Interior designer legal issues

A man is colour-matching paint and tile samples

The following is an overview of important legislation that might be particularly relevant to your interior design business.

What licences does an interior designer need?

There are no specific licences that you need to work as an interior designer, so if your business activities are going to fall within the usual range of services offered by this type of business you may not need to do anything further.

Carrying waste

You will need to register as a waste carrier if you:

  • carry away non-building waste that you have removed. You'll need to register as a lower tier waste carrier (England Wales and Northern Ireland) or a professional collector or transporter of waste (Scotland). Registration is free of charge and lasts indefinitely
  • carry away demolition and construction waste. You'll need to register as an upper tier waste carrier (England Wales and Northern Ireland) or a waste carrier (Scotland). Registration costs around £150 and lasts for three years
  • carry away other people's waste of any type that you haven't generated in the course of your business. You'll need to register as an upper tier waste carrier (waste carrier in Scotland)

Waste carrier registration is carried out by:

  • the Environment Agency in England
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency

Other licences

Skips placed on a public highway require a skip permit from the local authority. Certain conditions may be attached to the permit. Normally the skip hire company will arrange the necessary permits but it is worth making certain of this.

Although it's unlikely that you will need to put up scaffolding, it's possible that some larger jobs will require you to do so. Some local authorities require you to obtain a scaffolding permit before putting up a scaffold in a public place. If you use a specialist scaffolder they will often take responsibility for arranging any scaffolding permits needed. For more information contact your local authority planning department or environmental health department.

Trade specific legislation

  • Copyright Designs and Patents Act. Copyright covers original designs works of art (including craftsmanship and graphics) and architecture (including models for buildings). The copying of original designs without permission is prohibited
  • Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations. Under these regulations any furniture and furnishings you supply must conform to fire safety standards and must be displayed and supplied with an appropriate fire safety label. (Furniture and furnishings manufactured before 1950 are exempt from this legislation.)
  • Building Regulations. These cover all aspects of building design construction and safety. If your work will involve building restoration modifications or extensions then you should be familiar with these regulations
  • Planning rules. Although it the responsibility of the client to obtain planning permission, it's important that you are familiar with current planning rules so that you can advise them in the early stages of a project

If your work will include overseeing any building work or modifications you should also be aware of the following:

  • Control of Asbestos Regulations
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
  • Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations
  • Gas Safety (Management) Regulations
  • Work at Height Regulations

Consumer legislation

There are a number of pieces of consumer legislation that cover areas such as whether consumers really want the items that they have agreed to buy, accurate price marking, bargain offers being genuine, contracts being fair, goods and services being of adequate quality, and so on. You also need to be aware of consumer protection legislation that regulates 'off-premises selling'. This requires businesses that contract with consumers at their home or workplace to provide a written right to cancel the contract within a 14 day cooling-off period. There is further information on consumer protection and fair trading legislation on the website.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Health & safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Insurance for an interior designer

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • professional indemnity
  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a supplier)
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employers liability
  • public liability
  • motor insurance

You may also have to arrange specific insurance when working at a client's property.

Selling general insurance including some warranties

If you offer an insurance backed warranty on any interior design work - even if you make no extra charge for this - then you may be covered by general insurance legislation administered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Businesses whose activities are covered by the legislation need to be either directly authorised by the FCA or an 'appointed representative' of a principal FCA authorised insurer.

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