2015 Bills

HB126: Licensure for Interior Designers

This bill passed out of committee but was not considered by the House of Representatives.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

In Utah, the independent practice of interior design, when seeking building permits to make modifications to certain architectural elements of an interior, is restricted to the existing licensing requirements under architectural licensing. Some interior designers want the ability to work independently from architects and seek their own licensing recognition to allow them to obtain building permits independently from architects. This summer, the interior design lobby in Utah applied to become a licensed occupation in Utah. New applications for licensure must first be reviewed through a sunrise process by the Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee. During that process, the committee declined to grant the interior designers’ request and instead favored alternatives to full licensure. One option the committee favored was to grant interior designers an exemption from existing architectural licensing requirements for the work of interior design. However, the industry did not reach agreement on what constituted interior design, how interior design differed from architecture, what, if any, impacts on public health and safety interior design had, and what, if any, requirements would be required to qualify for an exemption.

House Bill 126, sponsored by Representative Fred Cox, an architect by trade, aims to address some of these issues by regulating interior design through a separate professional licensure act, something the review committee did not favor. The bill is designed to carve out a portion of existing architectural work that interior designers could also conduct independently of architects. It grants licensed interior designers the ability to submit plans independently for building permit approval which current architectural licensing does not permit. However, it also creates an entirely new category of licensure along with a professional licensing board and new requirements for interior designers to meet to obtain this license.

Generally, the trend across the country has been to deregulate interior design and reduce the number of licensed occupations. Utah should not break this trend. New licensing acts come with a number of concerns:

First, work that does not have a verifiable and significant impact on the health and safety of the public should not be considered for new or expanded licensing requirements. Too often the clamor for licensure comes with speculative allegations about the potential impact on public health or safety of an unregulated practitioner. In many cases, such allegations are unfounded. 

Second, once established, a full licensing act is hard to repeal but easy to amend. While this particular act is currently written in a broad way so as to be inclusive of practitioners and not exclusive, it is only a matter of time before the industry might seek amendments that could narrow licensing over time and burden those trying to enter the market.

Third, the act seeks to impose a private industry certification as the predicate for licensure. This requirement is onerous and in many cases not directly relevant to Utah building code statutes anyway. In many cases, statutorily endorsing such private certifications are more advantageous for the industry group than for the public. Such licensing requirements merely become barriers to entry for new or competing practitioners and undermine market forces.

While we understand the burden of existing regulation on interior designers, we do not think that the solution is more regulation. A better approach would be to revisit the requirements for building permits and ensure that regulatory oversight and restrictions on design plans exist only for those items that truly impact public health and safety in a significant and verifiable way. Outside of that, design practitioners should not be placed under additional regulation.