Bad Legislation is Bad for Business

Title and Practice Legislation have long been hot topics of discussion in the kitchen and bath industry. While neither are good for our industry, Title Acts, such as the ones recently derailed in New York and California (see Title Act Legislation Derailed for Now in New York and California), are generally considered the lesser of two evils, since they are, at least theoretically, focused more on semantics than practice.

Indeed, those who advocate for this legislation will argue that Title Acts are not harmful to our industry because they don’t actually limit a designer’s right to practice. Yet the reality is that what you call yourself impacts how the world views you. As the saying goes, “a rose by any other name may smell as sweet,” but advertising “Rosa glauca – $40 a dozen” probably won’t draw a lot of customers through your door on Valentine’s Day.

And then there’s the fact that many see Title Acts as the first step on a slippery slope toward Practice Legislation, which can limit a kitchen and bath designer’s right to practice unless he or she fulfills a series of requirements decided on by an outside authority – one that in many cases lacks either an expertise in or understanding of the complexities of the kitchen and bath design field.

Both the NKBA and NARI vehemently oppose what they term “these restrictive and unnecessary industry regulations” and have recently joined forces to fight Title and Practice Legislation in our industry.

The NKBA contends that there’s no evidence to show that “the current practice of interior design by those who don’t meet these self-imposed standards is a cause for concern,” and “such anti-competitive legislation will limit consumer choice in retaining the services of a professional designer, while increasing the costs of design services beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer.”

NARI agrees: “It is essential to protect the remodeling industry from disruptions in businesses that already face significant challenges by market conditions.”

Both also question why, if this legislation is truly about protecting consumers, as supporters assert, consumers aren’t the ones asking for it, or supporting it.

Indeed, many argue that this type of legislation is bound to increase prices and create quality control issues and delays, which certainly don’t appear to be in the best interests of consumers.

While both sides support professional standards, who decides these standards remains a point of contention.

Perhaps the crux of the issue, for many kitchen and bath professionals, is the idea that certification exams created specifically for our industry are not considered valid indicators of one’s ability to practice, or that an interior design association made up of people who don’t specialize in (or in some cases even design) kitchens and baths should regulate who can practice in this field.

Additionally, the consequences of this type of legislation can create a negative ripple effect on the entire industry, creating a scarcity of designers and discouraging consumers from remodeling in an economy that certainly doesn’t need further disincentives. Then there’s the potential for the homogenization of design educational offerings, which could restrict specializations so that the designers of tomorrow end up less prepared to satisfy the diverse needs of an increasingly broad client base.

If, indeed, there’s a problem with existing standards of professionalism– and that’s a big if – there has to be a better solution than legislation that hurts consumers, kitchen/bath professionals and the future of our industry.

Publisher’s Note: KBDN bids adieu this month to one of its longtime, stalwart contributors, Ralph Palmer, whose final column for KBDN appears on Make Your Passion for Selling Successful.

Ralph, who’s retiring as a columnist, helped put KBDN on the map, joining the magazine 24 years ago, when KBDN was little more than a fledgling publication seeking to find its voice – largely through seasoned pros like Ralph. He was not only instrumental in the magazine’s success through his insightful column, “Closing the Sale,” but has been a goodwill ambassador for KBDN all these years. He’s also been a mentor and friend.

Ralph will remain actively involved in his successful company, the Cedar Rapids, IA-based Ar-Jay Center, as well as in myriad community, business and charitable activities. But he’ll be missed here at KBDN.

In fact, if uniform numbers in publishing could be retired – the way they are in baseball – Ralph’s would hang with honor from the rafters of our editorial offices. The entire KBDN family offers him a heartfelt thank you for his contributions, and wishes him all the best.
— Eliot Sefrin