Texas Interior Design Regulations – FAQs and Questions

Acronymns
ASID – The American Society of Interior Designers – a member association, www.asid.org
DSA – Designer Society of America, www.dsasociety.org
IIDA – International Interior Design Association – a member association, www.iida.org.
IDS – Interior Design Society, www.interiordesignsociety.org
IJ – The Institute for Justice – civil liberties law firm, www.ij.org
NCIDQ – National Council for Interior Design Qualifications – testing agency, www.ncidq.org
NKBA – National Kitchen and Bath Association, trade association,  www.nkba.org
RID – Registered Interior Designer, NOT licensed, just registered
TBAE – Texas Board of Architectural Examiners – state agency, www.tbae.state.tx.us.
TAID – Texas Association for Interior Design – lobbying coalition representing only RIDs

Legislation

1.    This FAQ sheet does NOT replace information supplied on The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners website. Nor does it replace legal advice you may obtain from your attorney.  It DOES contain information from my personal experience in ASID leadership, (past Texas president), intense lobbying activities of the 2013 Texas legislature, meetings with The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, and NKBA legislative activities.

2.    TBAE changes rules. TBAE has changed RID qualifications at least twice, but has not informed the public of those changes. Evidence of this can be found in the public record deposition dated May 1, 2008, of its current Executive Director, Cathy Hendricks. TBAE was sued by IJ and lost, admitting that consumers can’t differentiate a qualified vs. non-qualified RID from their TBAE website. TBAE has refused for almost a decade, to make any changes, which would assist consumers in making informed design decisions.

3.    History-1993-1994, the Texas interior design Title Act was passed, and the majority of RIDs “grandfathered”. At that time, virtually no qualifications were required. Applicants simply indicated that they had worked in the “interior design” field for 6 years full time. In the mid 2000’s, TBAE overreached by restricting use of the phrase, “interior designer” and allowing only current RIDs to use it. The Institute of Justice sued claiming infringement of commercial free speech rights, and won. This landmark ruling forced TBAE and all other regulatory bodies in the US to coin phrases other than “interior designer”, thus the birth of “registered interior designer” phrase.

4.    There are 2 kinds of interior design laws. Title Act and Practice Act. A title act regulates a “title” only – use of “registered interior designer”. Texas has a “Title Act”. You must be registered with TBAE if you wish to use the title “registered interior designer”. If you were a RID and want to indicate this on your promotional materials, you may do so, but must clearly indicate the years when you were a RID. Title Acts do NOT regulate the practice of interior design in Texas. They regulate the title only and the people who chose to be subjected to TBAE’s rules. Registration in Texas is voluntary. Any designer in Texas may use the phrase “interior design” or “interior designer.” Texas Occupational Code, http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/OC/htm/OC.1053.htm

5.    Practice Acts have been passed in 3 states, Nevada, Louisiana, Florida and DC, even though ASID has spent millions in member dues money, for lobbyists who are trying to pass these restrictive bills all over the country. If you are a member of ASID, IIDA, or TAID, and believe in free enterprise, drop your membership. I did. Practice acts DO regulate the practice of interior design, by limiting design in code-based spaces (all commercial and many residential) to ONLY RIDs. In fact, after Florida passed their Practice Act, 600 interior designers received “cease and desist” letters because they were not “registered” and were practicing in code based spaces. And if you want to practice interior design in one of the 3 states mentioned above, you will have to go through their state agency and become registered.

6.    Recent Developments. During the 2013 Texas Legislative session, almost 70% of the 5,000 Texas RIDs were not qualified by the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualifications) exam.  Again, 3,500 of the 5,000 were not NCIDQ qualified; in fact, many do not posses any post-secondary education in interior design. And yet, TBAE has seen fit to change the rules for only new applicants who must now have: a 4 year accredited interior design education, passage of the NCIDQ exam, AND 2 years full time internship under a current RID (who is probably not exam qualified).

7.    The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended full deregulation in their thoughtful and carefully researched opinion, found here: https://www.sunset.texas.gov/reviews-and-reports/agencies/texas-board-architectural-examiners-tbae  Open the July 2013 Final report.

Unfortunately, and primarily due to financial considerations, the Sunset Committee did not heed the advise of its own Commission and decided to keep the Title Act in place. However, and much to the dismay of current non-NCIDQ qualified RIDs, the legislature did pass into law a requirement that ALL RIDs must be NCIDQ qualified by September 2017, or forfeit their RID status. To date, approximately 1,000 RIDs have dropped out with surely more to follow as the test deadline approaches.

8.    If you are a member of ASID, IIDA, or TAID, you should know that a portion (or all)  of your dues goes to lobbyist and coalitions who seek to pass the restrictive Practice Act. Public records clearly indicate which state representatives and senators receive this money. Reconsider which organizations you belong to. NKBA does NOT support Title or Practice legislation in any state, and is very protective of its membership.  Join here:  https://www.nkba.org/Participate/Find/Join/MembershipApplication.aspx  In the box “referred by”, please enter “Kelley Barnett, NCIDQ”.  I am not compensated for this, but NKBA does keep records of referrals.

Common Excuses Supporting Regulation

9.    Protecting the “Health, Safety and Welfare” of the public, is the most often used excuse for promoting interior design regulation. This is false. Numerous studies, including the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission report, indicate that there is no public outcry for regulating interior designers, and there are NO documented cases of harm from unregistered designers in residential or commercial design.  Download a copy of The Institute for Justice report here https://www.ij.org/how-government-imposed-interior-design-cartels-exclude-minorities-a-burden-consumers .   You can download the entire PDF entitled “Designed to Exclude: How Interior Design Insiders Use Government Power to Exclude Minorities & Burden Consumers.”

10.    “Codes won’t be implemented if designers are regulated” is another popular excuse for regulation. False. Codes are implemented by any one of a number of people on the project, including but not limited to: municipality inspectors, general contractors, suppliers/vendors, architects, engineers, building owners, interior designers. In fact, when there are NO interior designers on the project, codes are still implemented.

11.    “Without regulation the designer profession is dumbed down.” Another false argument. In fact, when burdensome and unnecessary regulations are lifted, the free markets thrive. Designers obtain credentials because we WANT to, not because the government tells us we HAVE to. Designers compete with each other for business, which makes us all better designers. Designers have the freedom to excel and specialize, to set us apart from other designers. Consumers win. We all win.

12.    “We don’t want to be confused with decorators…” It is not the government’s responsibility to affirm you as a professional. Your qualifications, education, and expertise should separate you from less qualified competition. States with interior design laws are really charging a “tax” (annual dues to TBAE) to be able to practice your profession.

Common Questions Regarding Texas Interior Designers

13. “Can I practice interior design in Texas without a “license”? YES! First, Texas does not issue a license. Second, Texas has a voluntary “registration” or Title Act. Texas does not regulate your interior design practice. And we have the Institute of Justice and 4 brave defendants who sued TBAE to protect your right to practice free from state interference.

14. How do I get involved?”

Regulation is actually a political issue. Elections have consequences. If you vote conservative or libertarian, or you support smaller government, less regulation, and non-discriminatory laws, then burdensome interior design laws are not for you. If you want to remain free to work in any space, then you must get involved or others will make decisions for you! Join NKBA and other organizations (IDS or DSA),that support free markets, capitalism, and smaller government. Find your local chapter and get involved. GO to your state capital while the legislature is in session, and let them know how you feel.

15. Can I use the phrase “interior designer” to market myself? YES! In every single state and DC, you may use this phrase. You may NOT use the protected phrase however, “registered interior designer” in Texas, if you are in fact not registered with TBAE. But you don’t have to be registered to practice in Texas or any other state except Louisiana, Nevada and Florida, and DC.

Let me hear from you! Next Texas legislative session is January 2015. Leave me a comment at www.kelleybarnett.com.  Read my blog on interior design legislation here: http://kelleybarnett.com/texas-interior-design-laws/

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