Unlicensed Contractors in California Face Tough Laws


Individuals contracting in California without a contractor’s license as a first offense face up to six (6) months in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. This is a substantial increase from the misdemeanor offense with no set jail time or penalties prior to 2010.

Getting caught as a second-time offender will require the individual to pay a fine of twenty-percent (20%) of the total contract price, or $5,000, whichever is greater. This also includes a stay of at least ninety (90) days in county jail.

Three time repeat offenders get ninety (90) days to one (1) year in a county jail and will be fined from $5,000 and $10,000, or twenty-percent (20%) of the contract price.

Anyone who utilizes the services of an unlicensed contractor is considered a victim and is entitled to disgorgement of all monies paid to the unlicensed contractor, regardless of whether they knew the contractor was unlicensed. Consumer victims of unlicensed contractors may also get reimbursed for their attorney’s fees spent going after the unlicensed contractor under current statute.

California state law mandates that all construction jobs costing $500 or more for labor and materials must be conducted by a validly licensed contractor. Receiving a contractor’s license requires contractors to pass several tests and get a background check from the California Department of Justice. Typically, individuals with offenses, infractions, or citations substantially related to contracting or contracting related businesses are not issued licenses. There are currently over 300,000 licensed contractors in California in varying specialty trades including general building contractor A and B.

Because unlicensed contractors don’t carry worker’s compensation insurance, commercial general liability insurance, or any type of bonds, they almost always are the low bidder on a job. However, there is a high price to a low bid. If a worker (hired by the unlicensed contractor) is injured on the job, the homeowner or property owner could be liable and cause unexpected increased insurance premiums. Without commercial general liability insurance in place problems, defects, and shoddy construction which results in property damage or personal injury will not be covered, and the homeowner or property owner will be stuck with the damage and no one to pay for it.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you thoroughly check out your contractor prior to signing a contract. Make sure you check references by calling previous clients, and have a competent attorney review the contract documents prior to execution.

David S. Roberson, Esq. is an associate at the law firm of Rossi, Hamerslough, Reischl & Chuck, 1960 The Alameda, Suite 200, San Jose, CA 95126, http://www.rhrc.netdaver@rhrc.net, 408-261-4252.

For Answers to Any and All Construction Questions Go To [http://www.ConstructionQandA.com].

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

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