That may not be the case everywhere about calling yourself an architect. I'm not certain, but I believe you may call yourself an "Architect" just as freely as you may call yourself an "Engineer" or a "Doctor." You may not (a) offer the public architectural services or (b) call yourself a Registered Architect unless you are licensed to practice architecture.
In Virginia, anyone may design up to 4 unit residential buildings. We contract with designers, RAs, owners and contractors depending on the conditions. We use our own terms, and everything is either due on receipt or net 15 - never pay when paid (though we have several regular customers for whom we don't charge late fees when the client has not paid them...but that's another story). Regardless, with an unlicensed designer we provide a separate structural package which delineates the scope and limitations on every page. We've only been burned once in 7 years on payment from an architect, and in that case we would have been stiffed had we contracted directly with the owner. At least in that case, the architect footed the legal bill to take the owner to court.
Take my advice with a grain of salt - I live in a small town, and everybody knows everybody else. I'm also one of only four or five full time, independent SEs for a pretty big area. We all know each other and we're all friends (professionally, at least) - your projects would get much more difficult if we all decided you were a financial risk to work for.
Michel:First of all, if he or she is unlicensed, the would not be an architect. may be a designer.As far as I know, at least in California, a professional engineer may not have a contract with an unlicensed. You must have a written agreement with the owner.Farzin S. Rahbar, SE
David C. Weiss Structural Engineer & Associates, Inc.
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