What CSE Candidates Ought to Know About Contracts

What CSE Candidates Ought to Know About Contracts

Contracts are an important part of how a landscape architect interacts with the public.

Landscape Architect Contracts Must Meet State Licensing Requirements

A contract is a business agreement between two parties that explains the roles and responsibilities of each party and describes what services and products will be rendered over the life of the contract.

“In accordance with California Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 5616, a landscape architect shall use a written contract when contracting to provide professional services to a client. The written contract shall be executed by the landscape architect and the client, or their representatives, prior to the landscape architect commencing work, unless the client knowingly states in writing that work may be commenced before the contract is executed.”

All landscape architectural services must have a contract before execution.

Here is a quick summary of the items required by California State law that need to be included in a contract with a client. The contract between the landscape architect and the client must include the following:

  • A description of services to be provided by the landscape architect to the client
  • A description of any basis of compensation applicable to the contract, including the total price that is required to complete the contract, and the method of payment agreed upon by both parties
  • A notice that reads: “Landscape architects are licensed by the State of California.”
  • The name, address, and license number of the landscape architect and the name and address of the client
  • A description of the procedure that the landscape architect and client will use to accommodate additional services
  • A description of the procedure to be used by either party to terminate the contract
  • The contract can be written on paper or in an electronic form

The Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC) can initiate disciplinary action for landscape architects who fail to include these items in a contract.

  1. In 2007, a licensed landscape architect was fined $1,500 for signing contracts that did not include all of the legally required information (in addition to other violations).
  2. Again in 2010, another licensed landscape architect was fined $750 for not including a notice in the contract that informed the client that landscape architects are licensed in the state of California.

Exceptions to the Contract Requirement

Sometimes, you don’t need a contract to service a client. There are some instances when landscape architects do not need to initiate a written contract. Here are times when a landscape architect does not need to have a contract that meets the requirements above to proceed with work.

Pro Bono Work

According the California Business and Professions Code, a landscape architect does not need a contract if the client is not paying for the services rendered. For example, if you are helping out a local charity or school by offering free landscape design services there is no requirement in state law that a contract be signed by both parties.

Repeat Work from a Client

Although not advisable for contract enforcement reasons, the Business and Professions Code waives the contract requirement if:

 “An arrangement as to the basis for compensation and manner of providing professional services implied by the fact that the landscape architect’s services are of the same general kind that the landscape architect has previously rendered to and received payment from the same client.”

 Working With Other Professionals

Landscape architect licensing requirements are designed to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Other professionals should be more savvy about the design services that they purchase compared to members of the general public.

The contract provisions in the Business and Professions Code does not apply when a landscape architect works with other licensed professionals.

According to the Business and Professions Code, the written contract requirement pursuant to BPC section 5616 shall not apply to any of the following:

  • Other landscape architects
  • Architects licensed in the state
  • Professional engineers
  • Licensed land surveyors
  • Licensed contractors
  • Geologists or geophysicist
  • “A manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, if the services are provided in connection with, or incidental to, the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.”
  • Public agencies

Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you include all the information required by law in your contracts.

Contracts are one topic area that is covered on the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects.

Pass the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for Landscape Architects e-book study guideIf you are looking for a study guide to help you prepare to pass the CSE the first time, check out Pass the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects study guide e-book.


John is a landscape architect who is currently preparing to take the California Supplemental Exam to become licensed in California. He is currently a licensed professional landscape architect in Georgia and Florida. John graduated from California State University, Pomona with a BSLA degree in landscape architecture in 1997 and has extensive practice experience in residential and commercial landscape design.

Posted in About the CSE for Landscape Architects, Contracts, Legal Issues, Licensure Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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