Social Security Number Requirement & Name Rules for DBA’s

We help clarify ‘doing business as’ opportunities for contractors and steer an attorney to the only route to best serve his client and correct some mistaken impressions about foreign corporations becoming licensed in California…

Q:  I see mention on the CSLB’s name change form for using a DBA, but I see no law that requires a contractor to register a DBA with the CSLB.  Is there such a requirement?  Where is it in the law?

A:  If a company is doing business under a dba name, their license needs to reflect that name.  B&P Code section 7059.1(b) states that “a licensee shall not conduct business under more than one name for each license.”  If the license reads one name but the contractor is operating under a dba name, that would be considered conducting business as more than one name.  Operating out of name style can lead to violations with CSLB.


There are some exceptions if you are talking about a sole proprietor license though.  For example, if John Smith has a painting license issued in his personal name but does business as “Smith Painting”, the CSLB doesn’t usually get involved since it’s a personal license and he is operating with his personal name.  But please be aware that even in that case the individual may be required to register his dba with the county where he is doing business.

Q:  I am an attorney and I frequently refer my construction clients to you for help with licensing needs.  I have a new client that is part of a foreign company based outside the United States and they need to obtain a CA Contractor’s License.  I am assisting them with forming a California corporation and it is my understanding that they must list the President, Secretary, and Treasurer on the license application.  All of these officers are non-residents with no Social Security Numbers (SSN).  In speaking with a CSLB representative, I was told that the individuals were required to have SSN’s in order to be listed on the application, but it just seems very odd that there would be no way around this requirement.  How do other large foreign companies obtain CA licenses with non-resident officers? Is this actually written in the law somewhere that a US Social is required in order to get a CA License?


A:  Thank you for your question.  Unfortunately there is no way around the requirement that all individuals listed on the license application have a social security number.  This requirement took effect in 2005, so as far as other foreign companies, I can suggest that either they obtained their license prior to 2005 when SSN’s weren’t required, or their officers went through the process of obtaining US Socials prior to applying for the contractor’s license.

To address your second questions, yes, B&P Code Section 30 and Public Law 94-455 authorizes the CSLB to collect Social Security numbers.  With the exception of driver license numbers, all information requested on the application is mandatory, including disclosure of Social Security Numbers.


License Exams in Another Language, 2014 SB 407 Water Conservation Update

Can you take the contractor’s license exam in Spanish? Urdu? Or Tagalog?

Once the Legislature creates, passes and the Governor signs off on new laws there is always further ‘give and take’ as agencies interpret what has been written into the books…

Q:  I am an attorney and I have referred many of my clients to you for licensing needs.  I have a new client from Ecuador and I am in the process of helping him set up his business in California and get a Social Security Number so that he can obtain his license.  Obviously English is not his first language and he is very concerned about the exam. Can the Board Exam be taken in Spanish?

A:  No, unfortunately the exam is only offered in English.  Your client can however bring a translator in to the exam with him.   Keep in mind that the translator must be approved by the CSLB in advance.  He will need to check the box on the license application to request the use of a translator

In order to further clarify the new State Civil Code law Senate Bill 407 that became effective January 1, 2014, the CSLB released a bulletin to offer further explanation.

According to the bulletin, the new law “requires anyone applying for a building permit that will alter or improve a single-family residence built in 1994 or earlier to replace all plumbing fixtures with water-saving designs.”  The replacement is a stipulation in receiving the final permit approval, from the local building department.
The California Building Officials (CALBO) group issued an interpretation of “alterations” or “improvements” to mean “any construction to an existing structure that enhances or improves the structure. Construction that is related to repairs or maintenance of the structure is not considered to be an alteration or improvement.

Below is a list of permit types that CALBO does not ‘pull the trigger’ on the requirements of CB 407:



  • Electrical service change out
  • HVAC change out
  • Re-roofing
  • Sewer line replacement
  • Siding or stucco
  • Site work: retaining walls, fences, walkways, etc;
  • Water heater replacement
  • Window replacement
  • Other repairs as determined by the state Building Code

The CSLB released this bulletin with the fear that property owners and license contractors would misunderstand this law and end up paying for new fixtures that are not required, or that they may avoid the possible triggers of SB 407 by not pulling permits at all.

Please be aware that this is not a legal opinion, so please verify the requirements with your local building department before taking action on a project, FYI.

LLC’s, Unlicensed ‘Experience’ & ‘Borrowing’ A Contractor’s License

Rumor; what the other guy thinks he knows; and information on the web can all be suspect when it comes to the facts on contractor’s law. The law and practices in forming LLC’s in California is one example.  Another inquiry illustrates why looking for a ‘loophole’ isn’t the answer in going to work as a licensed contractor…

Q: I spoke to you over a year ago about obtaining a contractor’s license for a new Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Due to all of the extra CSLB requirements I decided not to move forward with it.  I am in a position now to satisfy those requirements so I started doing some research and according to some of the things I have read online, the process to obtain an LLC license can take many months. This is due to the fact that a Statement of Information must be filed with the Secretary of State, and from what I’ve read it is taking months for the Secretary of State to process the Statements of Information.  Is this what you have found in your experience with helping LLC’s obtain their license?

A: It’s great to hear from you again.  While the additional requirements for LLC’s have not changed since we last spoke, what you have found online with regards to the Secretary of State’s processing times is not entirely correct.  It was the case for the first year and a half of the CSLB allowing LLC’s to obtain licenses, that the Secretary of State was backlogged and taking up to four months to process a Statement of Information.  However several months ago the Statement of Information unit caught up and currently they are taking only about a week to file the Statement.  That being said, most of the time the CSLB is processing LLC license applications just as quickly as corporations, sole proprietorships, etc.

Q:  For many years I have been doing unlicensed construction, most of the work under $500.  I have a corporation already set up.  I have an opportunity to take a large home improvement contract but it would require me to get my license within two weeks which I know is next to impossible since I will need to take the exams and get fingerprinted.  I have a buddy who has a Sole Owner license that he is not currently using. He said that I could use his license in order to take the job.  Can I do that if I change the name on his license to reflect the name of my corporation?

A:  We frequently talk with contractors who come up with all sorts of different scenarios in order to use someone else’s license. There is no loophole here. No matter how clever you are, there is no way for an unlicensed contractor to “share” a license and still be in compliance with the CSLB’s regulations.  First of all, changing a business from a Sole Owner to a corporation is not as simple as changing the business name on the license; you are required to re-apply for the license.  Secondly, it is still his license and you cannot do any work with that license number unless you are a bona fide employee of his company, in which case the work is still done under his company and not your corporation.






2014 New Laws, Renewals, Water Conservation and Disciplinary Penalties

The New Year brings us new laws in California. A bevy of bills signed by the Governor are important to contractors this year.  State legislation, taking effect January first is as common as the ball dropping in Times Square — and 2014 is no exception.

With CA experiencing a record dry year, it is interesting to note that a water conservation law added to the state Civil Code in 2009 (Senate Bill 407) will make a ‘splash’.  This requires anyone applying for building alterations or improvements to single-family residences built before January 1, 1994 to replace all plumbing fixtures with water-saving models “as a condition for issuance of a certificate of final completion and occupancy or final permit approval by the local building department”.  In other words, if a homeowner contracts for a kitchen remodel, they may also be required to replace their old toilets and install water-saving showerheads throughout the residence.  It has generally been left to “public entities that supply water” to pass an ordinance or resolution to enact and enforce this law.

Contractors who send in their renewal on time, only to have it returned for corrections, will not be required to pay a delinquency fee if a “corrected and acceptable renewal application is returned by the licensee within 30 days after the license expiration date.”  Senate Bill 822 made this change; however, it did NOT change the fact that your license will still show as “expired” for the time period “between the expiration date and the date of submission of a correct and acceptable renewal application.”   So while you might save $180.00, your license record will still show an expiration that could have an adverse impact if you are involved in any future lawsuit.

As this column has mentioned many times, it is best to send or deliver your renewal to the CSLB early.  Make sure to double check that the correct personnel have signed the application and that the correct fee is attached.  It you want to make sure the Board has received your renewal, send it priority or overnight, hand-deliver it in person or call Capitol Services for assistance.


Existing law allows for disciplinary action against a licensed contractor who aids an unlicensed person in evading the Contractors’ State License Law. Under existing law, any person who willfully and intentionally uses, with intent to defraud, a contractor’s license number that does not correspond to a currently valid contractor’s license held by that person, is guilty of a crime.  SB 261 will now allow the CSLB to take additional administrative action against licensed or unlicensed individuals who commit violations related to the fraudulent possession, alteration, or use of a contractor’s license – such as allowing an unlicensed person to use his or her license.  According to the CSLB, “previously, an offense could not be alleged administratively, as the law only allowed it to be charged as a misdemeanor by a prosecutor. Now, if a prosecutor does not file charges, CSLB has administrative authority to discipline violators.”

While AB 44 does not actually take effect until the middle of 2014, it is worth noting.  At present, “The Subletting and Subcontracting Fair Practices Act requires the entity taking bids for the construction of any public work or improvement to specify that any person making a bid or offer to perform the work shall, in his or her bid or offer, include specified information, including the name and location of the place of business of each subcontractor”

Commencing July 1, 2014, this new law will require that the California contractor license number of each subcontractor be provided as a part of the bid document. Now is the time to prepare for the change. If you have questions about how new laws impact your license just give us a call.






Disassociation Notice, WBE Contracting & “C-61” Categories

As we wrap up this year and look ahead to the next, we take a moment to reflect on some of our past ‘Q&A’. While some things change many never do…

From October 2001

Q:    I am listed as an Officer on a corporation.  I do not like the way things are going and want to get off this license as soon as possible.  What do you suggest?

A:    There are two ways to remove your name from a contractor’s license.  One is to file an official “Notice of Disassociation”.  The second is to write a letter to the Contractors Board asking that your name be removed from the CSLB records.  For a Responsible Managing Officer (RMO) the Disassociation notice is your only option. Any correspondence with the Board should include an original (not fax) signature; the date you’re leaving (or have left) the license; and the license name and number.


It’s a very good idea to remove your name from the Board’s records.  I have seen many instances where someone has left a company but never notified the CSLB.  Months, or even years, down the road, when a problem has developed with the license, the State will go after all listed Officers (even those who are no longer with the corporation).


(Readers note: This policy has changed and CSLB now wants a Disassociation Notice from everyone.)

From February 2003:

Q:   My husband is a subcontractor.  He has been hearing other subs that have a contractor’s license in their wives name but the husbands run the business.  I want to know if this is possible and how do I qualify for a license?  Since my job is to keep the books, I really have no experience in construction.

A:   Over the years, I have heard of some contractors placing their wives as the President or owner of the business when in fact they run most or all of the field operation.  Usually, this was done to help the company qualify as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE).  Being a WBE can be advantageous when bidding on specified public work projects.  For the average contractor, being owned or run by a woman, whether real or illusionary offers few, if any, advantages.

I have helped many women qualify for their contractors’ license.  In most cases, they had supervisory field experience or directly worked in their chosen trade (painting, plumbing, landscaping, etc.).  However, none to my knowledge simply “kept the books”.  Since you state that “you have no experience”, the only way to qualify would be if your husband or another licensed contractor served as your Responsible Managing Employee /RME (or Responsible Managing Officer/RMO, if a corporation).

To qualify for a license any contractor, male or female needs to show at least 4 years supervisory or practical field experience.

From February 2012

Q: Is there a required exam for the “C-61”/”D-21”?

A:  Yes, the CSLB requires that you pass a law exam; however, there are no trade tests for any of the “C-61” categories.  Once you become licensed as a “C-61/ D-21”(Machinery & Pumps) contractor, you should review the entire list of “C-61” categories to see which others you may qualify for.  These additional trades would be issued without any further testing.