Licensed CA architect review and sign other people's work

Hi everyone, 

I just got my license in California. One of my friends, who is not licensed yet wants me to help him review and sign a tenant improvement project he just got. It is a two-story building office, not a small project.

I am thinking about buying a professional liability insurance to protect myself. Because I don't want to lose my personal asset if I get sued. 

Is insurance good enough or registering a professional corporation is a better idea?  I think California does not allow architects to register LLC.

Anyone has the similar experience?


Apr 7, 21 12:12 pm
atelier nobody

You need a legal opinion. 16 CCR §5535.2 giveth and 16 CCR §151 taketh away - exactly where the line is drawn is a constantly moving target based on the most recent case law.

Apr 7, 21 2:39 pm  · 

You must be in responsible control in order for your license to be in compliance with the law. If you are not sure what that means I would suggest reading the The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice.

Liability insurance or the creation of a corporation will not protect you from being in violation of the ethics that are required by your license.

In other words, you seem to be focused on the forest and should be wary of a tree falling on you.

Apr 7, 21 2:49 pm  · 

thank you for the respond. I guess I didn't state my question very clear. He offers to hire me as a consultant to review and sign the drawings. So I will do my part of work to make sure the drawings submitted to the City under my control. I am just concerned about if there is anything I miss will get me into a law suit...Will a professional insurance will really protect me?

Apr 7, 21 3:16 pm  · 

It depends on what the policy says it covers, but E&O and Professional Liability is generally intended to protect you against claims of negligence.

Apr 7, 21 3:21 pm  · 

There's a lot of 'depends'. Are you 1099? Then get your own insurance. If you are a W-2 employee, they need to get the insurance and be registered as a company performing architecture (assume CA is like most States). Also depends how they are setup; Corporations are 'people', so as an employee you are essentially acting on behalf of this person essentially meaning you stamp as the corporation, not as a individual and would be listed in the corporate documents on file with the business to practice license as a designee. The loophole is if it is proven you knowingly violate the terms of your license.. which neither the corporation or its insurance will cover. I'd recommend talking to a insurance company and a attorney to determine your exposure and risk.

Apr 8, 21 10:31 am  · 

And if you are doing it on your own; I'd form a corporation and run it as totally separate from your personal finances. Since corporations are 'people' and you'd be an employee, it makes it difficult to go after your personal assets by adding that layer of protections. Think of it like working at another firm; without that corporate umbrella, they could sue anyone who worked on that project and go after their personal stuff. A lot of it comes down to your own risk assessment; if it's a one off favor, it is unlikely any lawsuit would ever happen. I also know attorneys like deep pockets; a poor young architect is barely worth going after since your assets are slim pickings versus a million dollar insurance policy. It's pretty rare architects are sued and at least on the cases I've been involved with, you have to screw up pretty bad in a way where a GC wouldn't know to question it like more technical stuff.

Apr 8, 21 10:48 am  · 

Thank you very much for the detailed answers. I am on 1099 for this project. It sounds like registering a corporation is a better way for me now. Thank you agian.

Apr 8, 21 11:58 am  · 
If you have to ask the question the answer is probably no, don’t stamp the drawings.
Apr 8, 21 10:20 am  · 
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