Institute of Justice in 2007 and IJ won on behalf of Texas practicing interior designers and decorators, to enable them to use the phrase of their choice to describe their services. They can be beaten. And it was to our collective benefit.

  2. Frances Barnett says:

    If I’m reading right, (I could totally not be with a 5 year old in my ear), I can start and operate my own interior design business in North Texas as long as I don’t present myself as an RID?

    • Kelley Barnett says:

      Yes indeed Frances! I wish you well and hope your business is successful. Practice as you wish, just don’t use the phrase, “Registered Interior Designer” unless you are in fact, registered with TBAE.

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