Home Improvement Contractors

When something old is rebuilt or remodeled, specific rules may apply to contractors making those home improvements in California. What’s the ‘fallout’ from this rule in new construction? Another contractor is ‘dead’ certain he sent his renewal in on time, but it didn’t save his license from ‘expiring’. When should you send in a renewal to avoid having a problem?…

Q:  I was wondering if you knew whether the home improvement contract disclosures required to be provided by contractors applied to original construction of single-family homes?  In other words, if an institutional owner (such as a bank, for example), hires a contractor to construct multiple single-family homes, do you know if this is a “home improvement contract” for purposes of B&P Code Section 7151 and 7151.2?  The language seems to only relate to repair or remodeling rather than original construction.  What is your take on it?

A:  It is my understanding that construction of new homes does not fall under the Home Improvement Contract (HIC) disclosure requirements in Section 7151.2.  You are correct, the language relates to repair and remodeling rather than original new construction.

“Home Improvement” is defined in Section 7151 as “the repairing, remodeling, altering, converting, modernizing, or adding to residential property”. This Section goes on to say that home improvements include but are not limited to “the construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools…patios, awnings, storm windows, landscaping, fences…” etc.  Although, new residential homes and commercial properties are not included in this definition, as I was re-reading this Code Section, I noticed that it was originally added in 1961. This may explain why one of the other listed home improvements is “fallout shelters”.

Q:  I just received a letter from the C.S.L.B. advising me that my license had expired on January 31st, 2009.  I sent in my inactive renewal (postmarked January 31st), along with the $150.00 check which cleared my bank.  I checked on line and my license is listed as expired, not inactive..  What should my next step be?  Any idea what may have happened?  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

A: My guess is that when the Board received your renewal (after the expiration date) it was likely marked delinquent which would trigger an additional late fee of $75.00.   Renewals postmarked by the due date (like yours) are supposed to be considered as timely; however, since the Board receives hundreds of renewals a day (more at the end of each month) a few may not be coded correctly.  It’s likely the CSLB sent you a letter in February regarding this matter? If not, you’ll need to call the Board (1-800-321-CSLB) and see what information they have in their computer system regarding this license. Have the cancelled check handy for reference.

I often caution readers of this column to send in their renewal early.  The Board typically mails out renewal applications at least 75 days ahead of the expiration date.  For “active” renewals, this means answering a few questions, signing the application; and mailing it to Board headquarters in the provided self-addressed envelope. To avoid any problems make sure the proper personnel sign (including all qualifying individuals) and include the $300.00 renewal fee (for active licenses).

Even with submitting a “timely” renewal, if you wait until the last minute, your license will show up as “expired” for a few weeks until the Board processes your application.  If there is a problem (such as an incorrect or missing signature or a corporate suspension with the Secretary of State), and the renewal is rejected, this means even more delays.  All it takes is one potential customer to look elsewhere or one homeowner to refuse payment to see how a late renewal can impact your business.

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