California Architects Insurance Requirements

Whether you're designing skyscrapers in Los Angeles or woodsy custom cottages north of San Francisco, you'll need insurance as an architect in California. But what kind of insurance is necessary to do business here in the Sunshine State?

Before we cover which types of insurance CA-based architects may need, let's define what we mean by "architect." Generally, we consider an architect to be anyone who works as a…

  • Residential architect.
  • Commercial architect.
  • Industrial architect.

The information found here doesn't apply to engineers, interior designers, or landscape architects.

Read on to learn more about business insurance for CA architects, which policies your state may require you to carry, how much insurance costs, and architect license requirements in California.

Key Insurance Policies for Architects in California

The type of architect insurance you may need depends on:

  • The type of work you do (and for whom).
  • How much profit you earn.
  • How many employees you have, if any.
  • Whether you have partnerships with another company or professional.
  • What's included in your client contracts and other legal documents.

This grid shows basic insurance requirements for architects with different business structures, including sole proprietor, partner, contractor/freelancer, and employer.

Business Type

General Liability / BOP

Professional Liability

Workers' Comp

Commercial Auto

Sole proprietor

X

X

 

X

Partner

X

X

 

X

Contractor/free-ancer

X

X

 

X

Employer

X

X

X

X

Here are some details on how these types of architect insurance can benefit you:

  • General Liability Insurance: This policy can address third-party property damage and bodily injury claims. If you rent a commercial space, you may be required to carry this coverage in case a visitor is hurt in your office. It can also help out if you accidentally damage property in a client's home. You can often bundle this policy with Commercial Property Insurance to form a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) and save some cash.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: Often called Errors and Omissions Insurance, Professional Liability Insurance can help cover lawsuits stemming from client dissatisfaction, design mistakes, delays, or other problems. If you or your firm ever works in a partnership with another architect or firm, make sure that your Professional Liability policy provides "joint venture" coverage. If not, each member of the partnership will have to obtain proof that their policies provide enough coverage to cover the project.
  • Workers' Comp Insurance: Worker’s Comp can help pay for medical expenses and lost wages if your employees are hurt on the job. California requires you to carry this policy even if you only have one employee. If you're a sole proprietor, you don't have to carry Workers' Comp unless a client contract requires it.
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: This policy can help pay for accidents that happen while driving for work (e.g., en route to meetings and construction site walk-throughs). Commercial Auto Insurance covers business-owned vehicles, but if you're a freelancer who uses your personal car for business purposes, you may need this policy, too. Talk to your agent for more details.

Typical Business Insurance Costs for California Architects

Of course, every architect from Sacramento to San Diego wants to know how much insurance is going to cost them. Here's a quick look at the cost of insurance for architecture professionals.

This data comes from insurance applications through Insureon. Other policies may be available and advisable for architects in California. This cost overview is not meant to be exhaustive.

Interestingly, Errors and Omissions Insurance (also called Professional Liability Insurance) will run you the most money here in California at about $3,000 a year or $291 per month. But considering CA architects earn around $95,070 a year, it's ultimately an affordable and necessary expenditure.

You're not alone in shelling out for insurance, either. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California has the highest number of architects in the United States (approximately 13,560, as of May 2016). The Los Angeles area (which includes Long Beach and Glendale) has the third highest number of architects among metro areas in the entire country.

Workers' Comp & Common Injuries for Architects in California

In California, architects who work solo can choose whether or not to purchase Workers' Compensation Insurance. If you decide to buy a policy, you get the benefit of coverage for medical bills and lost wages if you're ever hurt on the job.

Although being an architect isn't the riskiest of occupations, injuries can and do happen – you never know what's going to go down while working at the drafting table, right? Below is a chart that illustrates the most common types of injuries architects experienced in 2015 nationwide.

As you can see from this Bureau of Labor Statistics data, injuries were relatively minor and infrequent. Architects experienced…

  • Sprains and strains.
  • Falls, slips, and trips.
  • Transportation incidents (like car accidents).
  • Contact with an object or equipment.

For these injuries, architects missed a median median amount 11 work days in 2015. While that's not a lot of time in grand scheme of things, 11 lost days as a freelance architect could seriously impact your bottom line. That's a financial inconvience Worker’s Comp benefits could help offset.

It's important to stay safe, whether you're in the office or on a build site. In the office…

  • Take a break every few hours to stretch, which can help you avoid back and shoulder pain.
  • Try ergonomically-designed office equipment to minimize your chances of repetitive motion injuries.
  • Keep your work area free of cords, wires, and other materials that can cause a fall.

On a build site…

  • Wear appropriate safety gear (like helmets, goggles, and workboots).
  • Stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Never survey a building or site alone – always bring a colleague.

Special Insurance Considerations for California Architects

In California, many of the regulations and legal requirements for design builds are regulated by individual cities or counties. Chula Vista, for example, has specific General Liability, Workers' Comp, and Professional Liability Insurance requirements for any construction that happens within the city limits.

To get an idea of what kinds of licenses and permits you might need as an architect, check out CalGold.gov, which lets you search by industry and region. In most cases, if you work for a firm, the firm will handle the insurance for individual projects.

For design-builds (projects where the design and build are provided by a single entity), California requires Professional Liability Insurance. This is because the contractor's insurance might not cover economic damages caused by design errors or omissions.

Your architecture clients might also request to be named as an "additional insured" on your insurance policies. Generally, this is a totally reasonable request; having additional insured status offers more insurance protections to your client. If you receive this request from a client, read through your policy and check with an agent for help.

License Requirements for CA Architects

Although you don't need insurance to be licensed as an architect in California, all architects must be licensed by the California Architects Board. California licenses individual architects, not firms. Here's what you need to know about obtaining and maintaining an architecture license:

  • Licenses are given by the California Architects Board.
  • Licenses require a specific combination of education, experience, and examination, including the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), the Completion of the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), and the California Supplemental Examination (CSE).
  • Potential licensees must show five years of education equivalents and three years of architectural practice experience for a total of eight years of experience. At least one year of the experience must be under direct supervision of an architect licensed in the United States.
  • Licenses are renewed every two years.
  • Licenses expire on the last day of the licensee's birth month in each odd-numbered year.