Avoiding Liability Bulletin – September 2006

… Are you required by local law or ordinance to obtain a license to do business in the particular jurisdiction in which you practice? Remember – don’t neglect to inquire of the city clerk, the county clerk, or another titled official to see whether or not you are required to pay an annual or other based fee in order to conduct your practice. Some therapists or counselors forget or just don’t realize that when they conduct a private practice (no matter what the size) they are conducting a business. The licensing fee imposed by local law or ordinance is usually a revenue-raising measure only (as opposed to a regulatory measure affecting the day to day conduct of the business), and if not paid will typically result in financial penalties of some kind.

For those who see clients in their homes, they may have a problem if and when they apply for a business license, since to do so may alert local government officials that there is a possible zoning violation. Some residences are not zoned appropriately to accommodate a therapy practice. Those who desire to practice from their residences must proceed carefully and seek legal advice if necessary before applying for a business license. There are other problems and issues that arise when one practices from his or her residence, not the least of which are concerns about the practitioner’s privacy and safety.

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About the Author

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Richard Leslie

Richard S. Leslie is an attorney and acknowledged expert on the interrelationship between law and the practice of marriage and family therapy and psychotherapy. Most recently, he was a consultant to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and has written articles regarding legal and ethical issues for their Family Therapy Magazine. Prior to his work with AAMFT, Richard was Legal Counsel to the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for approximately twenty-two years. While there, he also served as their director of Government Relations and tirelessly advocated for due process and fairness for licensees and applicants.

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