This is a reissue of the original article from 2011. There has been great success as of recent against parties who were practicing architecture illegally. If you know of someone who is practicing illegally, please file a complaint! Read below to understand the process.
AIANJ members have been contacting the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee lately regarding illegal or unlicensed practice, including the offering or providing architectural services by unlicensed practitioners and the practice of “plan stamping” i.e. licensed architects signing and sealing drawings produced by those without a license with little or no direct supervisory control over their production. They often ask, “What is the AIA doing about this?”
As a professional organization, it is AIANJ’s role to inform its members about our successful lobbying effort on behalf of its members as well as for non-members for the ability of the State Board of Architects to investigate the illegal and unlicensed practice of architecture.
Members are the eyes and ears of the AIA. It is every architect’s legal responsibility to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of the public by reporting potential instances of illegal and unlicensed practice to the State Board. The State Board cannot proactively investigate alleged cases of misconduct, but rather must rely on members of the public (and especially the licensed professionals it regulates) to file complaints when they become aware of a violation of the regulations.
Therefore, it is important that we all understand how to properly file a complaint with the State Board of Architects against someone who may be illegally practicing architecture. The first step is to understand what constitutes the illegal practice of architecture by reviewing the New Jersey State Board of Architects Law and Regulations, which can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/oag/ca/arch/arch_rules.htm. The description of the practice of architecture may be found under Article 45:3-10 of the Architects Law, “Practice of Architecture; what constitutes; exceptions”.
The next step is to download the complaint form, which can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/oag/ca/complaint/archcom.pdf. Once you download the form, read it carefully and follow the instructions. Provide as much information as possible including any evidence that you may have that supports your complaint. Include any written documentation you come across including letterhead, business cards, mailers, magazine ads, print outs from a violator’s website, or any statement they make that uses the term “architect”, “architecture” or “architectural” without including a bona fide license number of a registered architect.
You may submit a claim anonymously but it must be in writing. However, if additional information is required by the Board to process the complaint, an anonymous complainant will not be able to respond to the request. Therefore, if you want the complaint to have the best possible chance of being enforced it is recommended that you include your contact information on the complaint. Please be aware that the investigation process may take several months before the Board renders a decision, since the Board needs to follow certain guidelines in making notifications to the alleged violator in accordance with state laws.
Once a decision is rendered, it will be posted on the State Board’s website under “Board Actions”. We ask that you follow through with each complaint and notify our committee of any actions taken by the Board so that we may publish the results of your efforts. If the Board does in fact find that someone is practicing illegally or without a license, the actions may be a warning, suspension, fines, or removal of license.
AIA New Jersey is the only credible voice speaking on behalf of the architectural profession here in our state. But we need your help filing these complaints. Architects are the only people who can really police this industry and ensure that the public receives the best possible services and protection. Rest assured that members of the L&GA committee do actually file complaints as individuals on a regular basis. But as a volunteer organization, we simply do not have the time and resources to proactively search out all the instances of illegal practice across the state.
The only way to deter those who practice illegally is by hitting them where it hurts the most, in their wallets! So please, protect your livelihood while protecting New Jersey’s citizens by filing a complaint if you suspect that someone is practicing illegally!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin A. Mihalik, AIA, Licensure Subcommittee Chairperson
David DelVecchio, AIA, Legislative & Government Affairs Committee, Chairperson