Top 10 Things Designers are Sued For & How to Avoid Them

1. Going Over Budget, Exceeding Job Estimate or Exceeding Estimated Completion Date.

Clear communication will mean everything in any of the above cases. If you are nearing budget or completion date and suspect that you may be coming in over, call the client immediately. Don’t let time go by without discussing the possibilities and alternatives with your clients

2. Manufacturer Defects 
   i.e  Defects in Furniture & Accessories, flooring, etc.

Inspect all goods upon receipt. Make your client aware of any discrepancies and notify them of who is responsible for repairs. Make sure you follow up with manufacturers promptly regarding the replacing or repairing goods. Keep your client informed.

3. Increased Costs Due to Errors by the Designer;
    i.e. Errors in designs & specs for items for the job

Overestimating fabrics, flooring or wall treatments needed for a project or failure to order items the client has approved can land you in major hot water with your client. Know what it’s going to take to complete a project. Understanding pricing and estimating will be key.

4. Errors by Contractors 
    i.e. installing wrong tile, demo-ing wrong wall.

Prevention will be your best friend on any design project. Make sure your contractors have up-to-date plans to work from and discuss the installation in detail before hand.

Determine who will supervise contractors on the job site. If your design firm will handle project management, ensure that a member of your team is on site regularly to handle inspections and ensuring plans are being properly implemented.  Get Tips on Hiring Contractors.

5. Client Believes He’s Being Overcharged

If your client believes he’s being overcharged, you are in for trouble. Ensure that the client understands where every penny of their money is going. Ensure that you are sending out detailed billing statements regularly. Nothing should be hidden. It creates an environment for relationship erosion and distrust.

6. Clients Do Not Like the End Product; Drawings Do Not Reflect End Product

If your client does not like the end product, do everything you can to resolve the issue. Chances are if you’ve completes a project and they are unhappy, you have trouble on you hands.

7. Authorizing a Contractor that the Client Has Not Approved

Never bring on a contractor without written client consent. A paper trail is a friend to all parties involved.

8. Damages Caused to the Job Site

If damages to the site are caused as a result of the project, make repairs. If contractors are responsible make the repairs and bill the contractor. Never let your clients pay for someone else’s mistake. Your reputation is on the line. Learn How to Protect your Design Firm with Liability Insurance

9. Acting as a GC Without Licensing

Don’t do it. Hire someone.

10. Abandoning a Project

If you walk away from a project before it’s completed, you should expect some backlash. Whether you ask for your fees or not your client will probably want to hold you responsible for work that is left undone.

If you must leave a design project, get our guide How to Leave a Design Project Before It's Done.

By V. Carr | Managing Director |The Interior Design Resource Agency
Image by Jorg Jahn
Copyright 2011  All Worldwide Rights Reserved
All content on this site/blog is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.


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