Handyman & CSLB Publications

When consumers need minor repairs or think about remodeling, they often mistakenly look first for someone who is ‘handy’ at the job. However, as current California law is written there is no specific ‘handyman’ license, despite what you may read in some ads. I will also ‘expand’ your knowledge of legally ‘contracting’ and that advice is ‘on the house’…

Q: I keep reading that there is no such thing in CA as a handyman license. Is this true? What license would be required to be a handyman? What is the process of getting the correct license?

A: There is in fact no “handyman” license issued by the Contractors Board in CA. The state has a number of license classifications including General Building (B), which many “handymen” apply for. However, it all depends on the type of work you want to perform and what experience you have in the building trades. For instance, if you only want to do plumbing repairs, then the “C-36” would be the proper classification. For electrical jobs, you’ll need to apply for the “C-10”. If you want to handle a variety of trades, then the “B” would be best.

A license is required for all work over $500. The Contractors Board (CSLB) will require that you show at least 4 years full time experience for whichever license you apply for. You’ll be required to post a $12,500 bond, complete the “open-book asbestos exam” and be fingerprinted. Unless you hire employees, like many handypersons, you will likely be exempt from Worker’s Compensation.

Q: I am just starting out and want to make sure I do everything right. My license was just issued and I know I need to make sure my contracts are in order. I only intend on doing roofing jobs on residential properties. Can you suggest where I can go to get a legal contract for home improvements?

A: The requirements for Home Improvement Contracts are contained in B&P Code Section 7159. A review of the 2010 “California Contractor’s License Law and Reference Book” includes over 10 pages covering the Do’s and Don’ts of a correct (i.e. legal) home improvement contract. Some legal bookstores sell sample contracts. Better yet, you may want to review “Contracting For Success: A CONTRACTOR’S Guide to Home Improvement Contracts”, published by the CSLB.

In my personal experience over the past several years, this is a publication more contractors should look at. While I know a great deal about the construction industry, I am not a contractor. I must admit I’m not the handiest person when it comes to home improvements or repairs like installing a new toilet or water heater; repainting the house; or putting down new flooring. So, I am also a customer hiring contractors. Because, I typically get more than one bid, I have seen a number of contracts and can report that very few contractors had it right. Most are on one page and lack many of the disclosure requirements such as the “Mechanics Lien Warning”, “Down payment wording” or a full description of the project and materials to be used. One contractor still had the CSLB located at an address where they moved from 20 years ago.

While you’re at it, I would suggest reviewing another CSLB publication: Tips for Hiring a Roofing Contractor. While it’s written with the consumer in mind, it can only expand your knowledge regarding what the CSLB expects. Further, for ANY contractor who works on home improvements, a review of the Board’s “Terms of Agreement: A CONSUMER Guide to Home Improvement Contracts” would also be helpful.

These and other CSLB publications are available at no cost online or by calling the Contractors Board or you can call my office to have one sent out free of charge. Like it says below, good information is empowering.

Multiple DBA’s & Business Names

Long time readers have already learned that getting the best or latest interpretation of license law always comes from the main office. When contractors grow, by ‘doing-business-as’ (DBA) a second or third license entity, how you structure those companies does make a difference. Although Dave’s not here, I will help him find his answer about what name is ‘legal’ on a contract…

Q: I’ve been getting conflicting information from the CSLB and was getting very frustrated when I came across your website! I would be very grateful if you’re able to help me with this question.

We are an ‘S’ corporation with a DBA name holding several classifications including the “C-10” (electrical), “C-20” (HVAC), and “C-46” (solar). We want to operate the business as additional DBA entities under the same corporate name. Do I have to separate the license classes (for example, the “C-20” under one and the “C-46” & “C-10” under another)? Or can I hold all 3 licenses under the new DBA?

What paperwork needs to be filled out to make this happen? I am assuming I first have to file the additional DBA with the Secretary of State. Your expertise would be greatly appreciated.

A: There is no limit to the number of dba’s you can add to one corporate license. Therefore you can do business under any number of names as long as each is tied to the same corporation and has a separate license number. You CAN separate the license classifications as long as the resulting name is not misleading. For instance you could not isolate the “C-10” on a license and ‘do-business-as’ XYZ Heating and Air.

You should check with your local city or county regarding filing a fictitious business name (dba); however, these do not need to be filed with the Secretary of State.

For each dba you will need to complete a new Application for Original Contractor’s License 7065 Waiver. This assumes you use a Qualifier who is already licensed. All officers listed on the primary corporate license must be reflected on each additional application. You will also be required to file a new bond and post a certificate of Worker’s Compensation (with the exact business name as listed on the application).

Q: I read your column in the “Builder” and have referred contractors to you and your site from time to time. I’m told, but cannot find documentation on the CSLB site, that a contractor can ONLY enter into contracts in the name EXACTLY as it appears on his license. For example, a licensee named “Dave’s Corporation, Inc, dba Dave’s Construction” can only enter into a contract in that full name, not as “Dave’s Corporation, Inc.” or “Dave’s Construction”. Have you ever done an article on this? Might I have a copy? Thank you.

A: Using your example, the correct business name to use for advertising OR contracts would either be “Dave’s Corporation, Inc, dba Dave’s Construction” or simply, “Dave’s Construction.” Visit my web site (www.cutredtape.com) and at the bottom of the page there is a function to search by topic from my past 13 years of ‘Capitol Connection’ columns. Like ‘Dave’, you don’t have to visit my office to get an answer that may be helpful. If your search isn’t successful get in touch and we’ll work together to find the best answer to your individual question.

General Licenses, Ad Rules for Contractors

Just as the Giant’s and A’s renew their cross-Bay rivalry to open the baseball season, a contractor also makes a great ‘catch’ here. Another contractor will discover he’s been pitched a real ‘curveball’ from his past. I’ll take a ‘swing’ at hitting the ‘sweet spot’ as he already has two ‘strikes’ against him…

Q: As the “A” license qualifier for my employer, can I activate by “B” license to do small jobs on the side?

A: The Board does not allow you to “split” a license whereby one classification can be active and the other inactive. If you were required by the CSLB to inactivate your personal license as the “A” qualifier this would equally impact any other classification you hold.

Q: In a recent column you mentioned that contractors must by law have their name and license number on work trucks. What are the penalties for non-compliance? I visit job sites all the time and would say that half or more of the vehicles have no such markings.

A: Good catch! The statute, which requires all vehicles to display this information, is 7029.6. A “companion” measure, 7029.5 more specifically requires “every plumbing, electrical sign and well drilling contractor” to list their name; license number AND business address on each business vehicle. 7029.5 states that “failure to comply with this section constitutes a cause for disciplinary action” (which usually means a citation). Upon closer reading, I find there is no such penalty specified in 7029.6.

Q: I was an officer on a license several years ago. The company has since shut down. I recently applied for my own license; however, the application was rejected. The Board said that until the citation and judgment are resolved, I couldn’t get my license. I’ve had nothing to do with this company for several years and don’t know anything about either of these problems. Any suggestions?

A: My research indicates that this license has been expired for three years and the corporation is suspended with the FTB and Secretary of State. A review of CSLB records also shows that you’re still listed as an officer of record. Therefore, regarding the judgment, the CSLB holds you responsible –along with all other listed personnel who are still on the license — as of the date the judgment was issued by the Court. The CSLB will likely require you to pay off the judgment in order to get your license.

As regards, the citation, you’ll need to talk to the Board and see what this involves. They may also hold you responsible to pay the citation amount.

A warning I have oft repeated in my column: Once you officially leave a partnership or corporate license, NOTIFY THE CSLB IN WRITING. In most cases this eliminates an officers or partners responsibility for any court actions occurring after the date you disassociated from the entity. Actions like citations, judgments, and (even worse) license revocations, can come back to haunt you even years after you “had nothing to do with this company”. When the games on the line, taking this simple precaution, will keep you from facing a called ‘third strike.’

General CA Contractor License

There are always sad stories coming from economic crisis, but letting frustration with those conditions determine your behavior is also sad. We begin with a contractor who let things go too far in seeking ‘justice’ for money owed. You can lend a ‘hand’ in controlling a growing problem for licensed contractors, and we ‘engineer’ a solution for a lawyer with a corporate license issue…

It’s a situation almost everyone can understand. However, what happens next isn’t the usual solution. You’ve done work and not been paid. It happens. However, a recent Sacramento Bee crime report suggests taking the law into your own hands still doesn’t pay.

Claiming he was still owed money, a contractor waited until the man left for work and took matters into his own hands. Just after the man left his home the contractor showed up with a crane and ripped the newly installed and functioning HVAC unit right off the roof. Deputies showed up just about then, arrested the contractor and hauled him off to jail.

In ripping out the unit the home suffered significant roof damage leading to charges of vandalism and grand theft. Ultimately, the whole mess will wind up being decided by a judge. If you feel frustrated, take a deep breath, file the mechanic’s lien and let matters take their course. In the end a moment of satisfaction isn’t worth the price you may ultimately pay.

Another continuing problem for both licensed contractors and consumers is ‘the handyman’ issue. A friend called my attention to the recent insert in his daily paper promoting the services of ‘Your Trusted Handyman for over 20 Years”. Included in the ad was his Sacramento County Handyman License Number. Of course, real contractors know there is no such license classification. Unfortunately, many consumers will be fooled and all licensed contractors will feel the backlash when something goes wrong.

It’s questionable if an unlicensed ‘handyman’ is working up to code. Even worse when someone is injured on the ‘handyman’s’ job the homeowner is going to pay. If you are a licensed contractor help keep this problem from getting out of control, protect the consumers who may be your next customer and let the CSLB know so they can ‘educate’ those that may be unlicensed. In the long run it’s a ‘win-win’ for contractors and consumers.

Q: I’m an attorney who has a client who wants to transfer a Class “A” California contractor’s license from an existing corporation to a new corporation. The Responsible Managing Officer (RMO) is not going to be part of the new corporation, and I’ve therefore determined this is not possible unless my client obtains his own license, has another officer that holds a Class “A” license, or hires an employee that has a Class “A” license. My understanding is the license “belongs” to the corporation and cannot be moved. Are you were aware of any ways a transfer can be accomplished.

A: You are correct the license does belong to the corporation. There are very few circumstances where a corporation can transfer its number to another entity. The exceptions are detailed in B&P Code section 7075.1 and include for instance a parent corporation that has merged or created a subsidiary or the subsidiary has merged into the parent corporation. In the case you describe, the company will most likely be issued a new license number.

The new corporation will need to select an individual to become the RME or RMO. This can be someone who presently holds the “A” class or who can qualify to sit for the General Engineering exam.

Green Tech Licensing, CA General rules

‘Green’ technology is helping revitalize building. Who can properly install that solar energy system may unexpectedly create new profits for some contractors. As in most economic downturns businesses look for new ways to work, and contractors are ‘generally’ on the ‘cutting edge’ when it comes to innovation…

Q: I have a General building license and want to apply for a “C-46” classification. I’ve been told this is required in order to perform solar installations. Do I have any other alternatives?

A: One alternative is to simply use your existing “B” license. Among the Board’s many Rules and Regulations is 832.62, which states: “An active solar energy system constitutes use of more than two unrelated building trades or crafts within the meaning of Section 7057 of the B&P Code”. In plain English, this means the CSLB has determined that general builders can perform solar work. For your information, this same Board Rule allows an “A” contractor to install solar energy systems.

If you still want to apply for the “C-46”, you will need to complete an application for additional classification and document 4 years full time experience in this trade.

Q: We’re in the process of applying for a new contractor’s license and know we can’t license a Limited Liability Company (LLC). What about a Limited Partnership (LP)? Would you please confirm that a LP could obtain a contractor’s license in CA?

A: There is no problem licensing a LP; however, keep in mind that the general partner of this entity CANNOT be a LLC.

Q: An attorney who said you could answer my contractor licensing questions referred me. As a “B” contractor I know I need to handle projects involving two unrelated trades. I would like to form a new corporation and install cabinets. I have been doing his type of work for many years and would like to know the best way to proceed.

A: By definition, a “B” contractor can install cabinets (“C-6”) or framing (“C-5”). In most cases, the General builder must handle two or more unrelated trades on each project; however, rough and finish carpentry are exceptions. This being said, you may still apply for a “C-6” to conduct business under a second name.

Q: I would like to obtain a “B” and “C-33” (painting) license. I have been working in the building trades for over 20 years and figured it’s about time to get my own license. I want to be in a position to build a few custom homes when the economy turns around (by next year?), and maybe do some small painting jobs until then. I have a fairly good idea what to do but would like to discuss how best to proceed and avoid delays with the licensing process.

A: Since you can only apply for one classification at a time, you may want to go for the “C-33” first. The requirements are as follows: When filing your application for original contractor’s license, make sure you show 4 or more years experience in the painting trade. I recommend submitting the required $12,500 Contractor’s Bond, Exemption from Workers Compensation (if applicable), $400 Application/Initial License fee and Open-Book Asbestos exam before taking the test.

Once the CSLB accepts your application, they will send you notification of a test date and a “Live Scan Request” (for fingerprinting). Handle this immediately since these prints can take weeks to clear the Department Of Justice and FBI. Pass the tests and you’re ready to go. Once a license number is issued you can apply for the “B” classification. Don’t hesitate to call back if you encounter any problems.