California License Reciprocity

If you could get a contractor’s license without lots of testing wouldn’t it be great? Well you probably can if you cross the California border. When does ‘managing’ a construction project for an owner cross the line and require a contractor’s license? These are just a few of the many questions contractors need to answer, and we all learn from their inquiries…

Q: I understand that as a CA contractor I can apply for a NV or AZ license without any exam. Where can I find out about how this works and which license classifications apply (I hold the “A”, “B”, “C-10” and “C-36”)?

A: California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah have had license reciprocity agreements in place for over 15 years. While changes can be made regarding which classifications are covered under this agreement, the last time trades were added was in May 2003. Each State has this information on its web site or if interested, contact my office and I’ll send you detailed information on how the process works and a list of classifications that each state will recognize.

To secure a waiver of the trade test in NV or AZ you must be able to show that you’ve been licensed continuously in CA for at least the past 5 years. An applicant must complete an entire application package, provide proof of licensure from the CSLB and meet all other licensing requirements (including financial statements, tax ID Number, etc.). You will still be required to pass the business/law exam.

Regarding the classifications you hold, Arizona should grant a waiver for all four trades. On the other hand, Nevada will only waive the General Engineering (“A”) and General Building (“B”), since they do not issue exam waivers for Plumbing (“C-36”) or Electrical (“C-10”) licenses.

Q: The company I work for has been in business for many years and has worked under an “A” license performing structural steel work. The General’s are now asking for a “C-51”. My question: is the “A” license good enough or should I become a RME/RMO for the company (I hold an active “C-51” license)?

A: While there are exceptions, generally the “A” license is NOT proper to handle “C-51” structural steel work. Therefore, it would be wise — especially since other GC’s are now asking for a “C-51” — to add this class to the company license. Please note that if you become a Responsible Managing Employee (RME) or RMO, with less than 20% ownership, you’ll need to inactivate your personal license.

Q: I own two companies: One holds a “B” and several other classifications while the other does project management without a contractor license. The unlicensed company in most cases typically supports an owner. We assist with all aspects of the project for a fee and they approve the general and pay the GC or subs direct.

There have been instances where the customer wants us to take on more responsibility including hiring and paying the GC or sub directly. Is there a conflict with the CSLB?

A: The bottom line is that if your “unlicensed” company hires and pays the GC and/or subs directly, you are acting in the capacity of a contractor and should be licensed accordingly.