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Venezuelan Architect’s Use Of The Word “Architect” In Commercial Webpage Amounts To Unlicensed Practice Of Architecture In Florida

In Enrique Feldman and Feldman Architecture v. Florida Department of Professional Regulation, So. 3d WL 17576861, (Fla. 1d DCA 2022), the First District Court of Appeal of Florida ruled against an architect for his online marketing of design services in Florida.  Enrique Feldman is an architect with thirty-five years of experience in Venezuela, but was not licensed to practice architecture in Florida where he marketed himself as an architect.  Feldman used the word “architect” in his commercial webpages and laid out the services he offered.  As a result, Feldman was disciplined by Florida’s architectural board, the Florida Department of Professional Architecture (“Department”).  Feldman appealed the adverse ruling that the use of the word “architect” amounted to unlicensed practice of architecture in Florida.

Feldman admitted he used the title “architect” in various websites and most importantly, that he did not have a state license to practice architecture in Florida.  He claimed, however, that he was allowed to provide architectural services—and thereby truthfully advertise that he is an “architect”—under section 481.229(1)(b), Florida Statutes, which states:

“No person shall be required to qualify as an architect in order to make plans and specifications for, or supervise the erection, enlargement, or alteration of: . . . (b) Any one-family or two-family residence building, townhouse, or domestic outbuilding appurtenant to any one-family or two-family residence, regardless of cost[.]”

§ 481.229(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2022).

Relying on Subsection (1), the Court noted the subsection clearly states that the listed services Feldman performed in (a)-(c) do not require the service provider to be qualified as an architect.  As such, anyone—whether an architect or non-architect—is permitted to “make plans and specifications for, or supervise the erection, enlargement, or alteration” of the types of listed structures.  The Court determined it was not in dispute that Feldman may provide such service.

The Court found, however, that while Feldman may provide those services, he is not an architect under Florida law and cannot market himself as such.  In other words, while he could provide the services at issue (as a non-architect), he could not provide them under the guise of being an architect.

This case is another example of needing to be careful that the letter of the law is followed.  The actual services being provided were not the issue.  The issue in this case was the title used when providing the service.