As an interior designer, the value of your services lies in your creative work.  It is important to protect your unique intellectual property. To protect your rights and your business, you need a strong Client Agreement with well-drafted Terms and Conditions.

The Client Agreement will be made of 2 parts:

  • a Proposal setting out the scope of the services and any products to be provided; and
  • Terms and Conditions setting out the legal issues which need to be addressed.

Scope and Services

The Client Agreement should set out how the creative process works. For example, the interior designer will need to have an initial meeting to understand what services the client needs and what the scope of the work will be. Once this is agreed, the Client Agreement can be drafted and executed. Throughout the design process, the interior designer might require the services of third parties and changes may need to be made – all of this needs to be addressed in your terms and conditions.

Fees and Payment

Fees and payment are key issues to be covered in the terms and conditions. This section should set out whether a deposit is payable upfront, when payments are due, what happens if payment is declined, and the consequences of non-payment. You should indicate who bears the responsibility for payment of third party services and products; they can be paid by the client directly or the interior design can pay for these first and charge it to the client later.

Cancellation and Termination

You should set out a notice period in your Client Agreement with a time frame of when services can be cancelled without incurring any fees. The client needs to follow the termination procedure as set out in your Terms and Conditions. This requires payments to be made for services which have been provided to date.

Amendments

As with any design work, there are often amendments or additions which need to be made throughout the process. Your Terms and Conditions should set out what amendments may be made within the fees and which amendments will incur additional charges. A clause can also be inserted to give you sole discretion in deciding whether or not to proceed with changes to the design which are outside the scope of services as outlined in the Proposal.

Intellectual Property

It is integral to your business that your intellectual property rights are protected. The protections should cover all drawings, photographs, illustrations, specifications, dimensions, and the like. Intellectual property rights go both ways.  An interior designer will seek to keep all the intellectual property rights in their creative work, and give the client a license to use the work.  A well-advised client will seek to have the rights assigned so that they own the work.

Limitation of Liability

You want to limit your liability for any problems which are caused by the client’s negligence or carelessness and for any incorrect work or damage which was caused by third parties. If the client insists that you supervise and be responsible for the work of third parties, this needs to be dealt with in the Client Agreement to minimise disputes between all parties.

Australian Consumer Law

The Australian Consumer Law applies to business that supplies services to consumers. Mandatory consumer guarantees will apply to you.  You need to make sure that your Client Agreement includes these. Generally, clients are entitled to a refund or resupply for a service that has a fault or failure. You need to consider how you will draft your refund policy to ensure that it meets the requirements of the Australian Consumer Law.

Website Terms of Use

If your business has a website, you need a Website Terms of Use. These apply to every website visitor, protect your website and limit your liability for your website. The Terms claim your copyright and intellectual property rights, and set out permissible and prohibited uses of your website, including that competitors cannot use your website information.

Privacy Policy

If you collect, use and disclose personal information from customers, including using the information for direct marketing, you need a Privacy Policy, to assist you to comply with the Privacy Act.  The Privacy Policy is between you and each person that you collect personal information from. It sets out what personal information your business collects, how this information is used, and under what circumstances the information will be disclosed to third parties.

To conclude

It is important for both the interior designer and the client to have a clear understanding of how the work and services will be carried out and what will happen if something goes wrong or if deadlines cannot be met. This should be set out in the Client Agreement. This will set the basis of the working relationship.  Having a professionally drafted Client Agreement will help ensure that you can enforce your rights in the event of any dispute, and help you protect and strengthen your business in general. To speak with an experienced business solicitor, call LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Ursula Hogben

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