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Landscape Architects Technical Committee
2420 Del Paso Road, Suite 105
Sacramento, CA 95834
fax: (916) 575-7285
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How do I verify the status of a landscape architect license?
- Q: How can I file a complaint against a landscape architect or unlicensed individual?
A: Complaints against landscape architects and unlicensed individuals can be submitted to the LATC by filling out a complaint form. Consumers wishing to recover monies can seek recourse through the small claims or civil court systems.
- Q: Can an architect provide "landscape architectural" services?
A: Architects may provide “landscape architectural” services but may not use the protected title of “landscape architect”, as specified in Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 5641.3 (Chapter Exceptions, Exemptions - Architects, Professional Engineers, and Land Surveyors).
- Q: Can a landscape contractor (Class C-27) provide landscape design/construction services for work performed and supervised by that contractor?
A: Yes, a landscape contractor may only provide construction plans if he/she performs or supervises the installation/construction, as stated in BPC section 5641.4 (Chapter Exceptions, Exemptions - Landscape Contractors).
- Q: What services can an unlicensed person provide?
A: An unlicensed landscape professional can prepare drawings for the conceptual design and placement of tangible objects and landscape features or plans, drawings, and specifications for the selection, placement or use of plants for a single family dwelling (BPC section 5641).
An unlicensed landscape professional cannot prepare construction documents, details, or specifications for the placement of tangible objects or landscape features for any site other than single family dwellings. In addition, unlicensed persons cannot prepare plans, drawings, or specifications of any kind that require grading or drainage of a site (BPC section 5641).
It is a misdemeanor for any unlicensed person to engage in landscape architecture or to use any titles, words, or abbreviations that would imply he or she is a landscape architect (BPC section 5640). For more information on exceptions and exemptions, please refer to Article 3 of the Landscape Architects Practice Act.
- Q: Can an unlicensed person own a landscape architecture firm/business?
A: If the name of a licensed landscape architect employed by the firm appears in all advertisements and presentments to the public in connection with landscape architectural services, and that licensed landscape architect oversees the preparation of all construction documents and site alteration plans in accordance with BPC section 5615, an unlicensed individual may own a landscape architecture firm or business (California Code of Regulations (CCR) section 2671 (Public Presentments and Advertising Requirements)).
- Q: What is the difference between a landscape architect and a landscape designer?
A: A landscape architect is an individual who holds a professional license to practice landscape architecture as defined under BPC section 5615 ("Landscape Architect" — Practice of Landscape Architecture). Under BPC section 5615, a landscape architect is a person who offers or performs professional services, for the purpose of landscape preservation, development and enhancement, such as consultation, investigation, reconnaissance, research, planning, design, preparation of drawings, construction documents and specifications, and responsible construction observation. Landscape preservation, development and enhancement are the dominant purpose of services provided by landscape architects. For more information about the practice of landscape architecture, please refer to BPC section 5615 in the Landscape Architects Practice Act.
Engaging in the practice of landscape architecture or using the title or terms "landscape architect," “landscape architecture,” or “landscape architectural” without having a current and valid California landscape architect license is a violation of the Landscape Architects Practice Act under BPC section 5640 (Unlicensed Person Engaging in Practice — Sanctions).
Landscape architects who are initially licensed in California are required to have six years of combined training and educational credit, pass the national licensing examination, known as the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE), as well as the California Supplemental Examination (CSE). Once licensed, landscape architects are required to comply with the laws and regulations governing the practice.
Landscape designers are not licensed or regulated by the State of California. Unlicensed persons can legally engage in activities that do not conflict with BPC section 5641 (Chapter Exceptions, Exemptions), which states:
“This chapter shall not be deemed to prohibit any person from preparing drawings for the conceptual design and placement of tangible objects and landscape features or plans, drawings, and specifications for the selection, placement, or use of plants for a single family dwelling. Construction documents, details, or specifications for the tangible objects or landscape features, and alteration of site requiring grading and drainage plans shall be prepared by a licensed professional as required by law.”
For a general description of the permitted practice for various landscape professionals/practitioners, please see the Permitted Practices in California chart.
- Q: How can I obtain a license?
A: In California, a candidate for licensure as a landscape architect must have a minimum of six years combined qualifying education and training/experience to be eligible to take the LARE. Credit for education and training/experience can be accrued as outlined in the laws governing landscape architecture, specifically CCR section 2620 (Education and Training Credits) . There are many ways a candidate may obtain a landscape architect license. It is always advisable for candidates to review the laws carefully and then contact the LATC for specific questions or information.
Candidates should be aware that although California accepts the education and training/experience as outlined in law, the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) and other state licensing boards may not recognize the same education and training/experience. This can make obtaining CLARB Certification and reciprocity licensure difficult for those who deviate from the traditional method of acquiring education and training/experience for licensure.
- Q: How can I determine if I am eligible to become a landscape architect in California?
A: Prospective candidates are required to complete and submit an Eligibility Application to the LATC along with a $35.00 processing fee. All materials must be received at least 70 days prior to the licensing examination. Once eligibility has been determined, candidates must also successfully pass the national examination, known as the LARE, as well as the CSE. Changes to the LARE application/registration and administrative processes occur regularly; therefore, it is important for candidates to carefully read and understand all examination information found on LATC’s website and the CLARB website.
- Q: What are the Education Requirements to become a landscape architect?
A: All candidates must possess at least one year of educational credit to be eligible to become a landscape architect. However, candidates cannot receive more than four years of credit for their education (CCR section 2620).
- Q: What are the Training Requirements to become a landscape architect?
A: In addition to the education requirements, all candidates must possess at least two years of training/practice credit to be eligible to become a landscape architect. At least one of the two years of training/practice credit must be gained under the direct supervision of a landscape architect licensed in a United States jurisdiction, and must be gained after completing the education requirement as specified in CCR section 2620. Please refer to CCR section 2620 for a detailed description of credit granted for education and training.
- Q: I want to begin the examination process. Can I just register on-line with CLARB?
A: First-time candidates must first apply to the LATC and obtain approval through a Notice of Eligibility prior to registering with CLARB.
- Q: Can I apply to take the LARE before I complete all training and education requirements?
A: Candidates shall be eligible to take sections 1 and 2 of the LARE if they fulfill one of the following educational requirements:
- 1. Have an accredited Bachelors or Masters degree in landscape architecture.
- 2. Have an extension certificate in landscape architecture from an approved program.
Current regulations do not allow for early testing of sections 3 and 4 of the LARE. In order to take sections 3 and 4 of the LARE in California, candidates must meet all of the following examination eligibility requirements:
- 1. Be at least 18 years of age.
- 2. Hold a degree (Associate, Bachelors, or Masters) or extension certificate (University of California (UC), Berkeley Extension and UC Los Angeles Extension) in landscape architecture.
- 3. Have at least six years of combined educational and training/experience credit.
- 4. Have at least two years of training/experience credit (1500 hours of qualifying employment equals one year of training/experience credit; limited to 40 hours credit per week) with one year of training/experience credit under the direct supervision of a landscape architect licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction gained after obtaining a qualifying degree.
- Q: I have a unique situation that is not addressed in your examination eligibility requirements. Can I appeal for an exception to be qualified to take the LARE?
A: No. Candidates must meet all education and training/experience requirements. Credit for education and training/experience can be accrued as outlined in CCR section 2620.
- Q: Does the LATC require a CLARB Council Record for licensure or for taking the LARE?
A: Candidates are not required to submit a Council Record to the LATC when applying for eligibility; however, CLARB requires all candidates to establish a Council Record before registering for the LARE.
- Q: Where is the LARE administered?
A: Visit CLARB's website for testing center locations.
- Q: I registered on-line with CLARB to take the LARE. Can you verify that I am scheduled?
A: All sections (1-4) of the LARE are administered by CLARB. Candidates may contact CLARB at (571) 432-0332 or email@example.com should they have any questions regarding registration.
- Q: Does CLARB offer reasonable accommodations for candidates with disabilities?
A: Yes. Any candidate who requires special accommodations must submit a request with the required documentation to CLARB. Requests are considered on a case by case basis. For CSE candidates, a request for reasonable accommodation can be made directly to the LATC by submitting a completed Reasonable Accommodation Request. Please refer to the form for specific details on the request.
- Q: Does the LATC offer study materials or any type of examination preparation for the LARE?
A: No, although candidates should review the LATC Candidate Guide carefully. Study materials are available from CLARB. Candidates may also contact the California Council of the American Society of Landscape Architects and landscape architecture programs under the Links page for possible preparatory materials.
- Q: How soon will I receive my LARE results?
A: Official examination results are sent to the LATC by CLARB. LATC receives examination results approximately four to five weeks after the examination date. Once the LATC processes examination results, the scores are immediately mailed to candidates. Due to confidentiality laws, score information cannot be released over the telephone.
- Q: How do I appeal the denial of a license?
A: Under the provision of BPC section 485 (Denial Procedure), an applicant has the right to a hearing for appeal of the denial of their application for licensure. The request for hearing must be submitted in writing to the LATC within 60 days after service of the denial notice, otherwise the applicant's right to a hearing is deemed waived.
- Q: Now that I have passed the LARE, what is the next step?
A: Applicants that pass all sections of the LARE will be eligible to take the CSE. The CSE application can be found on the LATC website at www.latc.ca.gov/candidates. Applicants must complete and sign the application and submit it to our office along with the $310.00 application and examination fees.
The candidate will be mailed the California Architects Board, Landscape Architects Technical Committee, California Supplemental Examination Candidate Guide from Psychological Services, LLC (PSI) within four weeks from when their application is received. The candidate guide will provide instructions to schedule the CSE.
- Q: What is the format of the CSE?
A: The CSE is a 100 question multiple-choice examination. Please refer to the CSE Candidate Guide for more information on the examination format.
- Q: Where can I take the CSE?
A: The CSE is administered by the LATC as a computer based multiple-choice examination under contract with PSI at 17 testing centers throughout California and 22 additional testing centers nationwide. California testing locations include: Anaheim, Atascadero, Bakersfield, Carson (Los Angeles Area), El Monte (Los Angeles Area), Fresno, Hayward (Bay Area), Redding, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara (Bay Area), Santa Rosa, Ventura, Visalia and Walnut Creek. Nationwide testing locations include: Cherry Hill, NJ, Chicago, IL, Cranberry Township, PA, Boston, MA, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, Southfield, MI, Des Moines, IA, Albuquerque, NM, Dallas, TX, Houston, TX, Glendale, NY, Milford, CT, Nashville, TN, North Oren, UT, North Salt Lake City, UT, Phoenix, AZ, Richmond, VA, West Hartford, CT, Woodbury, MN, Las Vegas, NV and Portland, OR.
- Q: Where can I get further details on the CSE?
A: Candidates may access detailed information on procedures and knowledge areas required for taking the examination from the LATC CSE page.
- Q: How will I be notified of my eligibility to take the CSE?
A: Once all four sections of the LARE are passed, candidates will receive an eligibility notification to take the CSE. Candidates can then apply for the CSE by submitting the CSE application along with applicable fees to LATC.
- Q: Are study materials provided to prepare for the CSE?
A: The LATC website contains information on preparing for the CSE, as well as specific knowledge areas that will be tested.
- Q: Can I take the CSE at any time?
A: Eligible candidates may take the CSE as soon as their application and payment are processed.
- Q: How many questions do I have to answer correctly to pass the CSE?
A: Pass rates will vary.
- Q: Is there a limit to the number of times I can take the CSE?
A: There is no limit to the number of times a candidate can take the CSE.
- Q: If I don't pass the CSE, is there a waiting period before I can take it again?
A: Yes. To ensure the security of the CSE, a waiting period of three months from examination date is required.
- Q: Can I appeal my CSE scores?
A: No. There is no provision for an appeal of a candidate's examination score.
- Q: I passed the CSE, what is the next step for licensure?
A: Applicants who successfully pass the CSE will be provided an Initial License Request form, which will be available at the CSE test site along with the current Initial License Fee Chart. License fees are prorated based on a two-year cycle, month of birth, and filing date. Once the Initial License Request and corresponding fee have been submitted to the LATC, applicants can expect to receive their wall certificate and initial license packet within four to six weeks, provided that no fact, circumstance, or condition exists which would justify denial under BPC section 480 (Applicant's Grounds for Denial).
- Q: How do I find out about special accommodations for the CSE?
A: A request for reasonable accommodations can be made directly to the LATC by filling out a Reasonable Accommodation Request form. Please refer to the form for specific details on the request.
- Q: Can I obtain a license in California through reciprocity?
A: Individuals who are licensed to practice landscape architecture in another state may obtain a license from the State of California by completing the reciprocity licensure process, outlined below. California does not make a distinction between licenses issued to individuals who pursue licensure via reciprocity and those issued to individuals who take the full exam in California.
In order to be eligible for reciprocity licensure, applicants must be currently licensed as a landscape architect in another state by having passed a written examination substantially equivalent in scope and subject matter to the written examination last given in California. Applicants must also meet the education and training requirements for first-time exam candidates. For purposes of reciprocity, the LATC recognizes the following examinations:
- Uniform National Examination for Landscape Architects (UNE)
Applicants who do not meet these requirements are ineligible for licensure under reciprocity provisions and must meet the requirements for first time exam candidates (BPC section 5651(Examination of Applicants), updated January 1, 2010).
- Q: What is the process for obtaining reciprocity in California?
A: Applicants must submit a completed Application for Reciprocity and the appropriate fees ($310) to the LATC. Once determined eligible, the candidate will take the CSE administered by the LATC as a computer based multiple-choice examination under contract with PSI. There are 17 testing centers throughout California and 22 additional testing centers nationwide.
In order to verify the applicant’s examination scores and license history, a Reciprocity Verification Form must be submitted to the applicant's state(s) of licensure. The licensing agency shall forward the completed form to the LATC office. The applicant is responsible for any fees associated with the verification process.
In addition to passing the LARE or UNE, LATC requires each reciprocity candidate to pass the CSE, a 100 question multiple-choice examination that evaluates a candidate’s knowledge of the Landscape Architects Practice Act and other laws deemed essential to the practice of landscape architecture in California. The purpose of the test is to bring to your attention specific practice issues more prevalent or unique to California and to familiarize you with the rules and regulations governing the profession.
All prospective licensees must pass the examination. A failing score will delay licensure until a passing score is achieved, and applicants will only be eligible to take the CSE every three months. Upon passing the CSE, the reciprocity candidate is eligible for licensure as a landscape architect in California.
- Q: Can a landscape architect start a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?
A: The Landscape Architects Practice Act does not provide guidance regarding the establishment of LLCs. The regulation of business entities falls outside of the jurisdiction of the LATC. More information regarding LLCs may be found in the California Corporations Code. According to section 17375 of the California Corporations Code, a domestic or foreign LLC may NOT render professional services. “Professional Services” are defined in California Corporations Code sections 13401(a) and 13401.3 as:
“Any type of professional services that may be lawfully rendered only pursuant to a license, certification, or registration authorized by the Business and Professions Code, the Chiropractic Act, the Osteopathic Act or the Yacht and Ship Brokers Act.”
Landscape architects render professional services according to BPC section 5615 and therefore may not form a business as an LLC. More information regarding business entities in California may be found at the website for the Office of Secretary of State.
- Q: Is a landscape architect required to notify the LATC when establishing a corporation?
A: No. The LATC issues licenses to individuals, not to businesses or corporations. For more information on how to establish a corporation, please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at (916) 653-6814 or visit their website.
- Q: What kind of plans can a landscape architect stamp?
A: As established by BPC section 5615, licensed landscape architects are authorized to approve construction plans and documents that relate to “landscape preservation, development and enhancement.” Such plans may include the following:
- Master plans for land use and development
- Production of overall site plans
- Landscape grading and drainage plans
- Irrigation plans
- Planting plans
- Construction details
Landscape architects, unless otherwise licensed, are not authorized to practice, or offer to practice, architecture or engineering in any of its various recognized branches. For more information on a past related stamping issue, please see a September 7, 2010 letter from DCA legal counsel regarding local jurisdictions (the City of Torrance, CA) refusing to accept plans prepared by landscape architects.
- Q: What are the requirements for a landscape architect stamp?
A: The stamp, as referenced in BPC sections 5659 (Inclusion of License Number — Requirement), and 5673 (False Use of Signature), may be purchased from any convenient source and shall be of the design illustrated under CCR section 2606 (Stamp).
- Q: Can landscape architects stamp and sign plans electronically?
A: While BPC section 5659 requires licensees to stamp or seal and sign “all plans, specifications, and other instruments of service,” the Landscape Architects Practice Act does not prohibit the use of an electronic stamp, seal, or signature. It is, therefore, up to the discretion of local building and/or planning authorities to determine if an electronic stamp, seal, or signature is acceptable.
- Q: What is a design-build contract and can a landscape architect perform one?
A: A design-build contract is an agreement between a design-build entity and a client for both the design and building of a specified project. In the State of California, landscape architects are licensed to design landscape projects and develop instruments for their completion. However, a landscape architect’s license does not authorize the license holder to contract with clients for the construction and installation of landscape features. For all construction contracts where the total cost of labor and materials is valued at more than $500.00, a licensed contractor is needed (BPC section 7048 (Exemptions)).
- Q: What is the history behind the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance?
A: Assembly Bill (AB) 325 of 1990 created the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act requiring the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop a Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. This Model Ordinance was adopted and went into effect January 1, 1993, requiring all local agencies to adopt a water efficient landscape ordinance, unless proven unnecessary, by 1993. In 2004, AB 2717 requested the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) to convene a task force in order to evaluate and recommend improving the efficiency of water use in urban irrigated landscapes. The outcome was 43 recommendations, some of which included updates to the Ordinance. In 2006, AB 1881 was enacted requiring DWR, no later than January 1, 2009, to update the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance reflecting the recommendations of the CUWCC task force and requires local agencies, no later than January 1, 2010, to adopt the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance or equivalent.
- Q: What is the purpose of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance?
A: The principal intent of the new Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance is to update existing regulation reflecting improvements, since the early 1990’s, in landscape design, irrigation technology, and water management. Additional changes were made to regulation that would further specify water conservation efforts; for example, delineating specific irrigation time periods and prohibiting guidelines for common interest developments banning the use of low water-using plants. For more information, please visit the Department of Water Resources’ Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance website.
- Q: Did anything change in the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance affecting licensed landscape architects?
A: Specific to the landscape architecture profession, the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance will now explicitly require a licensed landscape architect, licensed landscape contractor, or any other authorized person (or irrigation designer for irrigation design plans) to sign off on the landscape design plan, irrigation design plan, and grading design plan. All other requirements in the original Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance pertinent to the completion of the landscape documentation package are essentially unchanged (including the requirement for an irrigation audit by certified landscape irrigation auditor).
- Q: Will a licensed landscape architect be required to receive any certifications in order to comply with the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance?
A: No. Licensed landscape architects will still perform their duties as prescribed in the Landscape Architects Practice Act.
- Q: My local water agency has its own water efficiency ordinance, which ordinance should I use?
A: Always use the local water agency ordinance; AB 1881 requires local agencies, no later than January 1, 2010, to adopt the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance or equivalent.
- Q: Can a licensed landscape architect perform irrigation audits?
A: No. In order to comply with the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance irrigation audits shall be conducted by a certified landscape irrigation auditor. Licensed landscape architects may become certified. A certified landscape auditor is a person certified to perform landscape irrigation audits by an accredited academic institution, a professional trade organization or other program such as the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense irrigation auditor certification program and the Irrigation Association’s Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor program.