A, B, C Licenses

You can’t always believe what someone ‘knows’ to be true when it comes to contractor’s licensing. A large part of those rules and regulations are complex, depend on exact wording and how they’ve been interpreted and applied by the Board over time. I share a quick way to research what is fact and what is ‘rumor’. But first we begin with “A”, “B”, “C”…

Q: My company belongs to three builder’s exchanges and it is sometimes difficult to stay up with all that is going on. I read your recent ‘Q’ and ‘A’ and have a question of my own. My firm has an “A” and “B” license. There have been local opportunities for me to be a prime on projects requiring installation of irrigation lines, planting of trees, bushes and sod, etc. Do my licenses allow me to do this work as a prime? Do I need to have a landscape specialty license? Thank you in advance for your response.

A: Based on the information you’ve provided, I would say you need the landscaping (“C-27”) classification. I’m basing this on an assumption that you’re looking at smaller residential and commercial work.

By definition the “A” covers larger irrigation projects in connection with “fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill”. This could include golf courses, parks, playgrounds and other recreational facilities. The “B” would cover this work if it were part of an overall general building project. For instance, if you’re building a new home, you could also handle all the landscaping. The definition of a “B” contractor allows you to take a job of this nature as a prime if you sub-contract the work to a licensed “C-27”.

Q: I would like to take over my grandfather’s license. I understand I may be able to do this with a waiver of the exams. Is this possible?

A: As we discussed, while the CSLB will allow immediate family members (such as a grandson) to apply for a license to continue the family business, you unfortunately are not eligible for a waiver. Your grandfather’s license has been INACTIVE for much of the past 10 years. Section 7065.1 only allows for a waiver if the individual’s license “was active and in good standing for five of the seven years immediately preceding the application (for a new license).” In addition, you would need to have been actively engaged in your grandfather’s business for 5 of the past 7 years. While you have been employed in the construction trades for 6 years, my understanding is that your grandfather has never employed you.

My recommendation is to apply for a new license; take a few weeks to study; pass the required law and trade exams; and start your business with a new license number.

I often advise people to confirm ‘rumor’ or an ‘understanding’ like that of our previous questioner by calling the CSLB staff or visiting their website. Or, you can also quickly check up on a wide variety of topics including family waivers at www.cutredtape.com. Readers can search nearly a decade of prior ‘Capitol Connection’ columns by KEYWORD. This column has always been about helping the contractor. Now it is even more user friendly.

C-10 Certification

I’ve always said perception is 90% reality. Or, simply your viewpoint is always what drives your opinions, decisions and, as humans, your emotions.

When I am asked for answers by contractors, lawyers and others about licensing law and how it’s interpreted that viewpoint, or that perception, is always important. After this first question it’s ‘back to the future’ as we again look at the “C-10” certification. Finally, when is a license class not a license class?

Q: I’m an attorney and have recently done some legal research on what the general building contractor (“B” license) can and cannot perform. Based on several court cases, it appears there were some changes over the past decade as it relates to how many specialty trades the “B” must perform on a prime contract.

In a 2005 case, a general contractor hired various “C” subcontractors, but also did concrete site work, framing, stucco, drywall, and other specialty license work. I know that a general building contractor may perform framing and rough carpentry work (see B&P section 7057), but can the general building contractor through his employees perform concrete (“C-8”), lath and stucco (“C-35”), drywall (“C-9”) and other specialty trades?

A: A general building contractor can self-perform or sub-contract any number of trades on a given project. The key here is the “contract”, not whether the work is self-performed. Using your example, it would be proper for the “B” to use his employees for the concrete, drywall, stucco, framing and other specialty work. It would also have been proper for the “B” contractor to sub-contract all trades except for concrete, or drywall or plastering (“C-35”).

Section 7057 states in part that “a general building contractor shall not take a prime contract for any project involving trades other than framing or carpentry unless the prime contract requires at least two unrelated building trades or crafts”. There is no mention in 7057 of the work being self-performed through the contractor’s employees or sub-contracted to licensed subs. An exception is made that allows the “B” to take a project for framing or carpentry ONLY but he may not count framing or carpentry in calculating the “two unrelated trades”.

Q: You recently wrote about employees of “C-10” contractors needing to get certified by the Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS). I have a “C-20” (HVAC) license and must perform electrical work as part of the installation process. Are my employees also required to become certified because they handle electrical wiring?

A: NO. DAS regulations ONLY pertain to the “C-10” (electrical) trade. Journeymen electricians and other covered employees working for “C-10” contractors are required to go through the certification process but no mention is made of other classifications. Therefore, general builders, HVAC, solar (“C-46”) and other trades are exempt from these regulations.

Q: I have a “C-61” Limited Specialty license to install metal products (“D-24”). My company would like to expand do other specialty work such as installing store fixtures and sealing concrete surfaces. I understand the Contractors Board has many “C-61” classifications. Could you tell me if these are covered?

A: The CSLB has 30 “C-61” Limited Specialties. Over the years, these various subcategories of the “C-61” have been developed by Board Staff and approved by the CSLB as policy. The two specialties you mentioned are covered by the “D-34” (prefabricated equipment) and “D-06” (concrete related services). If you have at least 4 years experience in these areas, you should be able to qualify for these additional subcategories with no further testing. This is true for all “C-61” licenses since this exam was eliminated over 3 years ago. For a free comprehensive listing of “C-61” specialties, call my office at 916-443-0657 or email info@cutredtape.com

Legal vs. Illegal Electricians

Is the electrician wiring your project doing so illegally? You might be ‘shocked’ to learn that could easily be the case if some important deadlines for certification were missed. Another contractor hopes to shed ‘light’ on some other electrical work, but first we begin at the beginning. A question about how to structure a new business should always begin with the contractor’s license…

Q: My husband and I are just starting a contracting business in California. We would like to use someone as our RMO. If this is a Partnership does he have to be a partner, or should we be doing this as Sole Proprietorship? Can he still run his own business with his contractor’s license and be our RMO?

A: When starting a new business you have the option of getting the license as a partnership, corporation or sole owner. If applying as a partnership, the qualifier can be a partner or RME (Responsible Managing Employee). If going for a corporate license, this individual could be a RME or RMO (Responsible Managing Officer). If he is a RMO or qualifying partner owning 20% or more of your business entity he can “still run his own business” and keep his license active. A RME would be required to inactivate his license, as would someone who owns less than 20% of your company.

If you want to apply as a sole owner, the license would either need to be in your name or your husbands’ name. If the owner has the requisite experience they may qualify the license, or you could hire a RME.

Q: Does a licensed “C-10” contractor also have to be a Certified General Electrician to perform work on a job for which he has contracted?

A: I believe you’re referring to the Certification that is required for all electricians that work for “C-10” contractors. As the “C-10” license holder, you are NOT required to go through the Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) certification.

For your information, these DAS regulations were put in place in 2002. The deadline for residential electricians getting this certification was January 1, 2007. The deadline for general electricians and fire/life/safety electricians was a year ago — January 1, 2006. According to the CSLB, “electricians who are not certified by this time are working illegally”.

The CSLB is urging all electricians who work for “C-10” electrical contractors to immediately sign up to take a certification exam. According to the Board, “not complying with the law could subject the licensee to administrative action”. Further, the CSLB stated, “It could potentially open these contractors and workers up to civil suits should there be problems with work done by an uncertified worker”.

The DAS, which is part of the Department of Industrial Relations, is responsible for the processing of applications for electrician certifications. According to Dave Rowan, chief of DAS, “There are now 138 approved schools throughout the state and testing dates are plentiful”. There is a link to the DAS at www.cutredtape.com.

Q: I have a “C-10” contractors license and want to expand into the solar field. Can I use this license for both my existing business and the new one I am about to form?

A: NO! In order to conduct business under two different names, you must have 2 different license numbers.

A Landscape Contractor

A pat on the back is often the best praise, and I thank our first contractor for his. I will also help a landscape contractor with a ‘swimming’ lesson before sharing some news from CSLB about protecting seniors from fraudulent, unlicensed work…

Q: To begin, I’d like to commend you on your columns! They are very informative. I hold a Class “B” contractor’s license and have acted as a Responsible Managing Employee (RME) for our construction company for several years. A friend in the construction industry recently informed me that an RME had the ability to negotiate a fee for the use of their license in addition to or as part of their salary. Is this correct? If so, where would I find sample data to calculate this potential fee?

A: I have been asked this question several times before, but do not know if I have ever published a response. There is nothing in the CSLB rules or regulations that addresses your “ability to negotiate a fee for use of your license”. As such, I would not know where to direct you to calculate this “fee”. As the Responsible Managing Employee –or any employee of a company — your employer ultimately determines your salary. Sometimes this is negotiated and if you hold the license, this should be of some added value to the company.

You may want to approach your employer regarding this potential value however, a word of warning. Depending on the company’s position, there may be other qualifying individuals waiting in the wings. Good luck with your negotiations.

Q: I have been on hold with the CSLB for over thirty minutes three times before finally giving up. Can you tell me if I can sub-contract out pool work to a “C-53” contractor? I am a “C-27” landscape contractor and have designed pools and spas. Now some homeowners want me to handle the work and pull the required permits.

A: If you are doing a landscaping project that includes a pool or spa, you can sub this out to a licensed swimming pool contractor. According to the CSLB, you cannot just take a pool contract by itself and self-perform or sub out the work to a “C-53”. If you have been designing and “building” pools for 4 of the prior 10 years, you may want to consider applying for an additional “C-53” classification. Since building permits are covered by local governmental agencies, I would check with them regarding whether you and/or the “C-53” can pull the permit.

The CSLB has taken the lead in protecting seniors from unscrupulous or illegal individuals. The “unlicensed contractor” is the focus of the Board’s “Senior Scam Stopper” Program, a partnership with various community and public agencies to inform and empower seniors to fight fraud. They have sponsored seminars throughout the State and set up panels of experts including representatives from local law enforcement, and the AARP.

In recent months co-sponsors have included Humboldt State University, Foster City Building Department, the Santa Clara Library and Assembly Member Lois Wolk who represents Solano and Yolo Counties. Contact the CSLB if you would like to co-sponsor a seminar in your community or let me know and I would be happy to pass the information on to their Enforcement Division and Public Affairs Office.

Remember a topic in a past column but cannot recall when it appeared? Now at www.cutredtape.com , readers can search nearly a decade of prior ‘Capitol Connection’ columns by KEYWORD. This column has always been about helping the contractor. Now it is even more user friendly.