“B” for Solar Bids & B&P Section 7031 and Consumer Payments

Government regulation is often complex and can be easy to misinterpret. Sometimes the ‘scope of work’ extends beyond the written rules, as our “B” readers have learned. As might be expected, the actual practice of ‘interpreting’ the written rules often lead to some interesting and unique ‘exceptions’ in their actual application…

Q: I am thoroughly confused about Solar contracting and what classification is necessary for what we are doing.  We have a “B” (General Building) license and I understand that we need to be doing at least two unrelated trades on our jobs.

I’ve heard that “B” contractors can do Solar, but then I’m thinking that doesn’t meet the two unrelated trades rule.  I have also seen many “C-10” (Electrical) contractors performing this work.  Are “C-10” contractors also authorized to perform all types of Solar contracting, even if, for example, it’s a ‘solar farm’ that includes some structures?   Can you please clarify this for me?

A:  Solar energy systems constitutes the use of two unrelated building trades in and of itself, which is why the CSLB has determined that a General Building (“B”) contractor can perform Solar work.  Keep in mind that Section 7057 states that a “B” contractor’s principal contracting business should be in connection with a structure being built.  Therefore, the law implies that a “B” contractor can do solar, but only in connection with a structure.

“C-10” Electrical contractors are authorized to perform any Solar projects which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form for any purpose.

For more information on Solar guidelines you can call our office or visit the CSLB’s website at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/generalinformation/newsroom/industrybulletins/industrybulletins2010/industrybulletin20100630.asp

In a recent column, I responded to a question that a “consumer is not required to pay a contractor who is not properly licensed during the entire length of the project.”  A sharp reader (who is also an attorney) correctly pointed out that this is not always the case.  He noted that this is an issue he has dealt with in court and does not believe this is an accurate statement of the law in California.  He said he “knows that the devastating consequences of non-compliance are not automatically applied if there are appropriate circumstances to mitigate such a result”.

Code Section 7031 deals with this issue and Subsection (e) states “the court may determine that there has been substantial compliance” potentially negating the Draconian impacts of the remaining portions of the law.

I must also point out that the questioner noted that she “checked out his license and found that it’s currently suspended.” The exception is that since some “suspensions” can be erased by the contractor filing a backdated Bond or Worker’s Compensation certificate, consumers may not want to withhold payment – unless they are sure this license ‘Suspension’ is part of the official record.  And even then, as noted by our reader attorney, there may be extenuating circumstances. Before taking any action of this nature it’s always a good idea to get a legal opinion.

Again, if a consumer or contractor has a question regarding payments related to B&P Section 7031, it is best to consult with a construction attorney who can provide you with legal advice. As we are limited by space requirements some answers on contractor licensing have unique exceptions not related to the primary question. Readers are always welcome to share their knowledge here in clarifying an answer.