Column 1K, “DBA” descriptions and Original Company Names

For us this is an historic day! What began as a first step to assist contractors with our first column in April 1996 has become 1000 columns down the road and twenty years later! Nearly every week of each year, Capitol Services, Inc. founder and original author David Kalb answered questions from individual contractors who ran into problems with the complex rules and regulations. That ‘capitol connection’ helped many others who read the answer avoid the same pitfall. In 2012, current Capitol Services, Inc. owner and President Shauna Krause carried on the dialogue after Mr. Kalb’s retirement. Thanks for reading the Q/A in this column, co-authored by David and Shauna.  From Column One to Column 1000 that you are reading now, the mission has been to assist contractors across the west save time, money and problems. We hope it’s become part of your history and has been helpful to you in past, present and will be a valued resource in the future!

Q:  We spoke on the phone a few months ago about the CSLB not accepting our business name for the “B” and “C-10” classifications.  You recommended that we write a letter to the Registrar of Contractors asking for a review of this decision. I never wrote to her but just received an official attached letter, which makes no sense.   I’ve located a dozen licensed contractors with the same “non-descriptive” word in their business name, so I don’t understand why the Board’s creating a problem for my business.

I would like to engage legal counsel on this matter. Do you have any opinion to share?

A: After we talked I spoke with Shauna Krause of Capitol Services who deals with the CSLB on a daily basis.  She indicated that generic words are no longer being allowed for new contractors and the CSLB is requiring dba’s with more descriptive words.   Apparently, the Board is even making companies who apply with initials in their business name give an explanation of what the letters stand for (I can tell you they never used to have this requirement).

The likely reason you were able to locate a number of licensed contractors, with the same word in their name, was because the Board will rarely retroactively require businesses to change their name after they’ve been approved (although I have seen it happen).

Back in the day, the CSLB allowed a wide variety of business names with little need to explain what they meant.  There of course were restrictions, such as a contractor wanting to use the word Plumbing when they held an Electrical license or using the word “Incorporated” when they in fact were a Partnership.  Over the years, the Board gradually clamped down on business name styles.  This included allowing only “A” and “B” contractors to use the word “construction” unless there was a descriptive like “electrical construction” for a “C-10” or “Concrete construction” for a “C-8”.  They decided to only allow the word Solar in the business name if the company held a “C-46”, even though a General building (“B”’) can do all aspects of this work.

For many years, a corporation with a person’s name (i.e. Smith Construction”) was sold to someone named “Jones”, the Board would allow use of the old name if the new contractor wrote a letter explaining why it was important to keep the original name intact (usually because the old name was well known which was why it was purchased in the first place).  Today, I’m not sure what the CSLB would decide. Please contact Shauna Krause at Capitol Services if you need added assistance.

In my opinion, I don’t believe hiring a lawyer will help resolve your problem.  Again, my best recommendation is to write to the Registrar asking for a review of your specific situation and general explanation regarding the Boards current business name policy.

As we celebrate this 1000th column, it’s important to remember history, to forget is to repeat the same mistakes! Visit for all our past column Q/A.  Thanks again for reading.