The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE) licenses and regulates architects, registered interior designers, and landscape architects in Texas. If you are one of these professionals and a client files a complaint against you, TBAE also handles the complaint and any disciplinary proceedings. Any licensed professionals in this situation should consult an architect license defense attorney for help.
Understanding the Complaint and Investigation Process
Individuals or entities may file complaints with TBAE if they believe that architects, registered interior designers (RIDs), or landscape architects violated the laws and rules governing their profession. However, TBAE’s jurisdiction is limited to violations related to the practice of architecture, interior design, and architecture. Therefore, if you are seeking financial damages from one of these professionals, then you likely need to consider your civil remedies instead of or in addition to filing a complaint with TBAE.
TBAE follows similar complaint and investigation procedures for architects, landscape architects, and RIDs. Upon receiving a complaint concerning an architect, TBAE will conduct a preliminary evaluation within 30 days to determine the following:
- whether it has jurisdiction over the complaint;
- whether the subject of the complaint has previous enforcement action; and
- the seriousness of the complaint relative to other pending enforcement matters.
Following the preliminary evaluation, TBAE will dismiss the complaint, refer it to another agency if it determines that the other agency has jurisdiction over it, or proceed with an investigation under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §1.174. The investigation aims to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a violation of a law or rule enforced by TBAE occurred.
If a Violation Has Occurred
Warnings without Disciplinary Proceedings
If the TBAE investigation reveals probable cause that a violation within the jurisdiction of TBAE has occurred, the Executive Director may opt to issue a warning to the license holder under 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 1.174(j) instead of proceeding with disciplinary action under the following circumstances:
- the violation is the license holder’s only violation;
- the license holder has not previously been subject to a TBAE warning or order;
- the license holder has provided a satisfactory remedy that has eliminated any harm or threat of harm to the health or safety of the public; and
- the license holder committed one of the following violations:
- failure to provide or timely provide plans and specifications to TDLR regarding the elimination of architectural barriers;
- unauthorized use of the term “architect” or “architecture”;
- failure to respond to a Board inquiry;
- failure to provide a statement of jurisdiction;
- use of a non-compliant seal by the registrant;
- failure to register or annually renew the registration of a business; or
- creation of a misleading impression by an architect advertising for services.
Alternatively, a finding of probable caution of a violation by an architect can result in TBAE initiating a contested case. TBAE can resolve a contested case at any time as per 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 1.165. For example, the parties may reach a written settlement agreement resolving the case. The architect may, but is not required to, appear at an informal conference to respond to the complaint and attempt to reach a settlement agreement. TBAE must approve the terms of all settlement agreements or suggest alternative terms. If TBAE does not approve a settlement agreement and the parties cannot agree on alternative terms, the case is referred for an administrative hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Following a contested administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) appointed by SOAH, the ALJ will submit a proposal for decision (PFD) to TBAE for approval, modification, or rejection. TBAE must approve the final disposition of disciplinary proceedings.
Potential Sanctions for TBAE Disciplinary Proceedings
22 Tex. Admin. Code §1.232 outline the potential sanctions for certain violations of TBAE rules and laws. These sanctions may include the following:
- Administrative penalties
- Suspension of licenses
- Revocation of licenses
- Prohibition on reapplication for licenses for a set period
- Probationary initial registration for licenses
In determining the appropriate sanction in a disciplinary case, 22 Tex. Admin. Code §1.141 provides that TBAE shall consider the following factors:
- the seriousness of the conduct, including the hazard or potential hazard to the health or safety of the public;
- the economic damage or potential damage to property caused by the misconduct;
- the respondent’s history concerning previous grounds for sanction;
- the sanction necessary to deter future misconduct;
- efforts to correct the misconduct; and
- any other matter justice may require.
For the purposes of administrative penalties, TBAE classifies violations by architects under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §1.177 meriting either a minor, moderate, or major penalty. This code section outlines specific violations that fall within each category of penalty. TBAE assesses administrative penalties for each of these classifications as follows:
- Minor – Administrative penalty of no more than $1,000
- Moderate – Administrative penalty of no more than $3,000
- Major – Administrative penalty of not more than $5,000
However, if TBAE finds that an architect previously violated TBAE laws or rules in a warning or order, TBAE may penalize any subsequent disciplinary action at the next level.
We Are Here to Help You Fight Back and Protect Your License
The architect license defense lawyers of Bertolino LLP, can help you navigate the complaint process and gather the evidence you need to defend your license. In addition, we can fight back against misconduct allegations and work to clear your name. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.