General Licenses, Solar Installation, Business Names and RME/RMO

Better to ‘light a candle than curse the darkness comes to mind’ as we spotlight a couple of ‘general’ questions on solar system contracting.  Another contractor helps remind us of the rules in California for Responsible Managing Employees (or RME’s)…

Q:  We’re a class “A” contractor, and have some interest in expanding into the solar energy installation business.  Does my “A” license cover this?  Would I need to get a “C-46”(Solar) specialty license?  If a “C-46” is required, does having an “A” license make me eligible to add this classification?  Thank you for offering your services, it is very helpful!


A:  Section 7056 of the B&P Code (the definition of an “A” contractor) includes the words,  “in connection with fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill”. According to Board rule 832.62, this phrase includes an “active solar energy system”.  Therefore with an “A”, you can do this work without needing to apply for the “C-46” (Solar) classification.


If you decide to apply for the “C-46”, you’ll need to show at least 4 years experience handling, supervising or managing solar projects to qualify. Simply having an “A” does not, in and of itself, make you eligible to sit for this exam.  Thank you for the question.  I hope our response is helpful.


Q:  I’m having a problem with our business name.  We applied for a license under our corporate name, “XYZ Solar Company”.  However, the Contractors Board rejected the application telling us the name was not compatible with the license class (General building) held by our Responsible Managing Officer (RMO).  I read in one of your recent columns that a “B” could perform solar work so why can’t we use the “Solar” name in our business?


A:  The Board’s policy (as detailed in Code section 7059.1) is to disallow any business name that they determine to be misleading.  It is subjective, but generally, requests to use a word like “solar” where the applicant does not hold the specific classification code (i.e. the “C-46”) are not approved.  I say subjective because a random search of business names has turned up use of the word “solar” being allowed with a “C-10”(Electrical).  You may want to send a letter appealing the Board’s “decision” or amend the name to include a modifier like XYZ “General” Solar Company.


Q:  I was just finishing your book (“What Every Contractor Should Know” David Kalb, author), and I couldn’t find all the answers I needed. Currently I am the Operations manager but I have been asked to become the RME for my employer.  I have successfully taken the law and two trade tests and the former RMO/RME was just disassociated, but I am still concerned in regards to the RME position.  Any ideas or comments on the following: 1) What kind of control do I need to have?  2) Should I look for additional compensation?  3) Do I need to consult an attorney regarding a contract?


A: Board Rule 823, primarily answers your question regarding “what kind of control” you need.  For one, you must be a “bona fide employee” actively engaged in your employer’s business “for at least 32 hours or 80% of the total hours per week the business is in operation, whichever is less”. For a more complete response, check out page 76 of my book, or contact Capitol Services.


I cannot address your second question regarding compensation; this is up to you and your employer.   It you plan on having an employment agreement and/or contract questions consulting an attorney is likely a good idea.